Gary McCreary, CMP, doesn't mind staying put. In the year before he landed his current job as director of conference management at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, McCreary traveled to 35 countries planning unforgettable activities for young executives. His position as an international meeting planner was exhilarating, he says, but the travel took its toll. “As a meeting planner, everywhere you're going, you have to build a new team of people,” he says. “The reason I like working for a hotel is its consistency of location and being able to know your product backwards and forwards.”
McCreary — who spent six years with the Wyndham Anatole in Dallas before going international — has been settled at the Venetian for almost four years. “It's the best move I ever made in my life,” he says. Most gratifying, he adds, is being able to oversee meetings at a property where the conference department's $185 million sales volume accounts for almost 60 percent of the hotel's total revenue. “That's totally opposite of other casino hotels in Las Vegas,” according to McCreary. “Our primary focus is actually group business through the building, whereas traditionally hotels in Las Vegas have been casino-centric, and groups just act as filler.” For conference professionals like himself, he says, that makes the Venetian — with its 1.7 million square feet of meeting space — “quite a toy.”
With that toy, a major part of a day's play is planning the great entertainment Las Vegas clients inevitably expect. And it's no surprise that McCreary says entertainment is “the fuel that drives the most successful meetings” at the property. He should know: His “Gala Fantastico” for the MPI 2001 Western Education Conference earned him the Gala Award in January for Best Event Entertainment Concept and Execution, Entertainment Budget Over $100,000.
The event's multi-stage entertainment program — a mix of opera performances, carnival-themed characters and comedy headliners — is a perfect example of the kind of “kinetic entertainment” that gets groups in the groove these days, he says. “If you have a huge event for 3,000 people and you only have entertainment going on up on the main stage, what happens to all of those people in the back of the room?” A multi-stage show, on the other hand, is like a concert where all the guests are sitting in the front row. “You see the performer, you interact with them a bit more, you see their facial expressions and the intricacies of their body language,” he says. “People leave from experiences like that energized.”
Venetian Resort Hotel Casino 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, NV 89109; 702/414-4009; www.venetian.com
“For entertainment that completely fuses with the [client] company, [comedian] Dana Carvey is one of the best entertainers I've seen. He will come in and get with the company's PR people and blend his entire act for the evening. You've got all of his great lines and jokes all the way through, but he also takes it to the next level, totally personalizing it to the company. The more technologically advanced we get, the more people want that personal touch.”
“Everyone has their stereotypical images of Las Vegas. When I first came here, I was thinking, ‘I don't really want to live here. It's all about Elvis impersonators and that kind of stuff.’ But the magic of Las Vegas is that this city continually reinvents itself. That's been its secret. Since 1952 they keep saying the city's going to be overbuilt, nobody will come here, and every single year this city proves everybody wrong.”
“What I love about this job is that you're able to put these pieces and parts together like a clockmaker, and you're the person that gets to pull the pendulum back and watch it all run. And if something goes wrong, you're right there with the new cog to put in for your customer.”