Hotel giant Starwood has been undergoing some giant changes in its corporate structure and wanted a theme of change at its Global Conference, the biennial event that brings together 1,700 general managers and owners from around the world. To help introduce Starwood’s new direction and marketing initiatives, Los Angeles-based EventWorks developed the “NextWork" theme, and worked closely with Starwood's culinary and brand marketing teams to create vivid brand experiences at the Jan. 9-12 conference.
A prime example of an "'experiential’ event," notes EventWorks’ event producer Melissa Yan-Armstrong, was the "Dream Park" party at the San Diego Convention Center. Guests entered the ballroom through an illuminated tunnel to find the unexpected, such as food stations dubbed "Dunk," "Sear," "Freeze" and "Flame." Theme-park favorite "cotton candy" was really a foie gras torchon with port-flavored spun sugar, while a "shake" was vanilla bean whipped cream on lobster bisque. Costumed servers on motor scooters ferried food from kitchen to guest.
Luncheons became concrete extensions of the Starwood brands. Four Points, for example, introduced its "honest comfort" initiative with all-American table decor, down to the gingham overlays and pot holders at each place setting, and a menu of braised short ribs and other homey dishes served in Mason jars.
Even breakout meetings were recast as "Deep Dives" into each brand. For example, the St. Regis team evoked its "modern luxury" image by draping its meeting room with vanilla velvet and installing trees dripping with crystal and mirror strands. The Westin team scented its room with its new signature fragrance, and served its new "elixir-infused" waters, soon to be offered in Westin lobbies.
Since the conference, the EventWorks team has heard plenty of praise from Starwood executives. But Yan-Armstrong says some moments during the conference showcased its success: During one party, "so many camera flashes were going off that it looked like the paparazzi had cornered an A-list celebrity," she recalls. "General mangers, owners and even chefs were having their pictures taken with our floral pieces!"
See the full story in the June issue of Special Events Magazine.
Photos by Frontline Photography