“What’s the coolest event you’ve ever done or experienced? This is the burning question that today’s meeting planners first ask when they are selecting a venue,” says Mike Schugt, president of Teneo Hospitality Group, a sales firm based in Eden Prairie, Minn., representing more than 300 independent and luxury branded hotels, resorts and DMCs. “An over-the-top experience engages guests in a way that promotes learning retention.”
The Teneo team offers eight essentials that venues must offer today to draw event planners:
1. Venues must be all things to all people.
Whether they are well-traveled, sophisticated and seasoned executives or up-and-coming millennials, attendees of all ages today demand an experiential and interactive learning process that offers a complete immersion into a destination, a venue, and the meeting content.
2. Sports must go beyond the golf course.
While legendary golf courses continue to be played by guests, increasingly it’s action adventure that attendees are demanding. Examples include skiing on Olympic slopes, ice-wall climbing, dog sledding in the winter season, and saddling up for a cattle drive or going rock rappelling in the summer. Pictured above: River rafting at the Resort at Paws Up in Montana.
3. Cultural authenticity matters.
“We represent venues and destinations that offer a true sense of place, a vibrant culture and a flexible, creative atmosphere where ideas can take flight,” Schugt says. For example, the firm’s DMCs can arrange a private reception at the Tower of London to view the crown jewels, a shooting party in the Scottish Highlands followed by a whisky tasting at a campus distillery, a dinner on the Great Wall of China, a lavish reception inside Beijing's Forbidden City, or a chance to sample Charleston’s fabled cuisine at a food truck rodeo then explore the Low Country's unique African-American Gullah culture. “It’s more than creating team memories,” Schugt says. “It’s providing team camaraderie in a highly unique setting that help instill connections and learning.”
4. Flexibility is essential.
Flexibility is essential to creating a memorable event, and independent hotels tend to have a much wider scope in what they can provide as they’re less tethered to brand corporate policies, Schugt maintains. “Planners today need to respond to rapidly changing preferences of their increasingly younger meeting attendees. What’s discussed six months out can morph into an entirely different event closer to the meeting date. Hotels and resorts and planners need to remain flexible to the increasingly spontaneous and in-the-moment preferences of today’s attendees.”
5. Unusual is wonderful.
Art museums, Broadway theaters, on the beach--these are great venues for memorable events. But outside-the-box venues can work just as well: taking over a parking garage with multiple levels for a myriad of activities, decorating a ballroom with living walls to drive home a message of sustainability, or renting a pier over the ocean and hosting a corporate meeting while reflecting on global warming. “This is using the art of the unusual to create powerful connections and memories. It’s a genuine, thoughtful investment in one’s team,” Schugt says.
6. Sustainability is growing in importance.
The demand for “green” hotels and event experiences has grown far beyond providing organic bath products and water-saving devices. Today’s guests insist on comprehensive efforts that impact every aspect of the event experience--not just in the venue but on the grounds, recreational areas, surrounding beaches, woodlands, campgrounds and ski slopes, Schugt says. “Many of our member hotels go well beyond the eco-friendly practices that have been implemented by the lodging industry in recent years,” he notes. “We see practices from catch-and-release fishing programs to Tesla Superchargers and, of course, locally sourced food that goes from farm to table.”
7. Wellness options are a must.
Venues are using their facilities for corporate and social groups to create memorable fitness and wellness programs. This can include yoga or tai chi on the beach, personal trainers, hikes, bike tours of city landmarks, group runs led by hotel staff, and loaning out workout clothes and shoes at no charge. Some properties provide in-room equipment such as yoga mats and exercise bikes as well as a range of fitness apps and videos. “Like so many trends, this is millennial-driven,” Schugt says. “Hotel and resort fitness centers today are far more sophisticated and interactive, with a dedicated staff on duty.
8. Confidence and consistency are non-negotiables.
“It’s always been a given that venues play a huge role in the confidence that a planner has for an event to be a resounding success,” Schugt says. “But as budgets tighten, and ROI is paramount in the minds of every client, confidence in the meeting and special event team to deliver, and the hotel with its destination’s unique ability to create a transformational experience for attendees, has never been more important.”