Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio October
Back to Basics
By Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM
THE BENEFITS OF GOING NATIVE
How incorporating local culture can enrich the meeting
One of the best ways to add richness to a meeting is to infuse
it with elements from your chosen destination. The key is to blend
the cultural elements into your marketing strategy with a prime
focus on purpose, subtlety and timing.
Whether in Rome or Los Angeles, local customs also add structure
and unification to a gathering. Some destinations, such as Hawaii,
are literally built on culture, and it is a waste of resources to
ignore these traditions.
FROM THE START
Don’t just toss a local tradition into your meeting without a
little research. A Japanese tea ritual or a London high tea might
go over well at a board meeting or perhaps not. Consider first if
the ritual will support and reflect the event’s goals and
objectives. With a distinct tie-in, the experience will positively
impact the results of the meeting, and your extra efforts will be
historically memorable rather than potentially infamous.
Introduce the culture by priming your participants in advance; then
drive the message during the meeting, and reinforce what was
learned. Pre- and post-event cultural links can include direct-mail
pieces, tie-ins on your Web site, voice-mail messages with local
music, and culturally inspired giveaways.
These teasers and reminders reinforce the program’s goals and
objectives as well as piquing interest and building momentum.
Hawaiian Airlines has this holistic cultural approach down to a
science. Travelers are immersed with cultural music and programs on
their flights to and from the islands; a desire to return is
instilled by offering a sense of nostalgia on the flight home. If
you charter your own flights, consider showing videos about the
place. These also can be played during transfers in vans and
SECURE AN EXPERT
Again using Hawaii as an example, Kimo Jenkins of Island Partners
Hawaii expertly infuses island culture into meetings. Jenkins’
business emphasizes ohana, or the islands’ family oriented way of
life, using metaphors that relate to both corporate and Hawaiian
cultures and values for instance, comparing the mutual support
inherent in the family structure to the corporate structure.
Jenkins warns that planners should exercise sensitivity in
choosing how to meld a local tradition or icon into meetings. He
cites the example of a CEO who wanted to dress as a royal Hawaiian
warrior for an opening reception. Jenkins felt this approach might
insult the locals and would be an inaccurate representation of the
sacred position of Hawaiian leaders. Jenkins recommended the CEO
dress as an American castaway. The result provided more flexibility
to leverage the meeting’s objectives.
USE LOCAL EVENTS
Take advantage of festivals and events going on during your meeting
dates. Beyond Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and Mardi Gras in New
Orleans, there are hundreds of events around the world to tie into
yours, such as the Edinburgh (Scotland) International Festival in
August and Finland’s summer-ending Helsinki Festival.
Strive to make the cultural elements and customs you choose
interesting and varied. Start slow and add surprising, unexpected
layers to create a more meaningful experience.
For example, the first night on Kauai could start with a pillow
gift wrapped in the “ti” leaf, which was used to wrap offerings to
the fire goddess Pele. Each day a new element can be introduced,
and by the climactic hapa hou (“celebration, rejoicing”) reception,
your guests will be exchanging Hawaiian phrases.
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