A Week in Vegas – Days 4, 5 and 6 (Site International Conference)
IMEX America drew to a euphoric close on Thursday PM with all participants declaring it a triumph. It was a real “if-you-build-it-they-will-come” phenomenon but not so much in relation to infrastructure as human relationships. Ray Bloom has build strong relationships in our industry over many decades through generous support of our key associations. All of these co-located their events around IMEX America and this, linked to an immensely hard working sales and marketing team, ensured immediate success.
The Site International Conference, held previously at the Venetian in 1999, then kicked in with a truly great opening event at the Beach at Mandalay Bay featuring a colourful and fun Parade of Nations which underscored the truly global footprint of Site and its robust chapter infrastructure. Following the frenzy of IMEX where most of us were buzzing like Duracel bunnies, it was nice to feel the sand in your toes while drinking a chilled beer and talking football. I heard a wonderful Bono story from Maita Barrenechea of Buenos Aires based DMC, Mai 10 who looked after U2 during their recent South American tour.
The educational sessions commenced early next AM with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on stage – Roger Tondeur (MCI), Scott Graft (BCD), the newly appointed Maritz CEO, David Pechinpaugh and Fay Beauchine of the newly named Aimia (formerly Carlson Marketing). We quickly learned that Fay used to be a drummer, Scott a professional baseball player and Roger a world ranked poker player.
The ensuing panel discussion was broad and wide-ranging with Fay, in particular, emerging as Queen of the sound byte with some delicious nuggets of wisdom – “Data is the new oil”, “Stay close to your customers and use them as advocates” etc. Fay was also strong on respecting legacy and core competencies and supported the traditional view that DMCs should be DMCs and not try to sell themselves as intermediaries.
As this intriguing discussion evolved 2 distinct viewpoints emerged, one presenting the ideal, this-is-how-it-should-be approach and one the pragmatic, this-is-how-it-is situation. Fay, for example, berated corporations for wasting company time and resources by soliciting RFP bids from as many as 10 agencies while Scott admitted he was always likely to bid even in such a pitch. The dichotomy between ideal and real was well illustrated by Scott’s recent experience of a meeting with the CMO at a Fortune25 company. While asking good questions around the company’s business objectives etc with the view to offering an innovative, consultative solution, Scott was curtly informed: “I’m really not interested in sharing my company objectives with you. I simply want to hear how you can take cost out of our spend on meetings and events”. Clearly, as an industry, we still have work to do around communicating the strategic value of meetings, live events and motivational experiences.
Lunch at Aria was spectacular as befits an event to acknowledge those
individuals, companies and agencies who have achieved excellence in the design and delivery of incentives. Sponsored by IMEX, this luncheon was the perfect response to corporate CEOs who need proof that motivational events generate tangible ROI. Chaired by the inimitable Harith Wickrema, a multi-award winner in his own right, the Site Crystal Awards judging panel selected the winners based squarely on how the motivational experience lead to business results. Full details of the programme and the winners available on this link. And the lunch itself was a real incentive experience – room decor, food service and entertainment on the astonishing William Close designed earth harp conspired to make us all feel like VIPs at a high end awards ceremony.
The educational committee under the ebullient and pathologically positive Denise McDonald of IHG did a great job in delivering relevant and engaging education to the 500 plus delegates. With attendees present from 42 different countries and a strongly divergent age demographic this was always going to be a challenge. Highlight sessions were the AM sessions on both days and a great breakout on the power of the brain. We learned, amongst many things, that the brain structures of men and women are manifestly different. Women are innately driven to satisfy a curiosity gene which men, apparently, do not have. Thus they ask all the questions, we never know the answers and care less. However, now I know this isn’t malice, badness, or the lagging effect of original sin. It’s just the way God made me! My other key take away from this great session was to sleep a lot, exercise a lot and sip water throughout the day!
Friday’s honours Gala was hosted at The Mirage and, once again, the combination of astonishing decor, amazing food and an awesome live band created an unforgettable event. New levels of glamour and grace were showcased as attendees elevated their sartorial game to a new high with Olga Navarro of ITB Barcelona exceeding our expectations once again and giving any Las Vegas A lister more than a run for her money. Local DMC and man-about-town Alan Waxler then staged his own Bono-style entrance in studiously distressed designer jeans before ordering up a couple of limos and leading a giddy and excited posse of young leaders back to “The Bank” at the Bellagio. And, of course, all Alan’s disciples went directly to the head of the line and straight into the Niteclub where tables appeared mysteriously, as if by magic, out of nowhere. Sheer class!
And so to next year. As is customary at Site, next year’s destination hosted a special lunch
to launch the 2012 event. Given the exceptional high level of event delivery in Las Vegas many of us wondered how Beijing would compete. We needn’t have worried at all – this is a city, after all, that hosted the most spectacularly successful Summer Olympic Games of recent times! From the moment we entered the room we were enveloped by the sense of a destination that is truly unique with a profound reach into an astonishingly rich cultural heritage. A delegation of over 30 participants including Mr Lu Yong, Chairman of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development came to Las Vegas from Beijing to provide a glimpse for us of the motivational experiences that await us in China. Chaired by recent Site President and Director of Sales at Silverseas Cruises, Sean Mahoney, this event is in the experienced hands of a true industry professional. I look forward to seeing you all there!
Modesty and discretion prevent me from highlighting the deep pride that I felt on seeing Aoife Delaney, my colleague at Ovation Global DMC and daughter of my best friend, Patrick, perform her duties as SiteIC11 Chair with ease, elegance and effortless grace.
Sean, you have big shoes to fill!!!
A big shout out to my good friends Karen Gordon of Vegas based DMC extraordinaire Activity Planners (activityplanners.com) and to Moon Civetz of Maverick Helicopters (maverickhelicopter.com) who ensured many of us got a bird’s eye view of Las Vegas and environs and to Shelley Cruz and Sandy Sutherland of the Bellagio (bellagio.com) whose team delivery such an exceptional event for us.