Meeting Expectations Senior Vice President Christine Hilgert, CMP sat down with Martin Sinderman of the Atlanta Business Chronicle to lend her expertise on issues the meeting planning industry faces most often and the trends she’s seeing in the industry.
The following is excerpted from an article published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle Hospitality Quarterly. You can read the original article here.
Creating Memorable Moments
Team-building events that foster networking and camaraderie among attendees are increasingly taking the form of community service projects, according to Christine Hilgert, senior vice president of Meeting Expectations, a global meeting and trade show planner.
“More and more organizations don’t want to come to a city to host a meeting and then just go away,” said Hilgert. These days, “They want people coming to the meetings to be able to say that they did something meaningful while they were there — something that resonates with both the attendees and the organization holding the meeting.”
Community service activities can include things like forming teams to clean up a public space, or stuffing backpacks for schoolchildren, Hilgert notes. In Atlanta, “There are a wide variety of groups, such as Hands On Atlanta and the Atlanta Mission, that you can work with to create a team-building effort built around community service.”
When it comes to food, Atlanta restaurants and hotel center food-and-beverage operations, are in tune with what and how attendees like to eat.
“Atlanta is one of the hot spots in the nation when it comes to the number of incredible chefs and great restaurants here,” Hilgert said.
“And many of the hotels have learned how to create a true F&B experience that doesn’t revolve around presenting ‘just another buffet,’” she notes. Instead, “They are coming up with some incredible menus that can be just as good, and provide just as much of a unique experience, as going to [Chef Kevin Gillespie’s] Gunshow or any other of the fine restaurants here.”
Meeting planners also look for ways to apply the benefits of virtual reality technology to their events, Hilgert said. Virtual reality is used to create totally immersive experiences like tours, product demonstrations, meeting and collaboration “spaces”, simulations and training sessions. “A few years ago it was usually not cost-effective to plug into that kind of technology, but now the pricing is becoming more reasonable and the technology more accessible,” Hilgert said. But, as with any emerging technology, “You have to put some thought into the purpose you have in utilizing it — not just because it is cool.”
Accommodating special needs begins at registration time, when basic information is collected from the attendee, Hilgert said. “The ‘basic info’ we collect has expanded from name and contact to include, among other things, questions about ADA-related issues and food allergies,” she said.
Although hotels and other event facilities work to comply with ADA requirements, “we also have our own checklist,” Hilgert said.
“And if there is a food allergy, we make sure that the venue is aware of it, and that the person has a sticker or special card so that, when they walk into a dining function, they can hand it to the server, and the server knows that person gets a special meal.”
To gain more insight into Atlanta’s meeting planning industry, check out the full article by the Atlanta Business Chronicle here.