Archive for Program Management & Event Design

Two Weeks in Thailand — The 2019 SITE Global Conference

SITE Classic Incentive Travel Thailand

Written by Staci Simmons | Manager, Marketing Communications & Creative Services

This month, M&IW Director of Incentive Services, Tracy Norum, CMP, CIS, had the pleasure of attending the 2019 SITE Global Conference in Bangkok, Thailand where more than 375 industry professionals from around the world met to discuss current and forecasted trends in incentive travel. 

The biggest takeaway from the conference was how successful incentive programs integrate into an organizations structure and align with overall business and sales objectives. Travel programs make sense from a business perspective; measuring organizational effectiveness and combining continuing education and professional development, while increasing operational sales and performer loyalty.

SITE Classic 2019 - Bangkok Here we Come!

While in Thailand, Tracy had the opportunity to connect with peers at all levels of the industry. This included tourist boards, airlines, cruise companies, hotels and convention centers, global DMCs, transportation companies, inspirational industry speakers and educators to discuss some of the most significant topics in incentive travel.

Core Incentive Travel Topics Included:

  • Strategic Planning
  • Incentive Program Design
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Human Resources
  • Managing Incentive Travel Programs
  • Financial Management
  • Marketing Communications
  • Risk & Crisis Management
  • Site Management
  • CSR & Sustainability

Breakout session and talk tracks at the SITE Global Conference dug deep into each of these topics followed by peer discussions and one-on-one networking. From these immersive meetings, Tracy had some key takeaways for our clients and community:

Develop a Balanced Scorecard—Build a holistic way to measure your operational effectiveness at all levels of your organization.

Leverage Big Data—Security, safety and technology integration is leading to more metrics than ever, use this data to create a more impactful corporate culture and segment the types of incentive programs your company offers.

Embrace Authenticity—The definition of luxury is changing. The era of big brand logos is now far less impactful than authentic, unique and personal experiences.

Adopt Inclusivity—Inclusivity is a critical concept for incentive programs. Incentive travel changes behavior and builds motivation at all levels of an organization.

Incentivize Diversity—In today’s markets, businesses who wholeheartedly embrace diversity and corporate responsibility continue to see economic growth.

Make Your Own Trends—Rather than choosing between the latest “hot-spots” in travel, consider an out-of-the-box adventure for your team that immerses travelers in localism and culture.

Incentive travel contributes significantly to economic growth and partnerships within and between organizations. Organizations must think globally both internally and externally. It is no longer enough to ‘gift’ your top performers with high-end travel—inspire the rest of your team to reach higher, offer unique experiences and create realistic metrics at each level of your business to properly create stakeholder benchmarks.

Click here to learn more about the SITE Global Conference in Bangkok. For more information about incentive travel programs, visit meetings-incentives.com or call 1+ 262.835.3553 to speak to a Meetings & Incentives Worldwide team member.

 

Posted in: Company News, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Event Marketing & Communications, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Incentive Travel Programs, Program Management & Event Design, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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Lighting a New Fire: Finding Vision and Strategy (Part 3 of 3)

WBENC Tuck Executive Course

Written by Tina Madden, CPA | Co-CEO and Chief Customer Officer

When I reflect on this history of M&IW, I think about my father and grandfather—their courage and perseverance to start a family business more than 50 years ago. I think about their unwavering principles and values that have stood the test of time and continue, to this day, to run deep through our employees and our company’s culture. However, there is one attribute that particularly stands out and that is grit.

Grit is a character trait that is deeply ingrained in our family, and also one that we strongly value at M&IW. To us, grit is the courage to go first, the resolve to always do the right thing by our clients even if it is difficult, and the strength of character to admit we may not have all the answers, but you have our promise that we will work together in partnership and figure it out. It is having the perseverance to fail, pick yourself back up and keep going.

After completing the Tuck-WBENC Executive Program, I had a realization that while our company has continued to grow and innovate, we have reached an inflection point with a unique opportunity to shape our future. I asked our executive team to redefine the objectives that will drive future strategies, create more alignment across teams and departments, as well as provide us with a means to track our performance and ongoing success. Through this exercise, we came up with three focus areas: GRowth, Innovation, and Talent. And, guess what? There you have it—our new meaning of Gr.I.T.

As M&IW evolves, apparently so does our definition of grit. Our goal over the next few months is for our leaders to continue to define and refine. We will put objectives in place to grow our business and build relationships, lead the industry in innovation, and recruit/retain the best talent that aligns with our culture and values.

It amazes me as we begin this journey of mapping out our future success how transformative it is! Even in the early stages. Which is the reason I share this with you now even before we have it all defined, because we realize it is not our final destination that matters most, it is the journey and learnings along the way.

And while we are at the beginning of refining these objectives; our mindset is solid. We are focused on putting the practices in place to ensure the health and wellbeing of M&IW for the next 50 years.

So, what does our GRIT mean for you?

Through this exercise into 2019, we are going to get really clear on how to best serve you. This will result in more innovative service offerings, enhanced customer service, and streamlined operations all with the goal in mind to help you grow your business. Because, we firmly believe in our vision to transform organizations through the power of human energy, one event at a time. And, because we believe in our mission to focus on aligning enterprise and event customers while designing and executing innovative solutions to drive continuous improvement and deliver exceptional experiences. We are excited to continue to partner with our clients in the year ahead and deliver amazing outcomes.

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Event Marketing & Communications, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Group Air Travel Management, Incentive Travel Programs, Pharmaceutical, Medical and HCP Compliance, Program Management & Event Design, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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Tis the Season for Giving…

Global Giving Fighting Hunger
Written by Jill Pearson | Manager, Digital Marketing & Media

Since the inception of our Global Giveback initiative, M&IW team members have shown it is always the season for giving. However, around the holidays, most of us feel increasingly inspired to support those in need.

This year we focused our attention on ending hunger domestically and abroad. We launched a yearlong food drive and each month designated items for our employees to donate. Our December featured is canned green beans as the traditional holiday dinner would not be complete with grandma’s famous “green bean casserole.”

At our annual company meeting in August, our 250+ amazing team members helped assemble and package more than 28,000 meals. So, you can imagine our delight when we received word that RISE AGAINST HUNGER was sending a container holding 285,120 meals to the Dominican Republic in support of CitiHope International.

CitiHope International is an organization that nourishes lives through food assistance and other services in the Dominican Republic. To learn more, please visit the partner/country spotlight and click on the Impact Stories tab and click and drag on the World Aid Map at https://www.riseagainsthunger.org/world-aid/.

Additionally, we recently joined Jean Johnson, CMP, our Co-CEO, in supporting an effort closer to home. Giving to the Nations initiated a program called “Filling the Gap…” Their goal is to raise $250,00 to provide healthy food, hygiene products and basic household goods for local families in our hometown of Racine, Wisconsin who are having a hard time making ends meet and facing tough financial choices. CLICK HERE to learn more and donate to the cause.

Ending hunger is only possible if we continue to grow the movement. Since 2005, volunteers have helped distribute more than 310 million meals worldwide through Rise Against Hunger. We can end hunger by 2030, but we can’t do it without you. Please visit their website www.riseagainsthunger.org to get involved or donate.

We look forward to Giving Back in 2019!

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Event Marketing & Communications, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Incentive Travel Programs, Program Management & Event Design

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Pros and Cons of Designing in Cvent Flex

Cvent Flex Event Website Design

Written by Staci Simmons | Manager, Marketing Communications & Creative Services

Cvent, an event management software used by many top-tier travel and meetings management companies, recently released its new drag-and-drop website builder—Flex. This new functionality lives up to its name with easy-to-use features and a beautifully designed interface, allowing users to create and publish their own event websites.

At first glance, this is a fantastic opportunity for small businesses and program managers. They have the means to build their own registration websites without a web developer or knowledge of HTML, CSS or JavaScript. Upon further consideration, you may uncover what most web, graphic, and marketing communications professionals already know—it’s not that easy.

In the last ten years, drag-and-drop email, website, and app builders have taken complicated coding and simplified it for the masses. It’s been an excellent tool for professionals who understand the principles of design, saving clients thousands of dollars and countless hours in web development. On the other side of the coin, those without that knowledge may cost themselves thousands of dollars and countless hours trying to figure it out for the sake of “doing it themselves.” Cvent Flex is no different.

If you’ve ever tried to build your own email or website with a drag-and-drop builder, you probably had several “pull-your-hair-out” moments— you’re not alone. Most website builders are harder to use than they appear. They claim to offer an easy way to build a beautiful, functional website, but more often than not that’s not the case.

While Cvent’s design showcases look absolutely stunning, mimicking that level of design and functionality is nearly impossible “in just a few clicks.” Trying to achieve a great design yourself is often cumbersome, and not quite as easy as advertised. At the end of the day, the people who built those showcases are seasoned designers who know how to leverage the tool correctly and know how to maneuver through its limitations in order to create a functional, unique, and on-brand design.

The Pros of Cvent Flex

– Easy-to-use drag and drop functionality
– Allows for easy, real-time editing and updating
– Provides a live preview feature without publication
– Fully responsive on all devices (desktop, tablet and phone)

The Cons of Cvent Flex

– Big Learning curve for first-time users
– Customization options are limited
– Differentiating your event from other templates will be difficult
– Layering text and images for legibility is time-consuming

Cvent does offer many support options to help build and publish your event registration website. If you have the time and means to take creative control, click here to learn the platforms design and development best practices.

If, however, you’d like to focus on the other seventy-five percent of your event’s needs, let Flex be a tool for your friendly, neighborhood web designer. Ultimately, the time it takes for a professional to leverage this tool will simplify your workload and allow you to focus on the rest of your event’s needs—managing its infinite amount of moving parts.

For more firsthand information about Cvent Flex, email Meetings & Incentives Worldwide at marketing@meetings-incentives.com to connect with our event technology and creative service experts.

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Event Marketing & Communications, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Incentive Travel Programs, Program Management & Event Design

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6 Important Life Lessons from Event Planning

Life Lessons Event Planning

Written by Marie Johnson, CMP | Director, Marketing & Strategy

Last month our very own Melissa Hahn, Senior Account Lead at Meetings & Incentives Worldwide, was featured in the Daily Herald, suburban Chicago’s information source. In the article, she shares some important life lessons she has garnered over the past 19 years in the trenches of meeting planning and event management.

Melissa’s first lesson, remember that you can’t do it all yourself, is a keen reminder that event planning is considered one of the most stressful jobs. Most people are probably surprised to learn that it closely followed enlisted military, firefighter, airline pilots, and police officers. In fact, according to the CareerCast annual ranking, it has made the list the past six consecutive years and came in fifth place in 2017.

And, while it is true—a career in event planning can be stressful—it is also an incredibly rewarding profession if you just take a few cues from Melissa. Below are the top six life lessons that event planning taught her. CLICK HERE to read the full article.

  1. Remember, you can’t do it all yourself.
  2. Have empathy. Always put yourself in other’s shoes.
  3. Put your health first.
  4. Do not take anything for granted.
  5. Continue to grow. Take a risk.
  6. Always say thank you!

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Event Marketing & Communications, Program Management & Event Design

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Lighting a New Fire: Finding Purpose and Intent (Part 2 of 3)

WBENC Tuck Executive Course

Written by Tina Madden, CAP | Co-CEO and Chief Customer Officer

As business leaders, we are often caught up in dealing with things in real time. People rely on us to help solve immediate challenges and make quick decisions, all while pushing our team leaders to the next level. It is incredibly difficult to take a break from the work that is in front of us to strategically plan for the future. It’s a commitment to make something abstract the main priority.  In Part 1 of this series, published last month, I wrote about my experience at the Tuck-WBENC Executive Program at the Tuck School of Business, how it lit a fire beneath me and what it means for our colleagues and partners moving forward. I want to take a moment to expand on this further.

Going into it this program, I knew the basics of what to expect. I knew we would work on business operations and marketing strategy, hear from various business experts, and learn about some of the challenges and solutions experienced by our peers. But what I didn’t expect, was that I would get so passionate about empowerment. Empowerment has always been a part of my purpose as a leader, but I discovered during this program that there was more I could be delivering and that my excitement for creating purpose runs deeper than I could have ever imagined.

During the program, we were asked to consider what legacy we wanted to leave and how we could continue to give back. In experiencing the ‘transformative’ moments my peers had during this program and thinking about my own leadership journey, it became clear to me how fascinated, and passionate I was about women empowering other women. I saw women being lifted by their peers. I saw breakthroughs because of the support and ideas being shared among the group. I saw very established women leaders let go of the “woman-doubting guard” they had been carrying and honestly realizing that they were right where they were supposed to be. It wasn’t just luck. It was hard work, dedication and focus, not happenstance.

So, there you have it. The legacy I want to leave is to become the best women leader I can be and intentionally work to support other leaders. It is a harsh society today. In an age of technology, transparency, and social media there is a lot of criticism on what we are all doing “wrong.” What if we stopped focusing on what we are doing “wrong” and start to focus on what we are doing right and how to continue to create opportunities and successes? Magic may happen.

What does this mean for all of you?

At M&IW, we are very passionate about our culture. It is essential to my sister, Jean, and I as Co-CEOs that we create an environment where our employees, leaders and executive teams feel empowered and empower others. To continue to build and sustain a culture free of criticism to let creativity thrive, one full of support even when mistakes are made, one that allows different types and levels of leaders — program leaders, account leaders, thought leaders, and people leaders – to all THRIVE. The best leaders really do see beyond what people currently are to what they have the potential to become. This applies to our clients and suppliers, as well, because we are in partnership together to create amazing outcomes through the power of human energy and live events.

I look forward to sharing the final part in this series next month in which I will dive deeper into our business and vision into 2019 and beyond.

 

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Event Marketing & Communications, Group Air Travel Management, Incentive Travel Programs, Pharmaceutical, Medical and HCP Compliance, Program Management & Event Design, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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Introducing Cvent Flex — What You Need to Know

Cvent Flex for Event Website Design is Live

Written by Chip Begley | Senior Manager, Event Technology

As of October 31, 2018, Cvent released Flex General Availability meaning all Cvent accounts now have the Flex registration option. This will become the new “standard registration” and the previous version is renamed to the “classic registration.” In order to bring the latest information on the update and full transparency into the new process, I have compiled a list of questions and answers on the topic.

What is Cvent Flex?

Flex is the name of the new event registration module within Cvent which is being called “a modern and innovative way for event planners to build, design, and manage modern mobile-responsive event websites and enhance the registration process.” With the release of Flex comes a complete redesign of the technology that uses a whole new thought process to building websites.

What does Cvent Flex mean to me?

Cvent’s intention with Flex is to provide a simpler and easier process for building registration websites. And, while this will fully be the case in the future, M&IW expects a learning curve for our clients and our team as we implement the new platform. For reference, we all recall when Microsoft would change their Office programs.

Many of us would spend precious time looking for the location of the new navigation menu. Flex is not simply a navigation menu redesign, it is a full redesign of the way the registration site module will operate and the learning curve will be slightly more than learning where a new menu item resides. Please be aware that this may initially have an effect on design hours.

Our team is already diving into the new platform to continue to provide exceptionally designed sites. Along with M&IW’s Creative Services Team we are looking forward to bringing our clients high-quality, multi-functional, responsive registration website designs.

What does Cvent Flex mean for M&IW?

M&IW is excited for the opportunity to design more and code less. Where we’ve been great at manipulating the HTML/CSS in the Classic Registration, Flex will give us the opportunity to design and brand more than just a registration site. Through the use of color palates, fonts and images we are able to create messages that drive home the purpose of the website and paint a larger picture of the event. Additionally, our Web Design team will continue to work very closely with our Creative Services team and our graphic designer to create professionally themed designs.

What else do I need to know?

Currently, M&IW is still able to create sites in Classic Registration and in Flex. The latest update from Cvent is that Classic Registration will sunset sometime in 2019, however, dates are fluid.

A final note, when switching over to Flex for our client’s registration sites, not all features are currently available from the previous classic version. We expect 100% parity in 2019 before the Classic version is sunsetted. Cvent is committed to enhancing the platform as it matures. Prior to ‘sunsetting’ the Classic version, Flex will not only have the same functionality as the Classic module; but will also provide more features and functionality within Flex than currently available.

In conclusion, our team is readily available to answer any of your questions or concerns. Please feel free to contact your M&IW representative to discuss any questions or concerns. For additional information, CLICK HERE to view our Industry Insights Webinar OnDemand, “It’s Flex Time! What you Need to Know about Cvent Flex.”

Posted in: Company News, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Event Marketing & Communications, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Program Management & Event Design

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Benefits of Attending IMEX America 2018

conferences, attending, benefits, IMEX, 2018

Written by Anne Zambrano | Marketing Project Lead

Offering dozens of brilliant speakers, days of fresh ideas and continuous inspiration at 180-plus educational and networking events over four days, IMEX America is a must attend event in the industry. M&IW had a large team of meeting industry professionals within various disciplines attend this year’s event. We couldn’t wait for their return to dive in to discuss their experience, biggest take-aways and how they can use their newfound knowledge to better serve our clients. And, of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t share it with our community.

Here is what our team had to say about IMEX America 2018:

Q. What were your biggest take-aways?

“Networking! It was so great to meet hoteliers that I book business with regularly and meet new friends at different properties/chains.” – Brianna Barclay – Associate Buyer, Hotel Procurement

“Face to face communication is still and always will be the best way to do business. In this time of increasing efficiencies, email and phone are going to be our primary modes of communication, but it is fundamental to build relationships and live meetings help us to better communicate the needs of our client, as well as sharing our issues, concerns and successes.” – Natalie Spacco, HMCC – Sr. Buyer & Team Lead, Hotel Procurement

“It was amazing to see the respect our partners and colleagues have for our organization. I felt a lot of love for M&IW. It was priceless experiencing the interactions our entire team had with other attendees and suppliers.” – Christine Matias, MA – Director, Program Management

Q. What were the newest trends or hot topics that were widely discussed?

“Busy, busy, busy. All hotels, especially US hotels, expressed that the industry is busier than ever and have very little availability for large programs through 2020. Some hotels could name only one or two weeks in the entire 2020 calendar year where they knew they had availability.” – Natalie Spacco, HMCC – Sr. Buyer & Team Lead, Hotel Procurement

“It was apparent that wellness and self-care are definitely an emerging event trend. There was a dedicated meditation and self-care room that was available during the entire conference. There were two rooms with low lights, essential oils and sound-proofing. One room featured padded mats and pillows. The other room featured quiet stations that allowed for intimate discussions. An amazing moment of calm to escape the event chaos for a moment if needed.” – Sarah Piggott, CMP – Meeting & Tradeshow Specialist, Attendee Registration
“I loved the cool custom-made gifts. They displayed amazing samples at IMEX and were super impressive with the level of customization that we do for our clients.” – Christine Matias, MA – Director, Program Management

Q. What was your favorite moment during the event?

“The concert put on by Marriott! All acts were amazing – but Journey was my favorite!” – Brianna Barclay – Associate Buyer, Hotel Procurement

“I greatly enjoyed having a special dinner with my host group and learning about hotels in special destinations in Asia and Europe. Several in which I will have a chance to visit in person over the next year.” – Natalie Spacco, HMCC – Sr. Buyer & Team Lead, Hotel Procurement

“Being invited to toast the anniversaries and success with two of our valued partners. It was very cool to be considered a special partner and be valued to be present at those moments.” – Christine Matias, MA – Director, Program Management

Q. How did the event help you grow in your area of expertise?

“This event helped me grow because it allowed me time face-to-face with hotels that I do not see on a regular basis. It gave me time to create a deeper partnership with that hotel/sales manager that will benefit both my client and the hotel. We also were able to brainstorm ways to make the small meetings fit within the hotel as well as work for my client.” – Brianna Barclay – Associate Buyer, Hotel Procurement

“Making face-to face connections and shaking hands really solidifies many of my partnerships. Now we are able to communicate and work together on a more personal level which makes business that much easier and more effective. We have a better sense of TEAM and partnership.” – Christine Matias, MA – Director, Program Management

“I came home with much more information than I had when I left. It helps to sit down with a hotel and see visuals of the property and how that property could be a potential good fit for my groups. Learning about location of the hotel and what is nearby for groups for offsite events, dinner, and shopping was an added bonus!” – Jennifer Kamps – Buyer, Hotel Procurement

“By meeting face-to-face with so many of our supplier partners and expanding my relationships and connections in the industry, I feel this will directly improve my ability to find good availability and negotiate on behalf of my clients. I also expanded my knowledge of legal issues on Smart Monday and learned about some new destinations.” – Natalie Spacco, HMCC – Sr. Buyer & Team Lead, Hotel Procurement

In Closing:

M&IW is committed to the professional development and personal enrichment of our team members. The focused nature of learning at a conference gives our team members tools and skills which cannot be taught in-house or online. The recurring theme we hear is the ability to network. There is no direct message, Skype, email or tweet that can rival a face to face meet up. Social media makes it easy for us to stay connected with our current network, but it also hinders branching out and expanding our networks.

As an innovative organization, it is imperative for us to stay on top of emerging trends and positive changes in our industry. So, keep an eye out for our team at other industry-leading events. Upcoming conferences are posted on our homepage. If you want to set up a time to connect with any of our team members attending, email us at marketing@meetings-incentives.com.

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Event Marketing & Communications, Incentive Travel Programs, Program Management & Event Design, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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Group Airline Tickets: Cost Versus Value

Cheap Group Airline Tickets Versus Value

Written by Staci Simmons | Manager, Marketing Communications & Creative Services

Booking flights seems easy enough for an experienced traveler, but what about booking group airline tickets? Those who commonly travel for work know a thing or two about shortcuts and “road warriors” may have some ideas on how to manage the process:

  • Setting up flight alerts to find the best travel routes
  • Researching more than one online platform for the lowest rate
  • Going directly to the airlines to take advantage of unique offerings
  • Booking through your organization’s online travel platform or preferred portal

These are all great front-end tactics for booking flights—the internet is a powerful tool. It takes a bit of time and logistics to build the best flight itinerary for the price—but it’s worth it. And, we agree.

Managing group airline tickets, on the other hand, is a beast unto itself. Professional travel agents will tell you that organizing multiple itineraries, arrivals, and departures around fixed events takes patience, dedication and a lot of coordination. It is a time-consuming affair, and the event will start whether your team is there or not.

Consider the time invested in building the perfect flight itinerary using online tools for just you and a guest. Now multiply that by 100 or 1,000 attendees. It’s safe to assume that your time is better spent on other endeavors; marketing, sales, operations, management, compliance. And again, we agree.

This is where the need for value quickly overrides the lowest price available. Value is not about booking the cheapest airfare for a few individuals, it is about:

  • Managing and booking your entire group’s flights within budget
  • Coordinating multiple connections from multiple locations
  • Ensuring your guests arrive safely and on time
  • Problem-solving when flights are over-booked, delayed or canceled
  • Communicating with on-site staff regarding air changes
  • Updating hotel accommodations and ground transportation with arrival and departure information
  • Hands-on care and personal support for each traveler
  • Accurate reporting on air expenses and cost savings for your group

Coordinating flight arrangements for your meeting, conference or incentive program can take considerable effort. Luckily, M&IW’s group air department has you covered. All of our group air coordinators have previously worked for an airline, and collectively, average more than 10 years’ experience. We’ve built the relationships needed to manage the intricacies of group travel successfully. Let us show you how.

Visit www.meetings-incentives.com or contact a team member at (262) 835-3553 to learn more about M&IW’s group air services.

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Event Marketing & Communications, Group Air Travel Management, Incentive Travel Programs, Program Management & Event Design

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M&IW’s Alexander deHilster Joins BizBash Hall of Fame

Written by: Marie Johnson, CMP | Director, Marketing & Strategy

Alexander deHilster is one of the most talented event designers in the industry. His list of accomplishments, customer accolades and awards spans more than 20 years. In 2011, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame by Illinois Meetings & Events Magazine. And, fast forward to September 12, 2018 live at the BizBash Hall of Fame ceremony in Chicago, I was able to catch up with Alexander to ask him about his humble beginnings, favorites design projects, and how it feels to join an elite group of professionals.

In response to what contributed most to his success, he replied “thinking out of the box, coming up with crazy stuff and working with amazing vendors who help me bring my visions alive.” Read the full interview below.

Q. When did you first get started in the events industry? Was it a calling or did it happen by chance?

My first “event” was organizing a 5K run/walk at the age of 15 when I didn’t know that event planning existed. I worked as a volunteer at a youth organization who wanted to host an event to raise money and they needed someone to plan it. Event planning has been a natural fit for me. I’m sure I got it from my parents (well, not the cooking part as I can’t cook, but do love food) as they hosted large parties at our home for 50 or more guests. Each party had a different theme, my dad would cook for days a meal that fit the theme, my mom managed all the logistics, and guests would arrive dressed the part. But, the first real event I planned was 22 years ago when I moved to New Orleans and worked for a DMC, Travel New Orleans.

Q. Of all your events, which one was your favorite or stands out from the rest?

I’m always asked that question and it is hard. It’s like, who is your favorite child, or in my case, which one is your favorite dog. They are all my favorites for different reasons. However, there are three or four that do stand out the most in my long career. And, two were for the same client.

1. A fundraiser at Finkl Steel, a working steel factory. While trucks came through delivering steel and cranes and saws would move the steel and cut them in pieces, we were setting up our event. It took about a week. We built a 30’ volcano out of wood, with build-in screens for projectors and dancers behind them and fireworks coming out of the top. 40’ doors to separate one space from the next space. Hanging sushi buffet stations of ice for cocktails, a never-ending flow of entertainment on a multi-level stage, with a gospel choir, Dave Brubeck and others.

2. Same client, but now at Green Dolphin Street. The club is open each day till 2 am. On a Friday I had moving trucks ready outside till the last guests left. Our event was to be on Saturday night at 7 pm. All tables, chairs and banquets (yes, they needed be unscrewed from the walls), all existing light fixtures and chandeliers removed. The bar was covered with a stage for additional seating, custom chandeliers with florals hanging at the bottom of each chandelier strategically placed above each of the 6-tops and the existing stage covered in white vinyl. The Green Dolphin Street sign covered with a custom sign and the entire building covered in red silk – ala Christo.

3. The Library Club was transformed into a very elegant room with one long dining table seating 60 guests. Over a dozen projectors were used, evenly placed on the left and right side of the room, to project still and moving images onto the curved ceiling. Each projector only showed a portion of the image and all images had to blend together to make it look like one. It took forever to get them all focused correctly. The theme was a culinary journey through France with different imagery for each portion of the night and with each of the 7 courses being served. From full day time, to sun set, champagne cellars for the toast, a display of the windows of the Notre Dame in Paris, lavender fields for the dessert, ceiling covered in roses while “la vie en rose” was performed and a ‘fireworks’ display after the awards program was over.

4. My last one was at the Geraghty and the theme was “Under the Cosmic Sea.” It was a blend of “space” and the bottom of the “sea.” All very organic. Floor to ceiling projections surrounded the entire room, with constantly changing images, a 55’ round and 15’ tall aluminum structure placed in the middle of the room through which guests could walk through, covered in stretch fabric, underneath it hundreds of feet of ropes through which video imagery and lights were sent, over-sized sea anemones and a humongous octopus enveloping the aluminum structure. With the shiny floors and all the tables covered in mirrors, no matter where you were in the room, lights and images were constantly changing and reflected onto every surface. That’s probably my most favorite event.

Q. How does it feel to inducted into the BizBash Hall of Fame?

Amazing. I was speechless when BizBash called me. I don’t like being in the spotlight, unless I’m the one asking for it. I’m the behind the scenes person to make it all happen. Most of my very décor driven events, I’ll stay to the side at the entrance to a room and listen and look at how guests respond to see how well I did.

For more information about BizBash and the Hall of Fame inductees, CLICK HERE. Please join us in congratulating Alexander DeHilster, Event Design Manager with M&IW, and the other honorees for their contributions to our industry.

Posted in: Company News, Conferences & Tradeshows, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence & Consulting, Event Marketing & Communications, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Incentive Travel Programs, Program Management & Event Design

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