Incentives with Imagination

gondolasI think I speak for most meeting planners when I say that orchestrating an incentive trip is the high point of a planner’s repertoire. It is certainly true for me. Planning incentives not only taps my logistical side, but it gets my creative juices flowing like nothing else. With the economy’s upswing, incentive budgets are growing, allowing for even more inventive options.

While incentives do allow for plenty of creativity, it’s sort of human nature to resort to the tried-and-true. After all, it’ll still be new to your attendee, you tell yourself. For example, a hot-air balloon ride over wine country in Napa is always a given for me, as it’s a proven crowd-pleaser. Hot-air balloon rides are impressive no matter where you are. They offer a stunning vantage point, and not a lot of people have experienced them. Listen, tried-and-true works. But for many reasons, it’s helpful to shake things up a bit, even if it’s to simply add another layer to an already successful approach. Here are some ideas:

Give transportation a twist –  If, for example, you used a bus to transport attendees to lunch, have a helicopter waiting for them afterward for a sightseeing tour as an unexpected, thrilling treat. Or add some excitement with motorcycles, gondolas, or classic cars. Or consider float planes, yachts, sail boats, and ferries when the geography allows.

sailingPump up the adrenaline – Take advantage of the local area and get hearts racing with thrilling activities. For adventurous types, consider bungee jumping, parasailing, surf lessons, high-speed boat trips, racecar driving lessons, even cage diving with sharks (just be sure to get those release forms signed!)

Add the extra “Wow!” – Where agendas are concerned, don’t give too much away. Building in surprises will increase the impact of every detail you plan. Consider these scenarios:

  1. After a night of off-site dinner and dancing—just when guests think the evening is winding down—surprise them with an after-party back at their hotel, one with added entertainment value. Who wouldn’t be surprised by an after-party where Harry Connick, Jr. gives a private concert?
  2. If your hotel has a shopping area, see if they’d be willing to close early to the public so that your group can shop like celebrities with the entire place to themselves. (Even high-end, off-site shopping plazas may offer this option for larger groups.) Have waiters pass champagne and canapés, and pass out gift certificates that must be used that evening so they can splurge on something for themselves.
  3. Be thoughtful when choosing amenity gifts. Think about the things people really want, as well as things that will remind them of their experience. For instance, for a trip to Scotland, a cashmere throw and bottle of nice Scotch was greatly appreciated. Also, think about how much room attendees have in their suitcases and consider leaving a note with each gift that reads: “We know your luggage is getting full; no need to figure out to get these gifts home. Simply bring them to the concierge with your home address and we will ship them for you.”

More incentive ideas to come, but in the meantime, we would love to hear some over-the-top-ideas from you.

Happy Planning!!!

Photos: Shutterstock

Danielle Childress

Danielle Childress

Danielle Childress (Dani) has planned everything from board meetings for 6 to product launches for 500 to the NFL Experience at the Super Bowl for 100,000.

Leave a Comment