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by admin | April 11, 2014

Over one weekend in March, I sampled what people eat for breakfast in Colombia, lunch in Abu Dhabi, and dinner in Mexico. On Saturday night I drank like a New Zealander. And I did all this without ever leaving New York City. It happened at the annual SMU International, held March 21 - 23 at the Conrad Hotel in Battery Park City, just a few short blocks away from the new World Trade Center complex.

It is a testament to the banquet staff at the Conrad that the hotel is able to turn around banquet service for over 150 people with such a variety of culturally diverse cuisines. In total, 70 planners and a similar number of suppliers were in attendance for a very busy weekend of education, one-on-one appointments, and networking.

Attendees learned numerous best practices for planning cross-cultural meetings from Eli Gorin, CMP, CMM, managing director of Hospitality Growth Partners. The focus of his session explored how to prepare every aspect of an event from F&B to content delivery to optional activities in a way that will accommodate a multicultural audience.

Jonathan Bradshaw, CEO of the London-based Meetology® Group, delivered a fascinating presentation that explored how research from the worlds of psychology and behavioral science can be used to not only help create the right meetings environment but also maximize the performance of those who attend. Far from dry, it was a light-hearted session that combined serious research on left-brain/right-brain dynamics with musings on what is the best color for a meeting room; what food you should offer attendees; and why every meeting should have a juggling area as well as a place to lie down.

On Saturday evening, the group enjoyed a cruise around Manhattan on board the Infinity, a three level party boat owned by Hornblower Yacht. The evening was sponsored by New Zealand Tourism and as guests boarded the craft they were greeted by a group of Maori entertainers dressed in traditional grass skirts (not the best attire for a windy March evening in New York) who sang and played traditional instruments. For those of us who weren’t wearing grass skirts, the evening, though a little nippy, was warm enough to go out on deck and enjoy spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the fabulous New York skyline.

Vince Alonzo