by Andrea Doyle | November 02, 2016

Tapping Local Speakers

Tapping local speakers is another way to infuse the flavor of a destination. That's exactly what the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) did during its 2016 convention, held in Vancouver September 25-28 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Motivational Speaker Roger Haskett presented his talk, "How to Be a Vancouverite," and Chris Hadfield shared what it was like to be the first Canadian Astronaut to walk in space and serve as the commander of the International Space Station.


Situated at the edge of the harbor
downtown, Vancouver Convention
Centre has many outdoor areas

"Spectacular by Nature," is Vancouver's tagline, referencing the city's backdrop of snow-capped mountains, rainforest, and sandy beaches. Many members of the group of almost 2,000 who attended the NAMIC convention took advantage of local tours that were offered.

Another way the association ensured the group enjoyed Vancouver's surrounding beauty was by having events outside. One evening reception was held in the Jack Poole Plaza set around the majestic Cauldron that burned brightly during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. "With breathtaking harbor and mountain views, this reception was held both inside and out. We had fire pits and telescopes for our group to enjoy," says Larry Baile, NAMIC's assistant vice president, convention and association services.

For some corporate groups, one of the best ways to tap into a city is to see how the locally based companies do business. Hootsuite, the widely used social media dashboard that started in the city, infuses every aspect of its offices with the city's culture. The company's mascot, an owl named Owly, and the owl motif is seen throughout the offices. Staff have meals in the lunchroom with its picnic tables. At the end of the lunchroom is a stage where "Lunch and Learns" are held, an opportunity for any employee to teach others something they are passionate about.

The company's spaces can be toured by visiting groups, who can not only experience the Vancouver-focused design of the space, but understand how a local company does business.

Rome as the Romans Do
Creative Group, which specializes in engagement, incentive, and recognition solutions, and event management, took a trip to the Vatican a step further for a major automotive company by arranging for them to have exclusive access to many areas not normally open to visitors.

The group was treated to a private tour of the Vatican museums, including the Sistine Chapel, where permission for photography was granted. Special approval was also received for dinner to be held in a beautiful, intimate "behind the curtain" room within the Vatican museums, where the group sipped wine and listened to the Vatican choir, led by the famous choir director, Monsignor Pablo Colino. The evening was capped off with an exclusive performance by an opera-caliber tenor and soprano.

An underground tour of the Roman Colosseum, a visit to the Borghese Gallery, and a trip to a countryside winery where the group not only sampled wine in the family home but had a cooking class led by the family's matriarch, were all featured during this President's Club incentive trip.

"The attendees have the financial wherewithal for high-end travel, and creating an experience to surpass anything they could create on their own is a main challenge," says Creative Group President Janet Traphagen.


Creative Group arranged an incentive
program in Rome that included a
private concert by the Vatican choir
and a wine-and-food tasting at
Rimessa Roscioli

A private gourmet walking tour of Rome with a stop for coffee and homemade pizza was well received, and after the tour, the group enjoyed a private tasting lunch where the chef provided a history of Italian cuisine.

A successful incentive trip for the same client took place in Istanbul, Turkey, with accommodations at the Four Seasons at the Bosphorus. "Using our knowledge of the group and of Istanbul, we worked closely with our Turkish partners to come up with singular moments and personal touches for each of the activities and evenings," explains Traphagen.

Highlights included an exclusive tour of the Grand Bazaar with visits to local artisans; exclusive entry to Topkapi Palace -- arguably Istanbul's most popular attraction -- one hour before it was open to the public; and a Turkish bath experience at the famous Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam, built in the 1500s (accompanied by a historian).


Off-road vehicles proved the perfect
way for a group to be immersed in
the Los Cabos landscape

Creative Group planned another incentive trip to Los Cabos, where participants visited a remote rural area where they caravanned in enclosed off-road vehicles. They enjoyed themed stops along the way, including one for a smoothie at a stand Creative Group created, and another where a naturalist spoke about the local flora and fauna and how and why people settled in Los Cabos. The caravan ended at a beach that seemed to appear out of nowhere, where a surprise brunch was waiting in a tent at the edge of the water.

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This article appears in the November 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.