STARWOOD HOTELS ANNUAL MEETING
or anyone who puts together an annual event essentially attended by the same people each year,
;inding a way to avoid the old “been there, done
that” feeling by the event’s audience becomes
a perennial challenge. But that doesn’t mean a
fresh and compelling new experience can’t be rolled out
year after year.
Just ask Lance Hornecker, CMP, CMM (MPI Georgia Chapter), global account director for Starwood Hotels and Resorts
Worldwide Inc. For 15 consecutive years, Starwood has been
hosting an Atlanta event that brings together hotel representatives and planners who use Starwood properties for meetings and other events.
But Hornecker’s annual event has never received any
been there, done that comments from attendees.
“They always look forward to the next year’s event because they never really know what we’re going to do next,”
Over the years, the event has involved roller-skating
parties, Master Chef-style cooking competitions, TV quiz
show-format events and just about everything in a planner’s
arsenal to make an event fun, energizing and memorable.
“These attendees have done karaoke; they’ve seen it
all—and every year the big challenge is creating a new and
memorable evening like they’ve never experienced before,”
says Lorri McQueary, creative and marketing director at At-
lanta-based Destination South Meetings and Events, who has
been the planning partner for the Starwood event for more
than 10 years.
Hornecker says the success of the event, which typically involves about 250 attendees, isn’t solely based on the
team’s ability to think of fresh new ideas each year—
although that instinct for cutting-edge experiences certainly
plays a good part.
He says the fundamental goal of the event is key in what
makes it a success each year.
“I heard a quote recently that really resonated with me:
‘Experiences with emotion become memories,’” Hornecker
says. “That is really what we strive for with our event every
year. We want to create experiences that become emotional,
because at the end of the day a meeting is a meeting, right? I
think MPI has done a wonderful job of conveying to its members that what we do really does change the world. So what
we do in our little corner of the world [is] try to create events
that could become emotional experiences for our customers and hence they will become memories for our clients.”
He says the annual Starwood Atlanta event has a well-de-;ined and measurable goal. The idea is to bring representatives of Starwood hotels from around the globe together with
planners. The number of sales leads and bookings from the
event is carefully measured to ensure that all participating
hotels receive their ROI.
Creating a new and memorable evening unlike anything your veteran
event attendees have experienced before? Why not a burlesque show?
Been There, Haven’t Done That
BY ROWLAND STITELER