Mental wellness, elevated f&b experiences and “wow” moments are three of the meeting trends identified by the event experts from Marriott’s Convention & Resort Network (CRN), an integrated network of more than 60 JW Marriott®, Autograph Collection® Hotels, Renaissance® Hotels, Marriott Hotels® and Gaylord Hotels®.
The “What’s Hot for 2016” list was developed from a survey of CRN property members and feedback from meeting planner partners. The five trends to watch are:
1. Mind Over Matter
Stress management is paramount and planners have to take care of their own mental wellness as well as that of attendees. Suggestions from the Marriott experts include yoga and meditative activities; allowing breaks for power naps; and healthy brain-boosting snacks and juices. While traditional activities like golf and spa treatments can be depended on to give attendees a mental and physical boost, some properties are offering more inventive options such as SUP Yoga (stand-up paddle boarding and yoga), and Beach Olympics/survivor events. Educational sessions with fitness personalities (Sarah Dussault of SarahFIT worked with four Marriott CRN properties) are another option.
2. App-lause for Apps
Mobile tools are increasingly essential to events. Michael O’Connor, director of event management at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville says that his team sees a variety of meeting apps that top companies are using, including Spot Me, Double Dutch and Crowd Compass. While these apps connect event organizers to attendees, Marriott offers an app that connects planners to hotel teams. The Marriott Meeting Services App allows planners to make requests regarding f&b, technology, meeting space, room temperature, and more up to management of the final bill.
3. Keeping the Bar High
Creativity behind the bar is helping planners wow attendees with mocktails, cocktails and more. In a recent survey of all 60 CRN members, 69 percent of hotels reported an increase in meeting planners upgrading f&b for their programs. For example, the f&b team at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland report that trending beverages for 2016 include moonshine bars, cocktails on tap, bourbon bar food pairings (eg. a small plate of pork belly with a blackberry glaze accompanied by a bourbon cocktail chaser), and customizable cocktails for groups.
4. Lights, Camera, Meeting!
According to the Marriott experts, budgets are moving to production for “wow” meeting moments. Today’s meeting attendees are looking for the same high-definition projections they experience at home or in their modern workstations and companies’ conference rooms. Planners are looking at spaces that give them the ceiling height they need to deliver that experience. Widescreens, video mapping and innovative lighting are all part of the trend.
5. Immersive Destination Experiences
Welcome gift bags given out at registration are becoming passé. Instead, attendees are looking for experiences—as a group and for the individual. Examples include: a recorded wake-up call from the CEO; food trucks at mid-afternoon refreshment breaks; and fireworks during an evening reception. At the New Orleans Marriott, groups have a Mardi Gras parade complete with high school band lead them to their dinner locations. In Chicago, the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel offers team-building dinners for leadership teams. Monogrammed chef coats, engraved starter plates and an interactive desert design station are all part of the experience.