Snorkelling and scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef … deep sea fishing … white water rafting … just some of the blandishments on offer to one client’s operator network at their annual conference this year … nice work if you can get it! Incentive travel events are (quite literally) a world away from the average onshore trade show or conference. It’s not that the business aspect of the event is played down or irrelevant — most are driven by strong commercial imperatives.
Even when business is not all that obvious as an objective, it’s still a result. In a different incarnation, as director of a retail pharmacy group, The Showmanator went on tour the Australian Outback thinly disguised as a pharmaceutical ‘conference’. To appease the taxman, the odd (and I do mean odd) expert hopped on our air-conditioned coach between locations to give talks on bush tucker and other topics clearly essential to the contemporary pharmacist’s ability to do his or her job. Despite the skinniness of the programme, it was a triumph for the organisers because we (their top customers) bonded big-time … over cocktails … watching the great red sun set over the billabong … anticipating the next five course dinner … and ended up committed to another year of contented buying from them.
Seriously though, when you think incentive travel, you think top-of-the-line, luxury, partner programmes, pampering, five stars and similar … wrapped up in logistical perfection. But it’s generally about more than simply rewarding people with a great experience. Irrespective of the exoticness of the location or the luxuriousness of the venue and it’s attendant blandishments — cf snorkelling, scuba diving, deep sea fishing and white water rafting — the driver’s remain growing the business, building relationships and motivating and rewarding people. In short, building stronger bonds across networks. In our socially motivated era, this means building communities of interest around the event that offer people the opportunity to connect and engage with each other ahead of the event and after it. This also allows the organisation’s senior team to do a bit of advance schmoosing and to get people excited about new initiatives and/or product launches happening at the event.
Logistically, the need is to provide a seamless experience for attendees which includes everything from travel arrangements to partner programmes and other leisure time activities as well as extensive information about the business end of the event. For incentive travel scenarios, the need for individual tailoring is paramount. This is also true of FAMIL and hosted buyer programmes.
It’s the perfect storm for mobile event apps. In addition to all the expected event guide and networking features of a quality event app, they can also offer individually tailored information that includes travel itineraries, partner details and personalised event schedules that include the leisure time activities that have been selected. Apps are a much better delivery mechanism than providing all this information by email or in a wad of heavy (not good for travel) and annoying-to-carry around goodie bags (not good for the planet).
In the past roaming charges have been an issue, but now with offline mode, all people have to do is download the app to their phones before they travel and the cached memory will do the rest while they’re ‘in resort’. As with our recent client, all that is required it to set a cut-off date when all information must be correctly uploaded into the CMS so that attendees can be invited to access their individual information via the app.
Simple huh, so why aren’t more people doing it? It’s another example where one needs to put the questions differently. It’s all about what needs to be delivered rather than what currently can be. Generic apps provide a fantastic platform designed to address the common denominators and requirements of most meetings and events. But they can also be configured to cater to specifics for any one event. Configuration may be a minor tweak or a major customisation.
In either case, when you go with a generic app, you don’t start from ground zero and have the comfort of using an underlying code based that has been tried and tested around the world. So why not break out the Hawaiian Tropic and shout your top sales people to a strategic retreat on some desert island … now there’s an idea … great for morale and have we got the app for you!