The “Experience Planner” An evolved, new kind of meeting planner!
Recently a very seasoned and exceptionally perceptive professional said he no longer calls himself a “meeting planner,” but more accurately likes to be known as an “experience planner.” Let me explain. In addition to “break-out” sessions, he offers his clients “break-away” time. When appropriate, instead of a keynote speaker, he arranges for noteworthy experts to talk on a variety of topics of interest to his clients’ delegates and the meeting market segments they represent. Not only does he work with his clients to plan meals, but he also suggests small plates and samplings of locally-sourced food for a culinary experience.
It is no secret that the way we conduct business has changed. With that comes the way attendees like to go to meetings. They like “me” time, family options and they like to come away from the destination with a “sense of place.” The more a planner can suggest and offer, the more the client will see possibilities for a unique meeting. Another planner for a very high profile insurance company recently had a ballroom for the general session set with couches, side table low-lighting, cocktail rounds and mood-setting entrance music.
In Fond du Lac and the Lake Winnebago region, planners will find many opportunities to create experiences for their attendees. What about a team building exercise on paddle boards on the lake? Or wind kite lessons for the more adventurous? There is the tried and true 18-hole golf course, but you could shake it up with go-cart racing along a track. How about sending teams loose in a corn-maze with clues as to how to get out?
For “break-away” sessions there are six recreational trails with approx. 50 miles for hiking, bicycling, walking, nature walks, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Other outdoor recreational offerings include: Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum, the Greenway Arboretum, Oakfield Ledge State Natural Area, Belle Reynolds School Forest and the Kettle Moraine Forest and the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
Delegates can be sent off to strawberry or apple farms to “pick-their-own” and then come back to the hotel and make desserts using their produce under the direction of a local chef. A fun afternoon can be planned in the countryside following the rolling hills of the Niagara Escarpment on a “poker run” to collect photos on their phones of the barn quilts in the area.
Along these lines, there is a new trend called the “Festivilization” of meetings. The experience meeting planner engages attendees with all the senses and combines business, technology, media, science, education, art & culture. In the Fond du Lac and Lake Winnebago area, a meeting could be planned around Sturgeon Spectacular in February, Walleye Weekend, Art All Around in June and Celebrate Waupun in June, EAA AirVenture in July, the Wind Power Championships in September and the Rural Arts Roadtrip in October.
With the proximity to Marian University, Moraine Park Technical College and UW-FDL many partnerships can be forged for science and educational sessions. Arts & culture abound at the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts and interactive art galleries in the area.
An “experience” as a noun is defined as a practical contact with and observation of facts or events. In Fond du Lac it is defined as a verb – to encounter or undergo an event or occurrence. Planners will bring their clients face-to-face with the unique experiences and memories.