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In her latest book, The Executive's Guide to Corporate Events and Business Entertaining: How to Choose and Use Corporate Functions to Increase Brand Awareness, Develop New Business, Nurture Customer Loyalty and Drive Growth (John Wiley), Judy Allen discusses partnership opportunities between non-profit organizations and corporate businesses. They include gala fundraising events that tie into corporate objectives and image.

Golf tournament encourages corporate team building.
Golf tournament encourages corporate team building.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Allen recommends actively involving in-house staff in the planning, operations and on-site orchestration of events, from beginning to end, possibly structuring them as teambuilding ventures. The results? "Staff members will take away some very valuable business tools," says Allen. "By designing and structuring gala fundraising events, like charity golf tournaments, the company gains many returns on their investment of time, money and energy."

Teambuilding classes

At cooking schools, participants work together in teams to create a meal. "Custom aprons designate teams," says Allen. "Afterwards, they share what they've prepared, mix and mingle. Take-away gifts include recipes, ingredients and/or special gadgets so participants can show off their new skills at home."

Taking over a fishing lodge is another popular teambuilding venture, according to Allen. "Experts teach fly-fishing techniques and tie in corporate learning objectives like patience and fishing where the fish are located, knowing when to move forward in sales and marketing and not wasting time doing what's not working to reach the target sales audience."

What are other popular activities for meeting and incentive groups? Meeting and Incentive Travel (M&IT) magazine's Market Report notes that many survey respondents added a spa element and/or golf to their programs.

According to M&IT magazine's media kit, its readers (Canadian corporate, independent, government and association meeting and special event planners) spend $5 billion on incentives, meetings and events every year.

Corporate meeting and incentive locations

Global Events Partners, a partnership of destination management companies (DMCs) in more than 70 countries worldwide, surveyed its partner DMCs on meeting and travel trends. The top spot for corporate meetings and incentives went to London and the United Kingdom, according to nearly one-third of respondents.

Meeting planners also named France and Italy as continuing favourites. They cited Dubai as a new hot spot. Other destinations listed as up-and-coming were Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix/Scottsdale, China, Latin America, Mexico and the South Pacific.

Corporate group attends cooking school.
Corporate group attends cooking school.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The FutureWatch survey, conducted by Meeting Professionals International and American Express, notes that Canadian planners expect to hold 20 per cent more meetings outside Canada. The majority (15 per cent) will be held in the U.S.A., five per cent in Europe, two per cent in Mexico and the Caribbean and two per cent elsewhere.

Canadian planners predicted that 49 per cent of their meetings will be in city hotels, 15 per cent in convention centres, 14 per cent in resort hotels, nine per cent in conference centres and universities and the rest in airport and suburban hotels, restaurants and other sites.

Private group charters

According to Judy Allen, companies like Luggage Forward ship luggage to more than 200 countries around the world. "Having luggage picked up at participants' homes or offices and delivered directly to their hotels or resorts speeds up security checks and avoids waits at baggage carousels." She also suggests purchasing priority passes so participants can access VIP lounges at airports.

Private airlines are popular with Canadian meeting and incentive groups. Porter Airlines, a regional passenger carrier, flies 70-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft from Toronto City Centre Airport to Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, New York's Newark Liberty International Airport and Quebec City (in summer). Voyageur Airways offers group charters on a variety of aircraft to Canadian destinations. Ultimate Ski Vacations, for example, uses Voyageur Airways to transport groups of up to 44 to Mont-Tremblant International Airport from the Region of Waterloo International Airport and Toronto's private executive terminal at Pearson International Airport.

There are many challenges facing corporate meeting and incentive planners today: the high Canadian dollar, smaller budgets, shorter lead times and new passport requirements for cross-border travel. But organizers can still plan memorable events, says Judy Allen: "If you want to be leaders in your industry, you have to step away from doing events that are cookie cutter replicas and align yourself with professionals who can creatively set your company apart from your peers. You want to set trends, not follow them."

More meeting and incentive ideas:

Small Ships - Big Incentives

Banquet Catering Tips

Europe Travel Incentive Programs

Prince Edward Island Meeting and Incentive Groups

Tahiti Travel Incentive Programs