Creating Exceptional Experiences for the Most Savvy Travelers

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Creating Exceptional Experiences for the Most Savvy Travelers

By Annette Gregg | Sep 21, 2020

Since 1992, global meetings procurement and site selection agency HelmsBriscoe has contracted millions of room nights for its clients’ programs. With their many long-term clients, they are challenged to raise the bar year after year when designing repeat programs.

Kaye Sparks, vice president of HelmsBriscoe’s ResourceOne full meeting management division, shared how the team leveraged experience design principles to craft a client’s incentive program, creating truly exceptional moments for these lucky guests.

A five-day, immersive experience in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit region included an excursion to the exclusive private island of Las Caletas, an isolated jungle paradise only reachable by boat.

The Meeting Professional: Can you give use some details about your client’s event?

Kaye Sparks: This particular event was an incentive trip for the company’s clients to attend as a gift for their continued partnership. We were tasked to plan a five-day, four-night trip with multiple activities and dinners for the group of roughly 80 people to enjoy. Our planning team had been working on this program for five years, so it was wonderful seeing it all come to life.

What are some of the challenges you face with designing this event? 

KS: One of the biggest challenges of this trip was curating a new experience for these attendees. Many of them attend this trip year after year. We switch the location and hotel, but curating those WOW events with special moments and surprises always takes some extra brainstorming. This particular client has some very specific dislikes, so we always work hard to ensure we steer clear of those while providing very fun and creative options for the group.

What were some of the surprise and delight elements that had the biggest impact this time?

KS: The trip to Las Caletas for dinner and a show was one of the most WOW moments! We started the evening by boarding our own private boat at the dock, bypassing all of the crowds. We arrived for dinner at the island just as the sun was setting in a rainforest setting and watched the show from a front-row VIP section only for our group. Finally, on the boat ride back there was a surprise entertainment show from the crew. It was a truly special event. We keep the same staff on this program year after year, which allows us to get to know them very well. From the second they arrived they were greeted by name and offered concierge-level service from our team.

Best practices in event experience design include elements to make them immersive, participatory, authentic and customized. How have you infused some of these elements into this conference?

KS: The agenda for this program lent itself to easily infuse these elements. From the start of registration, attendees were provided the opportunity to select customized agendas and activities throughout the trip based on their personal preferences we captured as they registered. We were also in constant communication with them prior to the trip to ensure their flights were booked correctly and to assist with any special requests throughout their stay. For all of our programs we work to infuse some of the culture of the location, like the trip to Las Caletas island, known as one of the most secluded beach destinations in the world. For every function during the event the guests experienced a piece of local culture, from a flamenco guitarist at the welcome reception to customized local menus to every meal incorporating local cuisine to a journey deep into Mexico’s ancient history.

How did they participate in the programming?

KS: Although this was a reward program, it was important to this group to have targeted time with one another as business executives. They value the knowledge gained from these interactions. So unlike traditional incentive trips, we provided a customized business session that allowed them to interact with each other based on their particular business units and areas of focus.

What has been the reaction from your audience? Internal stakeholders? Your team?

KS: Everyone who attended this event truly had a wonderful time. Because of our longstanding relationship with this client, our planning team understands this audience and was able to deliver an experience tailored to their preferences. Interestingly, we have surveyed the group several times about areas they’d like to change, and they love the agenda “as is.” So while we vary locations and the authentic local elements every year, we keep the programming they find most valuable.

Level Up Your Experience Design

Visit to learn more from more from Kaye Sparks about how HelmsBriscoe overcame some local challenges.

If you’re ready to take the next step in experience design, enroll in one of our upcoming Event Design Certificate courses today. You can also join our online Experiential Marketers and Designers Community. And if you’re not an MPI member, learn more about joining and the value of belonging to this community.

Each month during 2020, Annette Gregg, CMM, MBA, senior vice president of experience for MPI, will interview MPI members to highlight some of the best examples of event experience design (or user-centered design) across the globe. Look for the reports in every issue of The Meeting Professional.



Annette Gregg

Annette Gregg, CMM, MBA, is senior vice president, experience for Meeting Professionals International.