Tuesday, 22 July 2014 00:00

Professionalism, Creativity, Commitment: Great Success

The client’s goal for this event was to create an “atmosphere” that would encourage exchange of ideas, receptiveness to produce knowledge and social interaction tu build relationships. Of all the solutions reviewed and analyzed the company agreed that the best opportunity for success was in Stresa, on Lake Maggiore.

by Rodolfo Musco, CMP, CMM

Also the process of this case history started with a request of information about a venue in Belgium that I had visited a few months earlier. Then we tried to select venues in different geographical areas that might satisfy the pre requisites for the important meeting that Diane Smith had in process to organize for her company, Alcon Laboratories, based in Fort Worth, Texas. The key issues where: 1) close proximity to an International airport, no more than 45 minutes drive; 2) five star property; 3) easy access to leisure activities.

Solutions in France, Spain, Switzerland and Belgium were considered, as well as in Italy. The final selection was in Stresa, on the Lake Maggiore.

The organizing path: impact with Italian reality

The offer was based on availability and rates given by two hotels. The first question was: which one to confirm? During the final inspection, the conference manager of one of the hotels was reluctant to inform about the number and the type of events planned in the same property for the same days of the Alcon events. The general atmosphere was “production chain” like. The conference manager of the second hotel was clearly more “people oriented” and a “co-operative type”. Of course this second hotel was the one confirmed, as all meeting professionals understand the importance of flexibility in this industry.

Once issues related to guest rooms, main meeting room, breakout rooms, welcome reception, business lunch, coffee breaks, and first night dinner were addressed, the attention was dedicated to the gala dinner to be organized in a different venue, a cultural excursion and leisure activities.

A logical step was to ask the assistance of local experts. Almost a full day of briefing was not enough to let them understand that an “event” cannot be treated as a normal “group activity”. The solution was not in their “catalogue”. So we started to investigate the area meter by meter. We excluded properties of the Belle Époque time, as the chosen hotel was built and decorated in this style. Earlier “aged” venues in the area are all private ones, and a dialogue was started with the PR executive of a famous industrialist who owns one of them. In the meanwhile the solution came out: an 18th Century villa in Arona, privately owned, was hosting an outstanding art exhibition. It appeared impossible to host a gala dinner during the same time that the art gallery was open, but a diplomatic rendez-vous with the villa’s owner opened the door of two lovely connected rooms originally decorated in the year 1760, facing the villa’s garden. A good negotiation convinced the owner, and the contract was signed.

Once found the venue, we dedicated our attentions to the ingredients: how to transfer guests from Stresa to Arona and back? Which kind of entertainment to provide? Which timing could better fit guest’s needs while linking transportation, aperitif, visit of the cultural exhibition, gala dinner and entertainment? What else could enhance the program?

Touches of class

An advantage was taken by the decision to hire a vessel built in 1907 to cruise the lake during the excursion to the wonderful islands facing Stresa. The rental fee included 8 hours of service, so that it was logical to schedule 4 hours of excursion in the afternoon, two hours time for guests to freshen up and dress up for the gala dinner, one and a half hour to transfer the group to Arona, while serving the aperitif on board in the legendary scenario of Lake Maggiore.

It was June, so that the wheel vessel could cruise the lake whit a daylight and still reach Arona at the sunset. At the dock, guests were welcome by  a gentleman and a lady wearing superb costumes of the same age of the Villa (1760). Those characters  opened the procession of guests across the narrow old streets mounting from the lake to Villa Ponti.

Local authorities accepted to organize a temporary no parking in the streets crossed by the group, so to allow an image closer to the old traditions of the town. At the entrance of the art exhibition, guests have been welcome by the Mayor of Arona and the regional spokesman of the Arts. The exhibition included masterpieces by Guttuso, Pio Manzù, among many others. Its doors to the villa’s garden were open and attended by city policemen in gala uniform.

Drinks were available in the garden, before entering the halls for the “white gloves” gala dinner accompanied by a talented pianist.

It seemed all. But with the dessert a folder was distributed to guests giving the keynotes of four opera artists and the repertoire of a concert specially designed for this event. Because of the international audience, singers – all licensed by the conservatory and winners of several contests in Italy and abroad – had been selected from different countries: the baritone from Croatia, the soprano from Germany, the mezzo-soprano from Japan, while the piano maestro was Italian. Opera pieces started from 18th Century operettas, moving to operas and evergreen international hits. The talent and the harmony of the artists, the ambience and the magic of renowned arias contributed to the great success of the gala evening.

Leisure and work

A two days program leaves few hours for leisure, so that opportunities must be at a short distance from the conference venue. That was the case of Stresa: a golf court on the hills, a spa in the almost connected sister hotel, shops of the “fashion city” of Milan  easy accessible, enchanting islands just facing the hotel. All this was offered to invited doctors with a great sense of hospitality.

Leisure activities seemed also the coffee breaks organized on the sunny veranda of the hotel and the colorful garden linked to the blue of the lake.

No discussion that working sessions were also important. They were hosted in a meeting room wide enough to grant the proper PH for all the attendees. The client was smart enough to accept the suggestion to set tables at a “V” shape instead of a “U” shape. It seems a light difference, but this simple choice allowed all the participant to follow the presentation in a more comfortable way, without any unnatural contortion.

The time of meeting professionals taking care only of the secretarial side of the job is over. The client must sign the event, but the meeting professional must grant the result and a reasonable ROI for all the stakeholders: delegates, venue, technicians, hosting site, third suppliers, artists, etc.

Appreciations by the participants were pleasant. However, even more rewarding were the words of hotel staff during the debriefing: “thank you for teaching us a lot”. In spite of the many meetings hosted in that property.

Rodolfo Musco, CMP, CMM

President, Motivation & Events, Milano

Alcon’s goal for this particular event was to create an “atmosphere” that would encourage idea exchange, receptiveness to product knowledge and social interaction to build relationships.  Based on the high level of the attendees and the fact that these doctors came from all over the world, we wanted to find just the right venue for this event – to create a memory, so to speak.

Of course, we did have specific requirements as to the destination.  We were only interested in a 5 Star property that was no more than 45 minutes from an international airport.  For our guests, ease of access was key. We also wanted to offer social activity options that were in close proximity to the property, but also gave our guests a variety to choose from.  It was important to us to create a final gala dinner that was more than memorable – it had to be an “experience”. 

Of all the solutions we reviewed and analyzed (Belgium, Switzerland, Spain), we agreed that our best opportunity for success was in Stresa, on Lake Maggiore.  The selected hotel, Regina Palace, offered everything we wanted and, not the least important, it really was only 45 minutes from Milan’s Malpensa airport.

We selected Motivation & Events as our event coordinator for many reasons:  K

knowledge of the area, creativity, and Dr. Musco’s clear understanding of our goals and objectives.  He offered solutions that we might not have thought of and suggested ways to enhance the program that, in the long run, helped make it the outstanding success that it was. 

Another important aspect was the service level for our guests. Because of their importance, the service level they received had to match. Special airport transfers had to be arranged at all hours of the day and night. Several wanted to see more of Milan before attending our program, so additional hotel rooms were required in the city.  Motivation & Events managed to arrange all of this to our guests’ extreme satisfaction. 

During the meeting itself, Motivation & Events involved the hotel staff from the very beginning to insure the highest level of service.  Dr. Musco and his team were always “one step ahead”, contemplating our next request.  From something as simple as the right setup for our general session meeting room, to successfully inviting the Vice-Mayor of Stresa and the Mayor of Arona to welcome our guests at various events.  I can tell you, this certainly made our guest’s feel welcome and very special indeed.

Not satisfied with “catalogue” venues for our off-property gala event, Dr. Musco and his staff searched for just the right location. He found it in a 17th century villa in Arona. Villa Ponti, and it’s attached art gallery provided the perfect setting and allowed us to incorporate several elements - art, culture, a magnificent menu and even a  personalized opera.  Since our attendees were international, Dr. Musco arranged for the opera performers to be international as well. Our guests were so very impressed; not just by the venue, the food, etc., but also the fact that every detail was completely perfect.  I’m still receiving thank-you letters from them! 

It is not always easy to determine whether or not a specific meeting has “hit the target”.  However, based on the extremely positive comments and evaluations we received from our attendees, this meeting did exactly that. The most repeated comment was: “I have never experienced an event that seemed personalized just for me”.

We were able to create an atmosphere that encouraged open discussion on key topics and develop stronger relationships with the doctors.  We are already experiencing the positive results and there is no doubt in our minds that this meeting “raised the bar” on our return on investment.  Thanks to our partnership with Motivation & Events, it was one of our most successful programs ever.  

Diane Smith, CMP

Director, global communication

Alcon Laboratories



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