Incentive programs are incredible motivators for teams and drive excellence in performance year after year. But with repeat winners, and increasing experienced travelers, programs must continue to innovate and evolve to maintain their impact.
At BCD Meetings & Events, our approach is simple. We listen first, design later. There is no out-of-the-box solution that can be applied to every organization. We pause, learn and understand a client's specific needs and the levers we have at our disposal for their specific audience. Then the magic building can begin.
The Meeting Professional sat down with our very own Cate Banfield, Vice President of Event Solution Design and Strategy, to discuss why she and her team consider themselves architects of the human experience and what the means for our clients.
Cate's Take on Successful
BCD M&E's VP, Event Solution & Strategy explains how to design memorable incentive experiences.
The Meeting Professional: Can you tell us about your approach to event experience design?
Cate Banfield: Event experience design is about intentionally addressing every element of an event—building content, communications and experiences that align with the motivations of your key attendee personas and ultimately drive business growth. We’re architects of experience journeys for our attendees, and by understanding the character, needs and desires of our key attendee personas, we gain powerful knowledge that guides our event creation from beginning to end.
TMP: Tell us about a client conference your team designed that represented good elements of experience design?
CB: In 2019, BCD M&E partnered with a new customer to explore the impact of their current incentive program reach, rebrand and revitalize their marquis incentive. Leveraging experiential design and creating a targeted engagement campaign, this group of high performers found themselves immersed in the culture and community of Switzerland on a personalized and exquisitely customized program designed to provide exciting and impactful micro-moments throughout.
TMP: I love the term "micro-moments." Tell us more about that concept.
CB: Capturing the hearts and minds doesn’t happen with a great destination or inspirational mainstage message. Those are components, but if we don’t connect them with ongoing touchpoints throughout the entire program, they are just fleeting moments. If we continue to evoke emotion consistently with micro-moments—like a customized greeting from a host or a picture from home waiting in their room—then they know we are paying attention to the details.
"If we continue to evoke emotion consistently with micro-moments...then they know we are paying attention to the details."
TMP: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced with designing the incentive program?
CB: The customer liked the two-tiered achiever format of their current program, but they were worried it had gotten stale. It was time to consider whether the program was the right reward for their top performers. They wanted help bringing out the European cache of the destination (Montreux, Switzerland) and making sure their program would drive performance. Rewarding your top performers is always an ambitious task, but designing multiple tiers and the FOMO around each creates the added challenge to ensure the experience we designed was impactful and exciting.
TMP: How have you infused immersive, participatory, authentic and customized elements into this program?
CB: The program itself was constructed around once-in-a-lifetime experiences unique to the destination. We profiled audience members and their interests and tailored the activities to their preferences. Optional activities were targeted to Exercise Junkies, Culture and the Arts Lovers, The Tourist and the Die-Hard Foodie. A typical leisure day included options for hiking a glacier or biking through the vineyards, taking a day trip to Gstaad, visiting the Olympic Museum in Lausanne or learning the art of chocolate making. The program became a mix of networking time and group camaraderie and a "build your own adventure" of Switzerland, expanding the appeal of the trip. Evening functions were designed around the destination—the Gala Awards evening expanded upon the Belle Epoque beauty of the Fairmont Montreux Palace’s ballroom, and we took over the village square in Gruyere for a Swiss street festival for an evening.
Fairmont Montreux Palace
The Elite trip became a continuous stream of "surprise and delight" moments. On their first day together, their agendas highlighted a group sightseeing outing with dinner at the Charlie Chaplin Museum. We surprised them in the details—though this appeared to be a standard tour, it was actually a private vintage car excursion to give winners a chance to spend quality time with their guest or family. The tour included stops along the way for sightseeing and a gourmet picnic lunch, as well, with each couple receiving a picnic basket and blanket personalized to their preferences. And throughout the event, we found ways to recognize spouses and partners, as well, in keeping with the customer’s focus on work/life balance.
TMP: What didn’t work, and what did you learn from it?
CB: Learning personalities and work styles early with any new clients is crucial for the success of any program design and its delivery. Throughout the program design and delivery, we found ourselves navigating shifting internal stakeholders, which often came with shifting opinions and objectives. Leaning on the robust discovery we did at the onset of the program across all stakeholders helped us reset when we needed to and pivot quickly and effectively.
TMP: Earlier you mentioned "brand love." How did it tie into you measuring success?
CB: Deciding what to measure and what success looks like for your event is more nuanced than many realize. Of course, event ROI can be measured by the amount of tickets sold, leads created or revenue generated. But there are other intangible, but equally important, elements that can be used to measure event success, like loyalty or brand love. How connected are the qualifiers to the company? Would they recommend it to a friend? Today, we have a wide range of tools at our disposal to track the attendee journey, from initial invite through post-program engagement.
To see the original article, read The Meeting Professional's June 2020 edition.