Travel professionals from around the world gathered in Vancouver, January 24 to 27, for one of the most animated, immersive and education-packed Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) Global Conferences to date. Boasting the most attendance of any SITE Global to date with 640 attendees, this year’s conference – hosted in partnership with Tourism Vancouver – offered plenty of inspiration for multifaceted events appealing to attendees both personally and professionally. Read on for five tips that will help you replicate SITE’s success, shared by Tahira Endean, head of events at SITE Global.
Don’t be afraid to combine the professional and personal. One of the most important components of this year’s SITE was the willingness of organizers, speakers and attendees to be vulnerable with each other and take risks. Presenters embraced raw honesty. Organizers tested various delivery formats that catered to a range of learning styles. After one session, audience members added their desires to a “dream wall”; the next day, SITE made one attendee’s dream come true by inviting him to strum a violin on-stage during lunch. SITE Storytellers Diane Alexander and Kevin Edmunds bravely shared their tales of issues event professionals face every day, including personal traumas and mental health afflictions. Over the course of three days, people gradually overcame their unease towards the unfamiliar, moving away from the cookie-cutter conference template to embrace a novel experience and place their trust firmly in each other.
Invest in partners that will help you win. Rather than taking on the burden of executing every event component themselves, SITE organizers called on trusted suppliers and partners – including Tourism Vancouver – to collectively raise the bar. Cantrav Services, which was selected as DMC partner, wowed attendees with a showstopping “Experience Vancouver” event held under the dramatic sails at Canada Place. The Vancouver Convention Centre organized a tour to the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, where nearly 100 delegates learned best practices with practical implications. The Sheraton Wall Centre hosted an intimate Leadership Dinner, treating guests to a culinary journey in the Constellation Suite where sprawling views of the city were framed by majestic snow-capped peaks. As official host venue, the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver supported delegate wellness by designing playful breaks and healthy meals to complement the intensive educational sessions and networking.
“Tourism Vancouver was unwavering in their commitment to an incentive level event from first arrival to final department. They really amped it up with a social media ‘surprise and delight’ program. This city gets it!”
Create immersive spaces. SITE organizers partnered with InHouse Physicians (IHP) to design a soothing R-Lounge (Rejuvenate, Relax, Restore), where attendees could spend a blissful 10 minutes “recharging” between sessions. Attendees were also invited into “dialogue dens”, which facilitated meaningful and intimate discussion. A performer with The Underground Circus encouraged people to celebrate change by visually metamorphosizing into a butterfly, emphasizing a story just told on-stage. On the technology side, Brightline Interactive’s VR offerings sent participants to destinations around the globe in a matter of moments. The Industry Stage in the foyer was presented using QuietEvents headphones, effectively creating a breakout space with 150 deeply focused participants seated on beanbags, chairs and stools. Finally, the importance of reflection and engagement to enable learning and connections was brought to life at the Closing Night at TELUS World of Science – the exhibits changed the ways participants interacted, and generated new conversations and plenty of laughter.
Create a manifesto. Recognizing the need to constantly evolve in a world that is rapidly undergoing changes in security and safety, climate and sustainability, big data and technology, SITE committed to making bold statements that reflected the mood of the incentive travel industry, the corporate world and society as a whole using relevant, meaningful and curated content. The Vancouver Manifesto channeled the collective wisdom of SITE’s community of thought leaders into a powerful statement about the purpose and power of incentive travel, emboldening SITE professionals to keep their eyes on the mark and embrace curiosity and change. The Manifesto is an annual project of SITE’s, with this year’s themes – sustainability, corporate culture and economic impact – inspiring crowdsourced action points and targeted content for members.
Have a story. Share the story. Be open. Share your vision and listen to how others will contribute.
It’s not all work and no play. Heading out for our early morning jog before starting a busy day at @SITEGlobal Conference #incentives #eventprofs #meetings #vancouver #SITEGC pic.twitter.com/RhvHE6AO5O— Liz Holtby (@LizHoltby) January 26, 2020
Choose your host destination wisely. With members in 90 countries, SITE must choose the host destination of each year’s global conference carefully to appeal to the widest array of travel professionals. Vancouver rose to the challenge, receiving an off-the-charts score as a destination participants would recommend to groups, and return to themselves. The city tours were particularly popular, with many professionals choosing to embrace the season and snowshoe on Grouse Mountain; others opted to explore the rainforest at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Visitors were also treated to an immersive educational experience developed by Tourism Vancouver and Cantrav that explored Skwachays Lodge, a First Nations artist-driven hotel, anchored by a sweat lodge and smudging experience; an exploration of diversity at a local beauty school; reconciliation stories told through the Vancouver Mural Festival; and an authentic glimpse into the Chinese cultural experience at the cultural centre in Chinatown. With so many opportunities to combined education and play, it’s no wonder this year’s conference in Vancouver was the most-attended SITE Global ever.
Registrations come in one at a time. Each one is precious. Take care of your participants.
Learn more about Vancouver’s incentive travel offerings by contact the Tourism Vancouver Meetings team. See you in Vancouver!