Smart Meetings’ inaugural event wows attendees
Launching a brand-new event is always a risk; launching one in this economic environment, especially so. However, hosting a major meeting has long been on the agenda of Smart Meetings’ founder and publisher, Marin Bright, and in April, her idea for a truly unique meeting—bringing together a small, exclusive group of planners with an equally small, exclusive gr-oup of hoteliers and CVBs—came to fruition.
Dubbed The Smart Meeting, with all that name implies, our inaugural event debuted at Cavallo Point Lodge (the former Fort Baker) in Sausalito, Calif., and created a huge buzz on the meetings scene. Aided by planner Denise Baran, CMM, CMP, we brought the pages of our magazine, and the raison d’etre of our company, to life. Here’s a recap of those three fabulous days—with more to come in the future (see page 34 for information about the next Smart Meeting).
You can’t beat a dramatic view of the Golden Gate Bridge, especially from a new perspective (at Cavallo Point, you’re nearly under it!). But the knock-your-socks-off introduction to The Smart Meeting was only the beginning of a terrific experience, as our 70 attendees soon discovered.
After a welcome from Marin, our group of planners, hoteliers and CVBs toured this spectacular property—from guest rooms and meeting rooms to the spa and cooking school—led by Zeena Fakoury and her sales team from Cavallo Point.
The site inspection ended at a cozy patio, around a warming firepit, where we tasted exceptional wines offered by Cline Cellars and Twomey Cellars, and got to know one another. For the reception dinner, we moved indoors to the beautifully redone Callippe Room (a former gymnasium, where there were cheers from attendees but no sweaty socks). Some of the finest wines from the Napa Valley and Sonoma County (Cakebread Cellars, O’Brien Estate, Silver Oak Cellars, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards; see page 20 for more details) were paired with a deliciously creative menu designed by celebrated Cavallo chef Joseph Humphrey.
Robert Strong, a comedian/magician, provided post-dinner entertainment, and if you haven’t seen his bowling ball trick, you’re missing great fun!
Winding down the evening, guests circled around the firepit for a hospitality hour hosted by San Francisco-based Hornblower Cruises.
At 7 a.m. the sun was out and the air was brisk, a perfect combination for a guided nature walk prior to breakfast and our educational seminars. The first, on green meetings, was a topic requested by planners before the event, and the level of interest remained high as Deborah Popely, of Green2B/Green2C Marketing, shared tips and resources.
Luc Troussieux, president of Bright Business Media (our parent company) served as moderator for Creating Events for Today, the next session on our packed agenda. Laurel Ann Winzler, of Laurel Designs, provided insight on florals as well as eco-friendly centerpieces for the lunches. Lydia Gourvitz and Ginger Masten, event consultants for Classic Party Rentals, gave sage advice, backed up by “before” and “after” photos.
Participants then zoomed in for The Smart Mart, our own mini-trade show with one-on-one meetings between planners and suppliers. These valuable, targeted appointments were a fantastic first-hand opportunity to learn more about needs and offerings—and resulted, we hear, in several RFPs.
After lunch, our hospitality industry veterans had free time to pursue their interests (or their BlackBerrys and laptops). Some chose a cooking class at Cavallo’s Culinary School, a terrific team-building exercise where you learn techniques, recipes and how to cooperate or have a friendly competition (depending on your group). A few other attendees headed for Cavallo’s deeply relaxing spa.
What’s a meeting without an off-site, and The Smart Meeting provided a movable feast, as we rendezvoused for dinner in downtown Sausalito at Ondine, a waterfront restaurant with yet another killer view of San Francisco and a private room to host us. Here, after individual portraits by Orange Photography (who captured most of the event for us), our guests were treated to a series of Beringer wines paired with a three-course menu that began with appetizers like chili-crusted lollipop lamb chops and ended with vanilla crème brûlèe.
Prior to attending The Smart Meeting, we asked planners to submit some of their most successful ideas for possible award recognition. It was difficult to choose among them (we were amazed by the creativity), but the top awards went to Phyllis Quinn, of Quinn Associates, for best overall and to Valerie Ulrich, of First Republic Bank, for most creative. Richard Pollak, of Rainbow Events, received honorable mention.
Several of our group joined Cavallo Point’s morning yoga at 7 a.m. in the chapel and we all mellowed out for breakfast in the spa before proceeding with the rest of the day. First up to the podium was Hazel Grace Dircksen, founder of Socialbees, on the subject of Social Internet Works 4 U, with some real-world tips on social networking and sites (hint: you can belong to many, but should only be active on three). Our own Web Editor, Zac Dillon, followed Hazel Grace with a dynamic presentation on how to maximize your use of our website, smartmeetings.com—named one of the best websites in the magazine industry by the Western Publications Association. Consultant Steve Steinhart, of Steinhart & Associates, led a seminar on leadership that showed an entirely different side of the people we thought we knew by then—a timely reminder about perception.
Round 2 of The Smart Mart followed, and the vibe was humming as our attendees continued their face-to-face appointments, exchanging information and contact info, and plans to stay connected. Afterward, our inaugural Smart Meeting concluded with lunch and farewells, not the least to the iconic bridge that gave us such a terrific sense of place.
The SMART MEETING—ROUND 2
Our next Smart Meeting event will take place August 30–September 1, 2009 at The Grand Del Mar in San Diego.
For more information, visit smartmeetings.com/smart_events.
The Smart Meeting Partners
Cavallo Point – The Lodge at the Golden Gate
The Coeur d’Alene Resort
Encantado, An Auberge Resort
The Grand Del Mar
Grand Sierra Resort
Harrah’s/Harveys Lake Tahoe Resort & Casino
Hilton Fisherman’s Wharf
Hornblower Cruises & Events
Larkspur Hotels & Restaurants
Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino
Maui Prince Hotel
Montage Hotels & Resorts
Palm Springs Desert Resort Communities CVA
Prince Resorts Hawaii
Rancho Valencia, An Auberge Resort
San Diego North Convention & Visitors Bureau
Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau
Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa
The Sidney Pier Hotel & Spa
Travel Alberta International
Wynn Las Vegas
Photos taken by Orange Photography and Assistant Editor, Talia Salem.