IRF Invitational: A Story of Growth

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Ira Almeas, president of Impact4Good, shares ideas on incorporating CSR into the incentive experience.

The Incentive Research Foundation kicked off its Annual Incentive Invitational Thursday, May 28, at the newly renovated Trump National Doral Miami with 520 attendees, a mix of incentive firms, corporate buyers and industry suppliers. For an organization that had 50 people at its first event 22 years ago, the growth is nothing short of inspiring.

As are all the changes within the IRF, led by President Melissa Van Dyke, who has spearheaded a Vision 2020 plan for moving forward. Most striking is the volume of research projects coming out of this group, all of which are collaborations with various independent research partners and universities. The University of Massachusetts just partnered with the IRF on Developing a New Business Model for DMCs, one of three pieces of research launched at this event. In fact, the IRF has 13 research papers already completed this year alone. (Prevue will be collaborating on one of these, a study on designing meetings and incentive programs for a multigenerational audience, to be released in the fall.) “There’s no question that the research engine is full steam ahead,” said Sandra Daniel, IRF chair and president and CEO of FIRE Light Group, at the opening press event.

The plan moving forward is not only to focus on broader and deeper studies but to slice and dice the research into various formats to serve different constituents. An example of this was the presentation of the DMC research, a 70-page study, which was condensed into a 20-minute TED Talk-style presentation by IRF Chief Research Officer Rodger Stotz at the Invitational’s Education Day.

This day of education that kicks off the event has grown as well, and this year featured a roster of TED Talks by speakers ranging from John Bukaty, who shared his touching personal journey, which led to his vocation creating art at live events, to Daniel Leidl, director of organizational development and human capital at PRG, who wove together a definition of leadership with feedback from the audience. IRF leaders also presented the findings of two other research studies, one on the role of procurement and the other on incentive travel trends.

The IRF is expanding its global reach as well by adding board members from outside the U.S. and is working toward translating its research into different languages. A large number of visitors to its web site are international, according to IRF Treasurer Mike May, president, Spear One. It will release its first international study, on the use of non-cash incentives in the U.K., later this year.

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Barbara Scofidio is Editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In her 30 years in the industry, she has become known for her passion around greening meetings, growing awareness of human trafficking and promoting CSR activities as part of business events. She is currently a member of SITE's Women IN Leadership committee and the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee. She was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of SITE for 30 years, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. Before joining Prevue in 2014, she served as Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives (MeetingsNet) for more than 20 years. She has a BA in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.