Planner Liz Sutton Discusses First Visit to IRF’s Incentive Invitational Event

JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa
JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa

The Incentive Research Foundation hosted its 19th annual Incentive Invitational last month at the 1,002-room JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country, organized by The Opus Group. For a review of the event’s venues, check out our earlier story.

During the show, we had the distinct pleasure of meeting Liz Sutton, CTC, president of Sutton & Associates in Montgomery. This was Sutton’s first IRF Invitational, so we were curious to hear her feedback.

Prevue: As a first time attendee, what was your overall impression of the IRF event?

Liz Sutton: I was so pleased to be part of it because it’s a very well connected organization and all of the who’s who in the incentive industry are there,” she says. “So there’s an incredible exchange of ideas and best practices, and for me that was refreshing.

What was it that first drew your attention to IRF?

The Incentive Research Foundation has done so many extensive white papers that we have found valuable sharing with our clients.

What was some of the educational information that you felt most valuable as an incentive planner?

I really enjoyed the session with Rodger Stotz [IRF Chief Research Officer] and Mike Ryan. [Senior VP, Madison Performance]. A few highlights for me included that there’s a higher level of CEOs who are receptive to noncash incentives…especially during difficult times. It allows them to build relationships with the participants and keep them engaged to achieving corporate goals. And brand alignment can be a driving force for incentives. Marketing officers are more likely to invest in incentive programs that align employees with behaviors promised by the company’s brand strategy.

Did you find that this information was actionable as soon as you returned home from IRF’s Incentive Invitational?

Yes, I did. I’ve been sharing my experiences at the event since I returned home.

What was your biggest takeway from the event this year?

New friendships and reconnecting with colleagues were the most valuable for me. To be successful today, strong relationships are vital…. We strive to manage and exceed expectations and we all need a strong network. It’s important for companies today to have a good partner behind them.

So it sounds like you’ll be attending next year?

Absolutely. I do not want to miss the IRF event ever again.

Liz, can you tell us a little about your company?

Sutton & Associates is a full service incentive and meeting planning company located in Montgomery, Alabama, with a second location in North Carolina. With over 40 years serving clients, and extensive industry relationships, Sutton & Associates delivers. Their parent company is aligned with the exclusive Virtuoso network, which includes a solid network of additional resources in over 70 countries. Sutton & Associates successfully partners with corporate and association clients for meetings and incentive programs.

Sutton & Associates clients are located throughout the USA with a strong presence across the Southeast. Most of the programs are held in exclusive resort areas or aboard premium and luxury cruise ships.

For more information about Sutton & Associates, call 800.381.4071, email or visit