5 Highlights From the IRF

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IRF President Stephanie Harris

The IRF 2021 Education Invitational wrapped up on Saturday, leaving attendees with a sense of hope that, with vaccination rates climbing, it won’t be long until incentives come roaring back again.

Here are 5 highlights from the IRF 2021 Education Invitational, which brought 183 buyers and 227 sponsors to the JW Marco Island Beach Resort June 2 to 5.

5-Year Plan

The IRF’s President, Stephanie Harris, assumed her new role in the fall of 2019, but this event was the first time she has ever addressed the group in person. She took to the stage at the opening session to share the latest on Vision 2025, the IRF’s 5-year plan, which focuses on a fresh approach to presenting the IRF research, and expanding its reach globally and to non-users as well.


Auction Breaks Records

“We’re a very happy group at the IRF this morning,” Harris told the audience the morning after the live and silent auctions, featuring amazing trips from around the world, from Hawaii to Italy to Australia. The evening raised over $430,000 to fund operations and future research.


A Magical Moment

By far the most emotional moment of the event was when JW Marriott Marco Island GM Sharon Lockwood, almost in tears, thanked her associates for all they had done this past year and dozens upon dozens of them streamed into the ballroom. The cheers and applause were deafening—and the shared feeling of “We’re back!” resonated among the attendees and the hotel staff.


A New Era of Safety

The IRF readjusted its safety protocols based on new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allowing vaccinated attendees (89 percent of the group) to go mask-free both indoors and out—a first for many. Non-vaccinated attendees had to show proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours of the event. Vital Circle provided daily health check-ins via an app, and a daily temperature check on site.


A Sense of Breakthrough

This has unquestionably been the toughest period the incentive industry has ever faced, and the IRF’s choice of two inspiring keynoters, artist Phil Hansen and musician Jade Simmons, allowed attendees to reflect on that as they openly shared their personal challenges—and solutions for breaking through adversity.

COVID-19 has shown that, like them, our industry is resilient—and a new beginning awaits just beyond that legendary Marco Island sunset.

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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.