Prevue asked Michael Burke, Manager of Conference & Travel Services for The Hanover Insurance Group (and FICP Past President), for his thoughts about cultural and creative programs and events.
Q: How are you making events more creative?
A: We are a Property & Casualty Insurer selling products through the best independent agents and brokers in the country. As such, the agents and brokers who attend our incentive trips have a choice between attending our events and/or events of our competitors. The Hanover has built a reputation for delivering events that are unique and highly memorable without being overly extravagant. We don’t settle for “off the shelf” events and try to provide our agents with experiences they wouldn’t otherwise be able to obtain.
Q: What are some creative venues that you have used?
A: In Half Moon Bay, California, we hosted some of our top partners and guests in the loft of a barn at a local goat farm. It was an amazing experience for them as they toured the farm, actually got into the barnyard among the goats and enjoyed a “Farm to Table” dining experience that they won’t soon forget.
At that same program, we produced a final night “Farm to Table” event in the hotel ballroom with custom farm tables, naturally and locally grown centerpieces, and foods and wines that were all sourced locally. Wide screen images of fields, crops and vineyards were displayed throughout dinner, and it made our guests feel as though they were actually transported into those places versus being in a hotel ballroom.
A recent program in Portugal provided very unique cultural experiences. Our opening night reception was conducted in a monastery that dates back to the 14th century. As guests entered the candlelit monastery, a gospel choir performed on the alter and monastery staff greeted guests. It was beautiful. Some guests were brought to tears, it was that moving. Our final night event at this program was hosted in Colares Wine Cellar. Candelabras lined the room and tables, with guests completely surrounded by enormous wooden wine barrels and entertainment provided by a traditional Portuguese Fado singer. Transitioning from historic Portugal to a more contemporary Portugal, guests followed a candlelit red carpet to the adjacent greenhouse after dinner for dancing. Another truly magical event.
Q: Are you creating gamification/geocaching events?
A: We haven’t done this in the past; however, we will be offering a geocaching tour in Santa Fe for our partner incentive in 2013.
Q: Do you incorporate festival events into your programs?
A: We don’t generally incorporate festivals into our programs; however, we may occasionally “re-create” these festivals or cultural events within our themes.
Q: Is there growing demand for cultural programs?
A: I’m not sure if there is a “growing” demand for cultural programs. I think the demand has always been there and we have always tried to provide opportunities that help to immerse our guests in the culture of the particular destination that we are visiting—whether this is in the form of evening events, themed breaks, optional activities or even the collateral that is produced.