Monday, June 25, 2012

Wine Country Site Visit

Remember the customer advisory meeting we had in Park City back in March?  Well this time we headed even further West to Napa Valley, CA. I did do a site visit, especially after my last experience, and toured many hotels and wineries in Sonoma and Napa. We always try to provide a unique experience so our thought was to have our meetings at a winery so our attendees could get the full "taste" of wine country.

My first stop was The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. I arrived late, like 1am late. I flew out on a Sunday so instead of flying out early, I decided to take a late flight as not to take up my entire Sunday. Bad move. I flew through Los Angeles and when I arrived my flight was delayed 2 hours, putting my departure time out of LA after 10pm. I knew when I got to San Fran I still had over an hour drive to the hotel. So by the time I got my rental car, plugged in my GPS and actually arrived at the hotel it was waaay past my bedtime. So I drove to this hotel at night, pitch black. It was super hard to even find the entrance, this hotel is sort of right in the middle of a residential area - weird. Once your on the property it isn't so bad and it definitely has character of the area. It's even where part of the Bachelor was filmed when Ben Flajnik was on.  I don't watch that show but it was neat to watch the episode afterwards and recognize the places I had been.

Napa Valley Marriott - there was nothing special about this property. It could have been a Marriott in Beulah, North Dakota. Now don't get me wrong, I LOVE a Marriott but this just wasn't doing it for me.

AVIA Hyatt Napa - This property was very contemporary, very clean and modern, located in downtown Sonoma. This property just didn't have the meeting space to meet our needs.

Vino Bello - This was an ok property, For some reason it reminded me of an apartment complex. They had tons of meeting space and were in the process of doing renovations on their lobby. It was kind of weird though, it was located in the middle of an industrial park.

My list visit was the Westin Verasa Napa. This hotel was also very contemporary and modern but it still had a Napa feel. It's only a few years old and located just on the perimeter of downtown Napa, near the Oxbow Public Market. They had a great lobby and bar area with lots of outdoor space. This was it!

As I mentioned before for my site visit I concentrated on visiting wineries that had meeting space. I quickly found out those are few and far between. We also needed 2-4 meeting rooms with AV so that was the challenge. I visited Sebastiani Vineyards and fell in love with the place for meetings and the experience. Also, my contact there had a passion for events and totally got my vision for our event. Since this one was located in Sonoma and we were going with the Westin we couldn't make this work. Sad but it happened for the best.

After visiting the wineries I quickly found out we wouldn't be able to hold our meetings in the wineries but for sure provide a unique experience during our evening activities. 

Stay tuned for the details of the actual event.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Growing Like Weeds

Drew and Alex are growing like weeds. We celebrated Drew's 4th birthday and Alex's 2nd birthday couple of months ago.

Where does the time go!?!? Casey has been making the boy's birthday cakes and she did it again this year! The superhero and dump truck cakes were a huge hit!

Superhero Drew turns 4!

Drew's party was at the Tataru's Gymnastics in Knoxville. 

The kids (adults too but especially Grandad - see below) had a great time jumping, swinging, bouncing and flipping.

Alex turns 3!

The boys down on the farm.

Bradley, Granny Doris and the Birthday Boy!

Monday, June 11, 2012

A1A, South Beach

I'm not sure how many times I heard "A1A" while in Miami during an event last month. And of course I couldn't help but respond with "Beachfront Avenue" with a deep, raspy voice and somewhat yelling. Just like Vanilla Ice! :)

This year our sales incentive program was held in Miami. In year's past we have gone to Riviera Maya, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Costa Rica and Puerta Vallerta. So this was our first year keeping it domestic and boy could we tell the difference. I'm not sure if it was the Americans or just Miami but service was
lack-ing! They weren't very responsive on the pre-planning side, they made agreements/promises they didn't keep, everything was possible during the sales process, and onsite it took over 3 hours to provide one six-foot table.

We were at the Fontainebleau, which was very different from what we were used to. It was definitely very Miami. It's a very large property, several restaurants and shopping. The pool area is only ok, lots of seating but not much water. The property also has nightlife and I mean lots of it. Talk about great people watching! If you couldn't find something to do at this property it was your own fault.

We had the threat of rain for both of our outdoor events so we had to bring them inside, which was disappointing but the best decision.

Awards Banquet Decor

Awards Banquet Entertainment

We offered excursions to all guests which included; Rib Adventures, Go Car Tour, Spa, Sailing Regatta, and Golf.   

We had a night in South Beach and got to check out Miami Ink and Dash. We also stopped by the W South Beach to see if we could spot any celebs - with no such luck. :(  We did manage to get into Arkadia Night Club.

Now for the ironic friend, Laura, was also planning an event in April at the Fontainebleau. AND it just happened to be during the SAME TIME as my event. Now how often does that ever happen, a planner in New York City and a planner in Nashville, who are friends, end up at the same hotel, in the same city, at the same time!?!!?!?  Since we were both working we did manage to get in a little time together. I hadn't seen her since Christmas so it was a short but fun time. She's preggers too so it was fun to see her wittle baby mama belly.

I think Miami gives New York a run for it's money on being named The City that Never Sleeps - whew, Miami is hard core! I've definitely had enough! I hadn't been there since a trip in college and man, it was just the same as I remember.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hit the Ground Running

In honor of National Running Day - I'm back at it....finally! I wanted to run the Music City Half Marathon this past April but a) none of my friends or family have ANY desire to run a half marathon and b) I started training by myself but my back wasn't cooperating.
It's been hard for me to get back into running since my back injury last July but I'm trying to take it slow. Even that has been difficult. I enjoy running outside more than on a treadmill but Mark is quite the opposite, he loves a treadmill. I've been running on our treadmill but I was ready to get back outside. I've been begging Mark to run with me, just asking him to give the outdoors a chance. Well he did it!!! And I'm so hApPy! He's actually enjoying it too. Mark is one of those people that has NO desire to run a marathon  Ya'll, I think I'm getting to him but shhh......

We've signed up for this 5K (TEAM SPLATTER!) in October. Even though we run 3+ miles daily this may be my start to getting Mark to participate in other organized runs, someday getting to the 1/2 marathon. Ohhhh, I'm so excited!!

The running outside has also been better for my back so I'm hopeful I can keep at it. I've also been enjoying the RunTracker app on my phone. It keeps up with my distance, pace, time and avg. min/mile. It stores my play list and even has a power song (my is set to Black Eyed Peas, I Gotta Feeling) that comes on when I need that little boost to keep going. I seriously heart it.

"Every day is a good day when you run."
-Kevin Nelson

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
-Eleanor Roosevelt:

Friday, June 1, 2012

Corporate Gift Selection

Corporate gifts and promotional item selection can sometimes be a bear. Every year we have to tackle choosing promotional items for our trade shows. The idea is to have an office item that people would keep on their desk and therefore see our company name often. There is a challenge of finding items within our budget and that is usually less than $1 for each piece. In the past we've chosen items like jellyfish yo-yo's, funny pens, coasters, post-it notes and hand sanitizer. These decisions are so dreadful because we feel we use the same ideas all the time. There aren't THAT many great things under a buck!

We choose gifts for our incentive programs too. We've done gift cards, Kindles, a choice of leather bags, Amazon gift cards, sports watches, Nintendo Wii game consoles, Bose Headphones, and my favorite are Maui Jim sunglasses. We have a rep onsite and our attendees can choose and be fitted for a new pair of shades.

We also send holiday gifts to some of our customers, which are usually offices with several people. We try to choose something in which they could share (if they want). We've done Shari's Berries, Garrett's Popcorn, and Nashville Chocolate Company. These all have great sharing capabilities.

 The Loews Hotels has had THE BEST marketing campaign. They have sent gifts to their clients based on national days of the year. The tin below was sent with Big League Chew, peanuts and Cracker Jacks in honor of Baseball's Opening Day. I've also received a kite in honor of National Fly a Kite Day and well that's the only one I can remember right now. But all of them have been so clever and unique and they are definitely making an impression.

Now do you have any unique corporate gift ideas?