Tag Archives: team building activities

Helping Hands in Haiti

High-end amenities abound at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which earlier this year completed a $50 million renovation. Players in the National Football League Pro Bowl were among the first guests following the renovation.

For meeting professionals, the resort increased indoor meeting space to 48,000 square feet, doubled the size of the fitness center, and offers more than 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, some overlooking its private beach.

But these luxuries and big spaces were far from the minds of the hotel’s executives when six of them plus two Haitian employees traveled to Haiti this past August to help the Haitian people recover from the recent devastating earthquake.

We caught up with Director of Sales and Marketing Jay Marsella and asked him about the trip.

What prompted you to go to Haiti?

We employ over 250 Haitian associates, and all were affected by the tragedy. Some lost entire families to the earthquake. It is part of Marriott’s culture to take care of our associates, and as a team, we felt this was an investment more important than any teambuilding we could do. We wanted to make a difference in some way, and decided what better way than to open up our hearts to a place that not only needed it, but is connected to us personally through our associates.

Who went along on the trip?

Six of us, including our General Manager. We also took two Haitian hourly associates from human resources and our laundry department. Our human resources associate, who is 30 years old, was reunited with his mother after more than 20 years. A truly special moment.

What did you do there?

We went on a trip to support the Great Commission Alliance www.gcanet.org whose work there focuses on the people that need it most. The focus was on education and supporting orphanages. Basically, the future of Haiti lies with the youth there and they need support to feed and educate them. We assisted in the distribution of food and clothing to many families and orphans, assisted building a home of a widowed mother of two girls, donated classroom-style chairs, built a canopy school, and anything else we could do.

How did the trip help your executive team in addition to the help you provided to the people of Haiti?

It was the ultimate teambuilding event for us. It was an emotional trip and each of us were very much touched by the experience. We saw personal sides of each other that you would never see at a typical “retreat.” We were housed in small rooms with bunk beds for six people and shared a bathroom with an additional six people. Far from staying at our luxury brands! There was no housekeeping, air conditioning was hit or miss, we were always on guard to avoid any type of sickness, and food was prepared in conditions that were far from the comforts of home. We learned about the people of Haiti and a great deal about ourselves and each other. It was one of the most rewarding trips we have ever made.

What was the most challenging part of the trip and the work you did?

Two things come to mind. First, trying to stay somewhat emotionally unattached when you are helping kids who are hungry and sick – some are visibly malnourished. It is definitely sad to see what we saw. Second was the heat – we worked all day and even though we are from south Florida, it was pretty hot and humid.

What surprised you the most about Haiti?

The spirit of the people. After all the devastation, they were happy, friendly, faithful, and welcoming.

Creative Meeting Ideas

Redefining value has become more important than ever before. What worked last year or the year before may be out the window, especially with a rapidly changing economic landscape and competitors scrambling for market position.

Here are some creative marketing ideas to help build meeting attendance:

Go Viral – Forget the swine flu! We’re talking about viral exposure in the social media. Come up with unusual – even outrageous – ideas for your meeting that will start tongues wagging and tweeters tweeting. Get your executive director to volunteer to sing a song onstage at the Opening General Session if the meeting attendance sets a record (be sure to post a video of him/her singing a few lyrics on YouTube as a sneak preview). Then have your Board members, convention planning committee members, and other leaders start tweeting about this and posting links to the YouTube video and your meeting website.

Talent Search – Everyone has talent, right? (OK, maybe some people are more talented than others.) Have a “Talent and Great Ideas Show” at your next meeting. Use your e-newsletter, online convention promotions, and the social media to recruit members to participate. Each person needs to demonstrate their talent for a minute or so (do a card trick, play a musical instrument, sing, dance, juggle, do an impersonation, etc.) and then deliver one industry-related great idea that attendees can take home and use in their business. Record a couple short videos with willing members to show how it works and post these on YouTube as examples. The show will add fun and value to your next meeting, and create powerful social media marketing leading up to the meeting to promote attendance.

Jeopardy – Think of an important topic in your industry and imagine how that might play out in a Jeopardy-style game. (Remember, answers must be phrased in the form of a question!) Creativity is the bottom line, of course – think about how the game can be built into into a PowerPoint presentation, for example.

What are you waiting for? Step out of your comfort zone, toss ideas around with colleagues, and think about the wow factor!

A World of Golf and Excellent Meeting Options

The Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village recently underwent an extensive renovation.

The World Golf Hall of Fame, located at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida, and the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village, are becoming an increasingly popular meeting destination.

To learn more about it, we interviewed Scott Selvaggi, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village.

St. Augustine is a major golf destination with the World Golf Village and the World Gold Hall of Fame. How has this changed the city and what is it doing to enhance it as a meeting destination?

World Golf Village and the World Golf Hall of Fame give St. Johns County another enhancement for leisure travelers and groups. In addition to the World Golf Village, St. Johns County also offers travelers the Historic District in downtown St. Augustine, a variety of beaches, and beautiful Ponte Vedra. World Golf Village offer visitors an opportunity to enjoy the PGA Tour Academy, the PGA Tour Stop (Florida’s Largest Golf Store), and various activities for golfers and non-golfers. The World Golf Village offers exceptional lodging including the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village.

Tell us about the $10 million property-wide renovation that the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village completed last year.

This project captured the “Best Renovation of the Year Award” for a franchised property at the recent 2008 Marriott International National Association (MINA) conference. Located next to the impressive World Golf Hall of Fame, The Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village remodeled all 301 guest rooms and suites, dramatically changed the lobby atrium and entry area, remodeled all guest room corridors, expanded and enhanced its fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment, remodeled its billiard room, enhanced its meeting space with new carpet, and renovated its business center. In addition, the resort also remodeled its restaurant and bar, which opened in April 2008 as a new restaurant and bar called 500 South, An American Grill.

What type and size of meetings are best for your property?

We cater to all groups and sizes. In addition to meetings and conferences, we also cater to weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, anniversary and birthday parties. We can cater up to a 1,500 person sit-down dinner and one group may occupy all 301 guest rooms. We have 14 meeting rooms and our St. Augustine Ballroom is very large at 26,880 square feet. It is the largest hotel/convention center combination between Orlando and Atlanta.

What type of golf experiences are near your resort and how can they enhance meetings?

Featuring a wealth of recreational offerings that appeal to golfers and non-golfers alike, the resort enables you to play golf on two of the country’s finest golf courses (King & Bear, and Slammer & Squire), experience the renowned PGA TOUR Golf Academy, and explore the wonders of America’s oldest city, St. Augustine. On-site offerings at The Renaissance Resort include a professional golf simulator, a sauna, pool, and hot tub. Guests also are an easy walk to The World Golf Hall of Fame’s 18-hole putting course, the 132-yard Island Challenge Hole, an IMAX® Theater, and the Walk of Champions. Onsite meetings may take advantage of team-building activities through tournament play on one of our golf courses. Additional team-building activities may be organized at our 18-hole putting course or the 132-yard Island Challenge Hole.

What other attractions does your resort and the surrounding area offer that most people don’t think of when they are considering your property for a meeting?

One will find that beautiful historic St. Augustine offers everything from upscale boutiques and historic antiques to fine art and Florida kitsch. If you have a passion for the old-fashioned – including blown glass and handmade chocolates – St. Augustine is the spot for you. In addition to perusing clothes, shoes, household goods, and unique gifts from around the world in St. Augustine, there are more than 160 outlet stores within minutes of the resort. You’ll find upwards of 85 stores at the Premium Outlets and 75+ stores at the nearby Prime Outlet Center, both within five miles of The Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village. Likewise, World Golf Village has the 30,000 square foot PGA TOUR Stop – the world’s largest golf merchandise store – perfect for gifts, equipment and apparel for the avid golfer. You’ll find more than 60 of the world’s top manufacturers of equipment and apparel featured in interactive “concept shops” and themed areas throughout the store.

Your hotel is part of the John Q. Hammons Hotels group. What is the defining feature of this group and how is it positioning itself in the meetings market?

Since developing his first hotel in 1958, John Q. Hammons has carried out his vision of creating a hotel experience that exceeds every expectation. Over the past 50 years, he has become a true innovator within the hospitality industry, from his ambitious style of property development to setting the standard for excellence in property management. Today, John Q. Hammons Hotels Management, LLC, maintains Hammons’ long tradition of quality with a renewed passion. We’re building upon his legacy of success and focusing on the future of the company – developing new properties that are sure to excel while continuing to outperform our competitors at the properties we manage. John Q. Hammons Hotels are consistently awarded the highest honors in guest satisfaction and overall excellence. Our new atrium-style developments continue to lead the industry in both meeting space and guest experience. With extraordinary associates and an experienced management team, we remain the nation’s premier independent builder, developer, owner and manager of upscale, full-service hotels.

Have a Blast with Cocoa Beach Rocket Launching Program

Every hotel tries to capitalize on its location to  create experiences for its guests and meeting  attendees.

For the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, a  unique blend of nearby attractions and  exceptional creativity has created some  learning, teambuilding, and recreational options  that have been a hit withmeeting professionals.

For starters, the hotel is located just a few  miles from Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy  Space Center, launch site for the Space Shuttle  and many other space missions. Just south of  the hotel is one of largest nesting grounds for sea turtles. And of course the hotel is adjacent to miles of pristine Atlantic seaboard beachfront.

So what does this mean for meeting professionals? Jason McKee, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, explains that the hotel has developed a rocket launch team-building program, a remote-control dune buggy racing program, and partnerships with the nearby Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge to offer meeting experiences unique to the hotel.

He reports that many engineering organizations meet at the hotel, which was part of inspiration for creating the rocket launch program, where teams of 4-5 meeting attendees work together to build and launch model rockets.

“It is very competitive as far as designs go,” McKee says. “Engineers with multiple advanced degrees get so enthusiastic about building these kids’ toys and launching them. It really is a team-building exercise and has been a tremendous success for us. But it’s not just for engineers – we have had every type of organization do it. They take a real sense of pride in building the rockets, recovering them, and relaunching them. It builds a real sense of camaraderie, increases the competition level, and it is fun to watch adults turn into kids again.” The experience is often enhanced by a session with an astronaut who talks about the team-building required to make a Shuttle space launch happen.

“We always ask what the mission of the group is to help tailor the presentation,” McKee explains. “In a space launch there is always a mission. We convey the organization mission to the astronaut who comes to speak.”

Several teams around the world work together to make a space launch happen, so the astronauts always have many perspectives and lessons to talk about. Besides the team at the Kennedy Space Center, there is a support team in Houston, teams in Spain, France, and Australia for potential emergency landings, and a team in California in case weather in Florida or other factors require an alternate landing site.

“Tens of thousands of people work together to get six people in space and back again,” McKee says. When he joined the hotel a few years ago, he knew nothing about the space program, but is now well-versed in many aspects of it after listening to astronauts speak and visiting Cape Canaveral.

Another exciting option is for meeting attendees to witness a Space Shuttle launch. McKee has his own personal experience with this, watching a launch from a spot two miles away (the closest you can get to witness a launch) with his four-year-old son.

“He talks nonstop all the time,” McKee says, “but after we watched the launch and had our clothes blown back by the noise, all he could say for the next 15 minutes was ‘whoa.’”

Only a few more Shuttle launches are scheduled before the National Aeronautic and Space Administration moves into its new Constellation program, but he notes that 24-26 unmanned launches are planned in 2010-11, and the hotel can arrange VIP tours of the Kennedy Space Center if a launch is not happening.

When meeting professionals, inspired by the rocket launch program, began asking for more activities, McKee and his team partnered with a local hobby shop and created the remote-controlled dune buggy racing competition, where attendees race dune buggies through an obstacle course on the beach.

“Each team has to complete at least one lap,” he says. “They get points based on speed, traversing all the obstacles, and having the fewest crashes.”

“Our hotel is also a phenomenal place for ecology tourism and ecological groups,” McKee says, since one of largest nesting grounds for sea turtles is only a few miles south of the property.

Tours include many nature preserves with wildlife and walking trails. Turtles, bald eagles, and osprey are just a few of the wildlife that can be seen. The hotel partners with the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge to conduct private tours during the turtle nesting season. The Caribbean Conservation Corporation, which works to protect the turtles, explains the life cycle of sea turtles and how humans affect them and how the seacoast community has helped them.

Airboat rides and kayaking are also available near the hotel.

The Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront also offers guests a chance to earn a deluxe breakfast by volunteering to go out and do early-morning beach cleanup, offering meeting attendees a chance to support green initiatives.

The hotel is located 45 miles from Orlando International Airport. “It’s a one-hour trip from baggage claim at the airport to our front desk,” McKee says. The hotel also provide hurricane insurance in case an event is affected by a named storm – groups can rebook within 12 months with no penalties.