Making the Connection

How to help incentive trip attendees return with good memories—and new contacts

by Ilona Kauremszky

Group incentive trips offer an excellent opportunity for colleagues from different departments and locations to network. But as a planner, how can you offer get-to-know-you opportunities that don’t feel too much like work—the trip is supposed to be a reward, after all! We asked the experts to share their strategies for breaking the ice:

Pre-introduce: “Send out a list of attendees to everyone on an app that has their picture and their profile so that delegates have the names of all attendees. They can start getting to know the attendees prior to the event,” says Nicky de Champlain, sales director with JPdL in Quebec City.

Go outside the comfort zone: Christian Garceau, founder and chief planner, A Social Affair Event Management in Ottawa, recalls taking a group for an overnight stay. “There was a small team of eight cooking a meal together in a larger cottage. If you've ever cooked with someone else, you can easily see how this type of activity requires patience, trust and delegation, all good skills to develop and share with team members, particularly those you don't know well,” he says.

Make meals count: Consider going family-style. “Sharing a meal and passing plates requires individuals to interact in a stress-free atmosphere and evokes conversation,” says Gabrielle Spanton, executive vice-president of business development at Hosts Global Alliance in Toronto.

Build in a CSR component: “Teambuilding events with a CSR component have always been successful for networking; gathering people to help others less fortunate leaves a lasting memory and good will with those who participate,” notes Spanton.

Go digital: Produce an event-specific app for chats and games. “Every participant has their profile on an app allowing guests to chat while seeing their profile, photo and home base,” says Diane Côté Mihalek, event director, DCM Event Management in Oakville, Ont. “We have also used a game app making a fun competition for guests who answer questions and complete challenges as their profiles pop up on the leaderboard.”

Keep it going: Help maintain the connections after the trip. “Follow-up campaigns are typically a combination of digital, print and tangible items that remind the participants of their time together. We also conduct a follow-up survey and debrief with planners and select members of the audience to understand their point of view of their experience,” says Spanton.

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