Culture & Creativity Q+A 2011: Nationwide Insurance

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Prevue asked Eldon Gale, Nationwide Insurance’s Director of Meeting & Event Management, his thoughts on culture and creativity trends for 2011. 

Eldon GaleQ: How does a destination’s unique cultural attributes influence meetings and incentives?
A: For me it drives the entire selection process—especially with respect to incentives. There is no shortage of excellent cultural institutions in a city to help set the destination off and differentiate it from the competitors. I think this is particularly important in destinations that are not necessarily associated with tourism. Every city has a story to tell, and I believe it’s the planner’s job to showcase the destination for their attendees so they feel like they’ve had a uniquely local experience. For me, that’s the best part of what we do.

Q: What are some creative ways planners can use destinations to create special events?
A: Use your destination as a springboard for creating your event. Get out there and understand what makes the destination special and then weave unique and local experiences into your program. I’m a big proponent of introducing traditional local foods and wines into your events. We like to partner with local artists in creating room gifts for our attendees. Use local musicians at your evening events. Often times this is more budget friendly and supports the local economy.

Q: Do you ever tie festivals in with group programs?
A: The options are endless and it just depends on the interests of your group as to what you do. Music, food and art are probably three of the most common festivals you could build on, but don’t discount non-traditional festivals as well. For example, most well-known state fairs attract headline entertainment each summer. Any event like that is a great opportunity to give your attendees something to do in the evenings, especially if you’re doing a basic meeting and don’t have a large budget or evening events planned.

Q: Do you recommend cultural tours where groups can get an insider experience?
A: I think the key here is to give attendees experiences they can’t get themselves. I once attended an event in New York City where the activity was a visit to the NASDAQ building in Times Square to watch the ringing of the closing bell. It was free for the planners of the event and a unique experience that I can say I’ve done. Tours to non-traditional locations like the Federal Reserve in New York, backstage tours at theaters, restaurants of all kinds and museums are always fascinating. Seeing ordinary people at work in jobs that are different from yours can be very interesting and enriching.

Q: How about cultural venues?
A: I’m a big fan of holding offsite dinners at local museums and cultural centers especially when they tell a story that is unique to your destination. Don’t be afraid to look and think outside the box. You’ll be surprised what people will enjoy. Just because it’s common to the locals doesn’t make it common for your attendees.

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