For the first time ever, MGM Resorts International hosted the annual JCK Las Vegas convention this summer, bringing together a whopping 35,000 global buyers and suppliers working in the jewelry industry. The HQ hotel was Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.
Because of the sheer size of the group, MGM decided early out to embrace communication via Twitter/Facebook far ahead of the event for two reasons: To educate attendees about the myriad product offerings, and learn as much as they could about the group’s mindset.
MGM operates almost 200 restaurants, for example, so it was imperative to give attendees an overall idea of F&B options upfront, as well as dedicated concierge lines to make reservations. Meanwhile, MGM was able to track the social media chatter to see where they needed to adapt.
“It also gave us in advance of the show an opportunity to look into people’s minds,” says Richard Harper, executive vp of sales/marketing. “Usually you have a pretty strong feeling about the planners and the organizers, but you don’t know what’s on the minds of the attendees coming into an event, especially one of this magnitude. So that really allowed us to prepare better.”
When asked what were some of the major challenges involved with a group of this scale, Mr. Harper had to chuckle.
“Well, there were a few,” he says.
For one, the security to protect the pricey baubles was, by far, more comprehensive than MGM has ever supervised before. Also, group transfer requirements during peak times and group migration throughout the complex had to be anticipated. Would the group return to previous dining and nightlife venues they’d patronized during previous events, or would they all show up en masse at MGM’s? (They all showed up at MGM’s).
And it goes on: Staffing was a major concern. The manual for properly illuminating jewelry resembles a bible. And to make things interesting, there was a 20,000-pax group loading in the day JCK wrapped.
“Cooperation with their decorator, Freeman—the partnership and communication was phenomenal,” says Harper. “Considering a show of that size and scope for year one, to go as well as it did was simply a testament to the collective efforts of the company….
“Part of our pitch was you’re not just buying Mandalay Bay for one week for a trade show, you’re really buying the entire company. You know, out of the 610,000 employees who work here, I don’t think there’s a single one today who can’t tell you what JCK is.”
We were curious, how do you followup next year and keep the show fresh?
“It’s incumbent upon the host properties and the show organizers to continuously find ways to reinvent the show and the experience to keep it new and fresh,” says Harper. “And certainly our company, we’ve done quite a bit of reinvestment of capital into Mandalay Bay as well as our sister properties, so every time you come back you’re going to see a different restaurant, a different show, a different club.”
The event capped off with a gala Bruno Mars concert at The Beach at Mandalay Bay. The party was a big success and JCK rebooked for 2012.
“It was a really risky move on behalf of the organizer to do this, and it got a lot people out of their comfort zone,” says Harper. “We just looked them in the eye and said if anyone at all can deliver what you need to do in terms of elevating the experience, this is the group that can do it.”