A brainstorm at Meeting Professionals Internationals headquarters in Dallas resulted in what is perhaps the meetings industry’s cutest idea: cuddling puppies. Since 2012, the association has been working with local organizations in its meeting city to bring in a collection of canines daily for an adorable meet-and-great session on the show floor of its annual convention.
At this year’s WEC in June in Atlantic City, the puppy cuddling event was sponsored by Visit Norfolk and included several pooches from the local chapter of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Its mission is to provide support for people who are involved in volunteer animal-assisted activities—everything from visits to hospitals or nursing homes to holding programs at schools. Last year’s WEC worked with the San Francisco chapter of 4Paws Social Therapy to bring therapy dogs to the Moscone Center. Using therapy dogs benefits not only the attendees but the dogs, as it provides a training opportunity for them to get in front of big crowds in unfamiliar settings.
And this group of furry friends performed just brilliantly, bonding with attendee after attendee and posing for an endless stream of selfies. In addition, with plenty of signage and tweets announcing when puppy cuddling was open each day, Visit Norfolk drew record numbers of people to their booth.
“We’ve been sponsoring the puppy cuddling event for three years and it’s been very successful for us,” said Donna Allen, vice president of sales & marketing for VisitNorfolk. “Not only does it expand Norfolk’s brand as a pet-friendly city, but it provides a unique opportunity for attendees to learn more about our destination. And everyone leaves our booth with a smile!”