IRF Invitational 2014: Come On Let’s Get Happy

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It’s hard not to feel “like a room without a roof”—to quote the ubiquitous appropriately named Happy song by Pharrell Williams—when a good chunk of your event takes place literally under the open, sunny skies of Los Cabos, Mexico. So it’s no wonder that happiness was not just the theme but the pulsing lifeblood of the Incentive Research Foundation’s 2014 Annual Incentive Invitational, held at the newly opened Secrets Puerto Los Cabos resort May 28 to June 1.

I was grinning ear-to-ear just stepping out of the airport into the dry desert heat, an incredibly pleasant change from the 45-degree morning drive I had to Boston’s Logan airport to make my 6:30 a.m. flight. Customs was a breeze, and the transport to the property came complete with ice-cold water or soda or cerveza, whatever’s your pleasure. We were whisked to a hospitality room, where checking in to the meeting, the hotel, and the multitude of activities offered was not just pain-free but actually pleasant.

And the people! From the IRF staff, to the ever-smiling employees of DMC Amstar, to those who work at Secrets and even more so, the attendees and their guests, the sponsors, and our evening event sponsors Hilton Los Cabos (coolest food stations ever), Sheraton Hacienda del Mar (wrestlers!), and Secrets Marquis Los Cabo (created a very cool "visions in white" themed event), I got so used to saying “Hola” to everyone I met that I ended up doing it back in Boston this morning (and, not surprisingly, did not get a big smile and “Como estas?” back. This is, after all, New England!). Even though so many people seemed to have long-standing friendships, I felt really welcomed in a way that doesn’t happen often enough at industry events.

I also really loved that IRF kept Thursday’s Education Day sessions short—most around 15 minutes—and each session built on the last one so you could really put it all together into something coherent. Themed, of course, around happiness! It was all about positivity and positive engagement in programs and in your own life, and all the tools we have to do it, from research—both “big data” and the regular kind—to app gamification, to understanding what makes the next-gen Millennials grin and learn, to learning how to turn on our own “hidden app” by doing something really simple (writing something with your non-dominant hand) that opens your brain up to new ways of thinking pretty much automatically. It was one of the better days of education I’ve had at an industry event.

And then my happiness quotient tipped over into the ridiculous range when I got to swim with Alli the dolphin at Cabo Adventures, and oh-my-word the zipline adventure the same company put together for us was truly amazing. For someone who has a bit of a fear of heights, I could not stop grinning.

All in all, my world changed a bit over the past few days as I met some brilliant, funny, very cool people, learned a lot about incentives and what makes people tick, ate and drank ridiculously yummy things, and had adventures that stretched my horizons in ways I’ll never forget. Thank you, IRF, for making it possible for me to participate in this amazing event, in this amazing place, with all these incredible people. Now that was an incentive!

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