About a year ago, we sent one of our editors on a working trip to a Fast Company “realtime” conference in Florida. Realtime is a gathering of business thought-leaders — people who are driving a new way of thinking about work. It's a place to network with some really interesting people, as well as to recharge your spirit about work — and life.

Regina came back from Florida all pumped up, full of ideas, and excited about what was ahead. For her, this three-day conference was more of an incentive than any fun-in-the-sun trip. She's someone who has traveled around the world, taken Windjammer cruises, been on safari. What she wanted was brain food, not caviar.

I have never completely understood how a single trip, or gift, can motivate people who are so very different. Our cover story (starting on page 18) explores that issue. While the visibility and recognition of a group incentive trip appeals to some people, others would give anything for a few days alone with a family they hardly ever see. Yet others might prefer a no-fly trip because they're afraid of putting themselves and their spouses on the same plane.

“Companies should poll their star achievers about what kinds of incentives appeal to them,” Jill Harrington, executive vice president and CEO of SITE, recently told me. “If they don't, they may be running programs that are not getting the results they could.”

Find out what motivates people first, and then choose their rewards. Not the other way around.