Centocor shatters the myth that small groups should never choose a mega-resort. With 2,400 guest rooms, 38 restaurants and lounges, 11 pools, and mega-attractions including an 8 million-gallon marine habitat, the Bahamas' Atlantis Resort could easily overwhelm a small incentive group of 80 people. Not so with Centocor, the Malvern, Pa.based biotech firm.

Instead, the company staged the kind of spectacular special events that can only be had at a huge and elaborate resort, while at the same time providing its top sales stars with exclusivity and personal service.

"We wanted something that our people couldn't experience otherwise," says President Joseph Scodari of the event, which was held this past May. "The Atlantis staff treated us as if we were a larger group, with tremendous personal service and a lot of custom touches."

Lasting Impressions About a year and a half ago, Centocor started building its own commercial operations, which meant creating two sales forces: one focusing on products in the cardiovascular area; the other concerned with immunology. At the same time, the company formed the President's Club to be, in Scodari's words "the premier recognition club for our top performers."

In addition to about 70 Centocor winners, 10 participants from the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly also took part in the incentive. These participants were top performers in a Centocor/Lilly partnership to jointly promote one of Centocor's cardiovascular products.

Creating a lasting impression on the winners was a goal of the trip, which was where Atlantis came in. The recommendation to choose the resort was made by Harith Wickrema, president of Harith Productions Ltd., an Oreland, Pa.based meeting management and special events firm, which won two 1999 Crystal Awards for the event. Wickrema had planned three meetings at Atlantis during its first year of operation and had maintained a close relationship with the resort. By moving the Centocor dates to fill a hole in the resort's schedule, he was able to secure a room rate within the company's budget. He also maximized the amenities to include oceanfront rooms, VIP suites for key management at no extra cost, and access to the concierge level.

But the biggest challenge, says Wickrema, was "tackling the problem of how to motivate the Atlantis staff, with responsibility for more than 2,400 rooms, to blow away our client for a mere 50-room program."

Wickrema brought a staff of 23 with him to Paradise Island to work with the Atlantis staff. "From the moment they got off the plane," he says, "the attendees felt that someone knew them and was congratulating them."

He also arranged exclusive treatment for guests, such as private group check-in and VIP lines enabling them to bypass any wait at the resort's restaurants. "The staff knew we were there in terms of delivering service," says Tom Weiss, Centocor's senior director of sales.

Spectacular Events Attendees were dazzled by two spectacular evening events, both of them themed to tap into the $800 million resort's opulent imagery celebrating the legends of the lost civilization of Atlantis--a "Night of Poseidon" awards dinner and a "Feast of the Gods with Atlantean Warriors" beach party.

The first event incorporated Centocor's sales message when a white-bearded and robed "Poseidon" recited the ancient Greek blessings, which were customized to include the Centocor product names. All the attendees raised their wine goblets and recited the blessing.

"It was a total sensory experience," says Scodari. "Even through the 'Greek Mythology' chant, our sales goals were reinforced."

The beach party was held at the resort's Lagoon Beach, which had never before been used for a group function, and ended with a stunning fireworks show. Careful design of the events ensured that the group would not be lost in the shuffle, according to Weiss. Instead, Centocor's small group cast a huge shadow at the mega-resort of Atlantis.