Partnering was the focus of the 10th annual Great Lakes Regional meeting, held at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Grand Traverse, Mich., August 19 to 21. Organized by Jerry Schmidt, CMP, director corporate communications, Trustmark Insurance in Lake Forest, Ill., it mixed recreation, networking, and lively educational sessions. “I attended my first Great Lakes meeting last year and was so pleased I could not wait to attend again,” says Susan Frei, the Fairfax, Va.-based manager, U.S. insurance meetings and incentives sales, for the Canadian Tourism Commission.
Jim Lavold, director-meetings for Northwestern Mutual in Milwaukee, notes: “The content is always timely, the participants are open and honest and talk about the tough issues of our business in an informal setting.”
Ten years ago the first Midwest Regional drew six attendees, remembers Schmidt; this year, there were more than 50. Educational topics included economic issues, an update from American Airlines, a discussion about, ideas on how to control food costs while simultaneously providing creative and attractive food and beverage; and online registration.
“I learned a lot about online registration, and about the airline business,” says Brett Barrowman, director, travel, conferences and corporate event planning for American Fidelity Group in Oklahoma City, “along with great networking.”
Mark Beythoun, president of E-ventCentral.com, was both a presenter and a first time attendee. He found that “the networking activities exceeded expectations, and the educational content gave me a new appreciation for the work that goes into planning events.”
Says Julie Stovroff, regional vice president of sales for Hinton & Grusich-Denver: “I've attended this conference for the last seven years, and have always found it to be very educational. It's a great opportunity to learn about new issues facing the industry.”
“The feedback to the second Canadian Chapter meeting was amazing. Attendees were really enthusiastic” says Barb Giesbrecht, assistant conference and event planning manager, Great-West Life Assurance Co., Winnipeg, Canada, who resurrected this meeting last year and brought it to new heights this year. Giesbrecht and co-chair John Roberts, Equitable Life of Canada, put together a program at the Hilton Toronto that included a lot of educational content, a lot of networking, and a lot of fun.
Panel and roundtable discussions were highly interactive, says Giesbrecht, and drew lively response from both planners and hospitality partners. Topics included incentive conferences in Canada, liquor liability, site inspections and site selection, hidden hotel charges, creative AV, negotiating trends, requests for proposals, andtrends.
Among the social highlights were an a cappella singing group, The Essentials, and an “around the world” tour of Toronto that included lunch in Chinatown and a stroll through Little Italy.
This year's meeting drew 15 planners and 15 hospitality partners, up from last year. The meeting will be held again next year during the weekend before Labor Day, says Geisbrecht, who will be organizing the program with co-chair Patricia Kerr, meeting and conference consultant, Manulife Financial, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.