Looking for a meeting activity that meets the needs of buyers and suppliers, encourages networking and interaction, can help you give back to the community, and is really fun, too? The New England chapter of Meeting Professionals International hit all those criteria when it planned a SCVNGR event in Boston August 12.

Boston-based mobile gaming company SCVNGR creates scavenger hunts for meetings. Participants form small teams, get clues and directions on their cell phones, then track down specified locations where they perform tasks.

For MPI New England, the SCVNGR event represented the next step in the evolution of the chapter’s annual industry Summer Outing. “Two years ago we did a cruise,” says Michelle Johnson, chief gathering officer of Creative Community Connections, who is also the chapter’s vice president, finance and administration. “Last year we added a community-service element with a build-a-bike event. This year’s outing incorporated a give-back component, networking, and a unique way to look at several venues and the city of Boston. We were very pleased at the turnout of 150 attendees.” The summer outing is coordinated by MPI/NE in partnership with other local chapters of meetings industry associations such as the Trade Show Exhibitors Association, International Special Events Society, and Professional Convention Management Association.

Walk, Win, Win
The 90-minute scavenger hunt took participants to five venues in Boston. For a $1,000 sponsorship, each venue got all 150 participants not just to walk through their space, but to see, learn, and/or do whatever best showcased the venue. For example, arriving at restaurant Post 390, participants had to find the private function room. There, they had to try some hors d’oeuvres. After submitting a photo to prove they’d completed the task, participants got a text message noting that the restaurant has three private function rooms.

At the Rentals Unlimited showroom, another stop on the route, participants had to get their creative juices flowing by digging through the decor company’s stocks to create a table setting. “They had to interact with the salespeople and look through the company’s portfolio,” Johnson notes. “Most of the planners didn’t even know the company had a Boston showroom.”

Other stops were the restaurants Grill 23 and Cafeteria (which also provided gift certificates that were awarded to the scavenger hunt winners), and the Sheraton Boston, which showcased its sustainable fifth-floor conference center.

MPI New England launched the scavenger hunt with an opening reception in the Rotunda Ballroom of the historic Fairmont Copley Plaza. Then, at 7:55 p.m., a text went out to all participants telling them to meet in the private dining room at Turner Fisheries in the Westin Copley Place. “Our opening and closing events were the pillars of our success with this event,” Johnson says. “Both venues provided outstanding service and support for their local MPI chapter.”

Making the event meaningful was a partnership with Horizons for Homeless Children, a Boston-based charity. The organization sent a wish list of toiletry items to the chapter. Sponsors each purchased one of the items in bulk, and as participants stopped at each location, they loaded up their bags (provided by the chapter) with the items. The bags were then donated to the charity.

“It was a fantastic event, and the weather cooperated,” says Rena Briggs, eCommerce and marketing manager at the Omni Parker House Hotel in Boston, who is also the chapter’s vice president, marketing and communications. “Walking around city was great. From a supplier perspective, we don’t always get to go out in our own city, but we’re often asked by planners about walking routes. This event proved Boston is the walking city.”

Johnson says that after an initial meeting, SCVNGR took care of all the setup, including working with the sponsors to create the specific tasks that would be required at their locations. The company can create scavenger hunts for small groups or thousands of attendees, in a city location or at a trade show. Find out more at the SCVNGR Web site.

Check out MPI New England’s upcoming events, including the All Team Meeting August 30, which offers a chance to find out about volunteering with the chapter, its monthly meeting September 15, when the education session will be a panel discussion called “How to Get Paid What You’re Worth,” featuring Corporate Meetings & Incentives Editor Barbara Scofidio, and the chapter’s annual golf outing, set for October 4 at Spring Valley Country Club in Sharon, Mass.