Mark Mazzone Joins VIKTOR’s Sales Team

VIKTOR extends a warm welcome to Mark Mazzone, who has joined the Sales & Marketing team as Sr. Director of Business Development. He is responsible for developing new business opportunities and creating customized meetings, incentive and rewards programs for VIKTOR’s new and existing clients.

Mazzone brings 14 years of experience to VIKTOR, with an extensive background in meetings, incentive travel, and rewards programs. He has worked closely with companies in numerous vertical industries, including Financial Services, Manufacturing, Consumer Packaged Goods and Healthcare, developing sales incentives, rewards and recognition, corporate meetings and group travel incentive programs. 

Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, majoring in Accounting and Management, from the University of Cincinnati. He resides outside of Cleveland, in Shaker Heights, Ohio, with his wife and two sons, and enjoys traveling, soccer and animals. He enjoys volunteering as a 6th grade Sunday School teacher at his church, where he is also involved in Project Serve activities.

About VIKTOR

VIKTOR is a national agency that draws from a heritage of peerless hospitality to produce national and international travel incentives and measurable engagement programs for employees, channel partners and customers. Headquartered in Traverse City, Michigan, VIKTOR brings more than 44 years of exceptional design and execution to every solution.

Networking in the Midwest at GLES

Recently, our travels took us to Madison, Wisconsin for a few days to attend the Great Lakes Educational Summit (GLES). This event was organized by the Michigan Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) – a global association that uses innovative learning, collaboration and advocacy to connect the meeting and event community face-to-face. The summit covered a wide range of relevant topics under the umbrellas of professional development, networking and business exchange, and advancing our industry.

The conference was held at the Hilton Madison Monona Terrace on the banks of Lake Monona, one of five lakes in the capitol city. From our hotel room, we had an amazing view of the lake, and although it rained the whole trip, it did not discourage us from exploring the famous State Street shopping area. This bustling place between Capitol Square and the University of Wisconsin, offers a lot of great activities, both day and night, as well as lake access and amazing views, several museums and theaters, and more than 140 restaurants. The beautiful capitol building was also nearby, and only three blocks from the hotel.

We attended a Welcome Reception at Monona Terrace, which included exhibits from vendors, suppliers, and hotels. Wisconsin CVB gave an informative presentation about area towns and things to do. Other highlights included the silent auction (to raise scholarship money for kids in need) and the Taste of Wisconsin buffet, which was the perfect excuse to enjoy a lot of fried cheese curds, gourmet mac ‘n cheese in cocktail cups, and sausages. 

Monday evening’s reception was held at the Overture Center for The Arts, which is a beautiful building in the heart of downtown. On the way to the event, we were led through the Wisconsin State Capitol, which is always open to the public and stunning inside. Back at the reception, Wisconsin’s delicious version of a Manhattan was served, with brandy in place of bourbon. There were more fried cheese curds, naturally, and a wonderful farmhouse beer called Spotted Cow, which is made at New Glarus Brewery and is a must-have for locals.

Madison’s Dane County Airport was stylish and cute, and about three times the size of Traverse City’s airport. Notably, they sell Spotted Cow by the case there. Unfortunately, with no room in our bags to bring any home, we had to settle for adding it to the list of things we love.

It was such a pleasure to attend this fantastic conference and to just mix it up a little in Madison, Wisconsin for a while. Next year, this worthwhile networking event is rumored to be held at Traverse City’s own Park Place Hotel. With a range of topics covering marketing, H.R., social media, client services, program management and customer service, we’ll definitely be there, and are hoping we might even see some of you!

Do you decant your wine?

Perhaps you were gifted a hip wine decanter, or even drawn to one at an estate sale, but do you regularly use it? Decanting wineis an age-old ritual that has recently regained popularity. An act no longer reserved just for vintage ports and aged Bordeaux, slowly pouring wine from bottle to decanter exposes it to oxygen, which opens up the aromas and flavors. It isn’t just for snobs either, and it doesn’t have to be baffling or intimidating. In fact, the subtle chemical and physical reactions that take place during decanting can soften the wine’s tannic structure and make a real difference in the taste. So let’s uncork some of the mystery surrounding this aeration process with a few essentials about how to decant your wine.

To get started, stand the bottle straight up a day before consumption so the sediment can fall to the bottom. Carefully pouring the wine from bottle to decanter removes the astringent particles; the ounce or two left in the bottom of the bottle can either be discarded or reserved for cooking. Once the wine has fully “opened up” (which can be anywhere from 1-8 hours), it will typically last 12 hours after being decanted. If the wine sits in the decanter longer, it will take on too much oxygen and start losing its flavor and aroma. Old wine will change more quickly and should be consumed before it begins to taste like vinegar. On the other hand, a variety such as Madeira (said to last indefinitely after the bottle is opened) can either be decanted one day for every decade of bottle age or more quickly with a special timed aerator device.

Some say that swirling the wine in your glass can have the same effect as decanting. While it may be a matter of personal preference, it also comes down to the wine’s style and age. For example, with a very old red Burgundy or other delicate wine, minimal oxygen exposure is needed before drinking, and therefore decanting would be unnecessary. However, young reds can be especially tight on the nose or closed on the palate until you assist them in taking in oxygen through pouring and resting.

Depending on the situation and the wine, you might also opt to use an aerator—a tool designed for a more immediate decant. While this does provide a quicker alternative, we tend to agree with Food & Wine magazine, which takes the stance that part of the joy of decanting is “allowing wine to gradually open up and transform over the course of an evening, and tasting it at each step of its evolution.” 

While there really aren’t any wines that worsen with decanting, a good rule of thumb is to decant young, bold reds, especially full-bodied, highly tannic wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Nebbiolo. We don’t often think about decanting white wine, however it can be useful to open up higher-end, vintage whites in this way. On the other hand, most everyday young white wines do not need it. Decanting Champagne—especially older vintages—is also becoming increasingly trendy, as it helps evolve the complex flavors and aromas. Decanting here can also be used to soften the aggressive bubbles in young Champagnes. Or maybe that’s the part you like the best! Either way, it can be fun to experiment with decanting various wines into uniquely shaped decanters.

So much more than pouring a wine into a fancy vessel, decanting is both useful and enjoyable. And by keeping this powerful tool in your entertainment arsenal, you’ll vastly expand what you get out of this beloved beverage. Cheers!

img: pixabay / wokandapix

Mark Bondy makes BizBash’s Top 500 List

VIKTOR is honored to announce that BizBash Magazine has named our own Mark Bondy to its 2018 inaugural list of The Top 500 People in Events—a list “representing the best of the meeting and event industry across North America.” These recognized thought leaders influence the trade and consumer shows, brand campaigns, and large-scale event planning, all while empowering the next generation of practitioners through education.  

A digital magazine and website dedicated to the meetings and incentives industry, BizBash is a perennial resource for industry trends, ideas, and inspiration for corporate events, associations and trade shows. According to BizBash Editor-in-Chief Beth Kormanik, “Narrowing the world of event professionals down to just 500 standout individuals was not easy. Some are well known, while others work strategically behind the scenes; but all are deserving of recognition for their leadership, creativity, and results.” The “Top 500 People in Events” feature can be seen at www.bizbash.com/top500 as well as in the digital and print editions of BizBash’s 2018 Holiday/Fall Venues Issue.

“Given that the list was dominated by agencies from New York and L.A., we’re thrilled to be recognized as one of the top incentive companies in the industry,” said Mark Bondy, VIKTOR Owner and President. “Our team is committed to great service, strong relationships and financial well-being, all of which make VIKTOR great. This unexpected honor speaks to our dedication to go the extra mile to deliver exceptional group experiences. We look forward to making many more lasting impressions in the years to come.”

The Best Must-Have Travel Apps

Whether traveling for work or pleasure, there’s a good chance you’ll rely on an app or two to get where you’re going. We all have our favorites, but we’ve found a few we think are worth sharing. So whether you use an Android or iOS device, these must-have apps just could make your travels easier, and they’re all free.

Google Translate
Traveling overseas? If you are, then you’ll likely find yourself in a situation where you don’t understand the local language. Here’s where Google Translate comes in handy, offering quick and easy translating without a lot of copying and pasting. Just input the text or speech and it translates it for you. It can even translate a photo or handwritten text, and then speak the translated word so you know what it sounds like. If you know which country you’ll be in ahead of time, you can also download the corresponding language pack in advance, so you don’t have to worry about an Internet connection when you get there. 

XE Currency
To convert currencies, we like XE Currency. Quick and easy, it can save you a lot of money and frustration when dealing with unfamiliar exchange rates. Or, get fancy and use the app to decide where to vacation, as it can reveal the places where the dollar is strong. Keep in mind that this app doesn’t require an Internet connection to convert between currencies, but does need one to download rates when you first select a currency.

WiFi Map
It’s common to find yourself without cell phone coverage when traveling, but WiFi Map is a great way to maintain your Internet connection when abroad. With it you can find nearby public hotspots (over 1 million worldwide) and the corresponding passwords, which are updated by the app’s millions of users. The free version gives you everything you need for a 1-mile range, but for those interested, there is also a paid version, which lets you download an entire city’s WiFi map ahead of time for use offline.

Triposo
Acting more like a personal travel guide than an app, Triposo assists you in discovering new hotels, restaurants and things to do when out of town. It turns crowd-sourced Wiki-based information, including maps and directions for more than 50,000 locations worldwide, into easy-to-use destination help as you’re discovering those exciting new places on your dream list. Plus, it works whether you have a functioning Internet connection or not.

Tripit
If you travel with us, you definitely won’t have trouble keeping track of your travel itinerary. But this app is worth mentioning anyway. Tripit makes tracking even the most complex itineraries a breeze. Without manually typing in all of the mundane details, you’ll have at your fingertips exactly what you’ve planned to do and where you are supposed to be when. Best of all, it works even if you’re not online—and the free option is robust enough for most.

Sit or Squat
It happens to the best of us when traveling: you find yourself in an unfamiliar place in need of a restroom. For help finding one fast, the toilet paper company Charmin has created the app Sit or Squat. So no matter where you are, you can access a database of 100,000 user-rated facilities.

American Red Cross First Aid
Finally, you may want to arm yourself with the Red Cross First Aid app. In the event of a medical emergency happening while away from home, this app provides basic knowledge, and even video instruction, about what to do in a variety of situations.

Sources: traveldailynews.com; tripsavvy.com

A Shift in Incentive Travel

An incentive travel program is a vital tool for recognizing your best salespeople and incentivizing your biggest customers. You want to inspire them to go above and beyond, and to wow participants with a trip they wouldn’t normally take on their own. But how do you decide where to go? Fortunately, we’ve been there (literally). Our seasoned staff has been creating memorable experiences in the most enticing places for more than 40 years. Read on to see where the shift in incentive travel has taken us lately, and where it’s heading down the road.

Classic Incentive Destinations
During the traditional incentive travel months of January, February, March and April, Southern Florida is a perennial favorite. Perfect for those who want to stay domestic with a guarantee of nice weather, Miami’s South Beach, for instance, offers high-energy opulence amid tranquil white sand beaches. Meanwhile, rugged outdoor destinations like Scottsdale, AZ and Colorado Springs, CO offer a fresh change of scenery for active types who want to swap out the beach for mountains.

A little farther away, Hawaii is an exotic destination with a wide range of resort options that gives attendees the feeling that they’re really “getting away.” And of course, larger programs are well-suited to Las Vegas with its great airlift, easy airport transfers and flexible top-quality hotels.

Across the pond, the countries that come up again and again are Scotland and Ireland. A blend of old and new, alluring destinations like these combine unspoiled scenery and contemporary cultural influences with a rich heritage and unmatched upscale hotel offerings. Meanwhile, the food-and-wine culture of European river cruises brings to life spectacular ports against a storybook backdrop.

Trending Now
Big with every generation right now are urban experiences and second-tier cities. Beyond lively big cities like New York and Orlando, urban sanctums such as Chicago and San Antonio are easily navigated and offer historical, cultural and local experiences that can’t be found elsewhere. The important thing to remember is that there is a growing demand among participants to accumulate travel memories—drawn from moments that resonate with personal aspirations and fulfillment.

Also stateside, we like Nashville, which has become popular with younger crowds. It offers a vibrant atmosphere and lively music scene, eclectic eateries and interesting alternative teambuilding activities.

Topping the list internationally are Iceland and Argentina! Both have seen a dramatic increase in luxury travel the past few years. These remote locales give next-generation participants access to cutting-edge journeys that few people can experience. It not only helps to elevate a participant’s status among their online network, but provides extraordinary material to capture and share digitally.

Luxury travel means different things to different people. We’ve seen a shift from expensive things and places to a focus on exclusive experiences. As the conversation continues to move toward the demand for authentic, immersive experiences, we remain committed to discovering new programs with the power to deliver exceptional group experiences and lasting impressions.

Welcome back Traverse City Film Festival!

The Traverse City Film Festival is back. Held every year at the end of July, this annual event was created in 2005 to help “save one of America’s few indigenous art forms—the cinema.” The mission of this non-profit organization, co-founded by Oscar-winning film director Michael Moore, is to show great movies that represent excellence in filmmaking; in particular, independent films and documentaries that make you think. (Don’t miss his 2018 picks!)

At the center of it all are Traverse City’s arthouse movie theaters, The State and The Bijou, which combine world-class, state-of-the-art presentation with classic movie palace experiences. Beginning today, hordes of people will flock to our favorite hometown venues for the inspiring, sometimes challenging, stories they’ll find at the 14th annual TCFF.

Over the next five days, a much-anticipated curated list of feature films and shorts will be shown at our downtown theaters and throughout town at the community’s school auditoriums, theatrical houses, and even outdoors on a giant, inflatable screen along West Grand Traverse Bay. In addition, actress Jane Fonda has quickly become the talk of the town and will be honored this week with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Several screenings of her well-known flicks “Coming Home” and “Nine to Five” can be seen as part of the festival’s fantastic line-up.

Traverse City Film Festival not only makes an economic contribution in our area ($465 million since inception), but provides an opportunity for over 3,000 volunteers to connect with each other while giving back to the community they love. And as you might have guessed, the staff at VIKTOR has a hard time sitting on their hands when great things are happening around us. You’ll find the cinema lovers in our midst taking part through financial contributions, attending parties, and volunteering to take tickets and make popcorn. Even the kids are getting involved, through Claymation and gaming.

We love TCFF. We like that it showcases filmmaking to the public in a way they might not otherwise see. We like the gamut of subjects and how the films are enjoyed purely for the sake of art. We love that it’s all about the way they enrich the human spirit, and that it’s not about the bottom line. Being entertained and educated in exciting new ways isn’t too bad either. And we know we’re not alone when we’re left with the feeling that we’ve been moved to open our minds and hearts a little wider. Perhaps that’s why this festival is so successful.

Intrigued? You can find a schedule and tickets here, catch up on celebrated works from past years, or swing by the city’s thriving Open Space Park for a free nightly movie if you’re in town.

State Department Launches New Travel Advisory Program

A first step in planning any trip abroad involves checking the travel advisories for your intended destination. If you’ve ever been confused about the difference between travel warnings and advisories, you’re not alone. Of course, if you’re traveling with us, we automatically monitor each location for any safety concerns. Even so, you may want to stay informed by taking a closer look for yourself. If so, we think you’ll want to check out the new and improved four-tier travel advisory system launched this month by the U.S. Department of State.

The result of a year-long review (in response to traveler feedback), the new travel advisory program replaces a longstanding setup of warnings and alerts, and effectively delivers the biggest overhaul we’ve seen in years.* Not only does it boast a cleaner design, but the easier-to-understand format helps travelers better assess the risks they may face before taking a trip.

In keeping with the times, the color-coded, country-by-country system is visually more relatable as well as more actionable. Of note, an interactive global map lets you see the world at a glance or zoom in to inspect the details of an area. There is also an alphabetical country list which assigns one of the following rankings to each nation:

Level 1 – Normal Precautions: the lowest advisory level for safety and security risks

Level 2 – Increased Caution: be aware of heightened risks

Level 3 – Reconsider Travel: avoid travel due to serious risks

Level 4 – Do Not Travel: the highest advisory level with a greater likelihood of life-threatening risks

If you love to travel as much as we do, you know we’re not suggesting you spend more time worrying about the things beyond our control. However, when it comes to a world that’s everchanging, it’s always wise to be prepared, especially when it comes to personal safety. Safe travels from VIKTOR!

*Note: The new system does not replace the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (S.T.E.P.) — a free service we still recommend that allows travelers to enroll with a nearby U.S. Embassy or Consulate and sign up for helpful news alerts.

Incentive Travel Programs Work

If you are looking for a special way to thank people who have done a great job – and motivate others to do their best – consider an incentive travel program. Not only are you giving your staff unforgettable experiences and life-long memories, there are enormous benefits for your business too:

  1. It’s much more motivational
    Research has shown that non-cash incentives are two to three times more effective at motivating individual performance. Cash or a gift certificate may be spent on a whim, but a trip builds networking between attendees and gives them great memories of fun adventures. There is a true emotional connection between each attendee and their experience during the incentive trip that a cash reward cannot compete against. The photos they’ll take home will also serve as a constant reminder of their value to your organization.
  2. It’s often cheaper than cash rewards
    According to the US Travel Association, companies that maintain exciting incentive travel programs often spend less than those that reward with cash alone. 1 With an exciting incentive program, you’ll find you can reward less regularly as they strive far greater and more exciting goals.
  3. Increased sales and productivity
    When people have a reward in sight that they are passionate about, their motivation to hit goals increases enormously. When they recall their memories from a previous incentive travel experience or see the photos of their colleague’s last incentive travel reward, they’ll work harder to match or exceed them. A friendly sense of competition can make a significant positive impact on your annual sales.
  4. Long-term loyalty
    When you reward with an exciting incentive travel program, relationships tend to be much more loyal. There’s a greater sense of value and belonging when a reward stretches beyond the office walls and into real lives. When the attendee can boast of their reward trip to Sydney, for example, to their friends and neighbors, they’ll also develop an additional sense of pride in the company.

For every dollar spent in travel, businesses benefit from an average of $12.50 in increased revenue and $3.80 in new profits.

The most important element for an incentive program to be successful is buy-in from the people you are trying to motivate. The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) lists three ways to maximize buy-in while inspiring a higher performance from your participants. They are: 2

  1. The award must be highly desirable and must match the achievement of the stated goals
  2. Goals set must be specific, fixed, and perceived as achievable
  3. Communication before, during and after the program

Draw the line that connects the behaviors you want to motivate with the financial outcome you want to achieve.

According to Buchanan and Gillis (1990), long-term loyal customers are more profitable for 6 reasons: 3

  1. Regular customers place consistent orders
  2. Longer-established customers tend to purchase more products
  3. Satisfied customers may pay premium prices
  4. Retaining customers make it difficult for competitors to gain access to your customers
  5. Satisfied customers often refer other customer
  6. The cost of acquiring and serving new customers can be substantial

The Performer Often Forgotten

A “high performer” and “low performer” are frequent terms in the vocabulary of talent management: high performers are your company’s superheroes; low performers are a constant management challenge. But what about employees that fall in “the middle” -the Average Joes?

Incentive programs can increase performance of an individual by 22% and of a team by 44%.4

A 5% performance gain from the middle 60% of a sales force can yield 70% more revenue than a 5% shift in the top 20%. (2). Don’t just focus on the top tier of your sales force but create a new program that helps to move the middle for the most gain. Don’t forget to create an incentive program or multiple programs that motivate all of your audience to its full potential!

Footnotes
  1. U.S. Travel Association, Oxford Economics: The Return on Investment of Business Travel, Talking Points by Audience, page 1.
  2. Paterson, John. “Incentive Program Buy-in–Senior Leadership Support”. Incentive Research Foundation, 2013.
  3. Buchanan, R. & Gillies, C. (1990). Value managed relationships: The key to customer retention and profitability. European Management Journal 8(4). 423-526.
  4. Ibid., page 2.

Move the Middle. Set Smaller Goals. (Part II)

We believe that the greatest potential to propel your sales results lies in moving the middle 60-70% of your organization. Recently, we delivered recommendations on how to move the middle of your sales organization by coaching. Here, we’ll further explore this by focusing goals—baby steps, if you will—which can help your sales force gain incremental wins, and stay on track.

We have strategically narrowed down examples of how to set smaller sales goals to our top three recommendations. This is based on ease of implementation and where we think you will see the greatest lift and garner speedy results.

Set Action Goals

Most sales teams’ goals are focused on numbers and percentages—and rightfully so. However, it is action that gets to the winning sales numbers. Your seasoned, top 10% has to their winning numbers. But your middle
is not there yet. They may be struggling with a host of time management challenges, from time spent in training to time sending emails. Based on your sales cycle, there is a preferred cadence and time investment in each phase that delivers closed business. By examining historical sales cycles, you will be able to see your best-case scenario sales actions. From there, you can help your team manage their time and create the right, winning activities and timelines.

A few examples of activity-focused mini-goals are:

  • The number of emails sent (that lead to a new discovery call)
  • The number of discovery calls
  • The number of face-to-face presentations or product demos
  • The number of networking or industry events attended (that lead to a qualified lead)
  • The number of product training courses completed
  • Upselling to an existing client and/or taking an existing client to lunch to keep the relationship strong

Principally, you are working backwards from the close of the sale to turn a potentially intimidating revenue goal into manageable steps that can be celebrated at each phase. Not only will this grow confidence and positive morale, but it will allow you to troubleshoot with struggling reps more easily.

Monitor Progress

Tracking goals can be cumbersome for managers, and communicating the status even more so. But tracking goals are vital to your success, and  your reps know where they stand to goals, KPIs, etc., then they can course correct to win.

There are many ways in which companies track sales progress, from traditional Excel spreadsheets to sophisticated CRM software. The one tool we find extremely effective is a visual Dashboard. This tool can be updated in real time and is easily customized to show team and individual goals.

Why we like Dashboards:

  1. Readability. A dashboard is easy to read. Appealing to both left- and right-brained reps, dashboards offer both visual and analytical data, making it easy to see exactly where you stand. In the past, users would spend large amounts of time reviewing and analyzing different reports to understand their standing. This tool allows everyone to see it clearly at a glance.
  2. Customizable. Dashboards can be customized by users and expectations.
    Each decision-level dashboard can be customized to present the most valuable and useful sets of information. This allows each person to see the level of detail they need to get the job done and meet their goals.
  3. Mobile Optimized. Most dashboards are programmed to suit any mobile device. The idea is to reach your team anywhere, in a timely manner, with the most accurate information.

Dashboards are not difficult to connect to your sales data for accurate reporting. There are many software applications that do this, and often incentive companies have their own technology to do this.

Offer Meaningful Incentives

As we mentioned in Part I of our Move-the-Middle recommendations, most companies spend the majority of their time focusing their incentive rewards on the top 5-10% of their organization. If you are going to move your middle and focus on smaller goals, then it’s agile, and meaningful rewards. This gesture sends a message to committed to their success! It reinforces positive performance behavior and inspires them to reach and stretch beyond the year-end quota.

To do this effectively, it is important to understand what motivates your reps outside of cash (which we do not recommend be used as a reward). For example, if your team is health conscious, offering small rewards, such as a healthy smoothie gift card or gym membership would be meaningful and support a work/health/life balance. Or, the focus could be on a team goal. Winners might walk away with a team happy hour or tickets to a sporting event or rock concert, where they can feel rewarded and have an opportunity to bond.

Many rewards can be presented which carry little-to-no financial cost. For instance, earning additional vacation days, a prized parking spot, or the opportunity to attend an industry conference holds inherent value without incurring additional costs.

Most importantly, don’t forget the power of time with leadership. See how excited your team will get to win a private dinner with the CEO! This example offers considerable prestige and undeniably stating, “We want to see you succeed.”

No matter what your reward choice may be, remember to thoughtfully include the promotion of the reward in your incentive design. You want to make sure the reward not only drives behavior, but brings with it recognition from upper management.

In summary, we believe that the greatest potential to propel your sales results lies in moving smaller goals with mini-incentives, you can help your sales force gain confidence, achieve incremental wins, and stay on track.

Are You Engaging Your Attendees?

Engagement is certainly one of this year’s buzzwords. And there’s good reasoning behind that. The more engaged your customer, meeting/incentive attendee, or stakeholder, the more loyal they will be to your product, and therefore the more valuable they become to you.

So, what are the best ways to engage your event attendees and leverage social media to make them more successful? During ASAE’s Annual Meeting, a brainstorming session had speakers sharing ideas that have worked for them. The audience also chimed in with some of their best practices, and we added a few of our favorites. Here they are:

Pre-Event

Do a social media poll to let followers help pick the theme, speakers, or activities. If this isn’t possible, design a personality quiz that ties in to your event theme or specific industry. For example, if you are in the hospitality field, ask attendees to name which hotel brand most accurately reflects their personality, and so on.

Utilize Facebook invites. Even if you use paper or email invites, digital engagement will get people looking at the guest list, seeing who will be there, and talking about your event.

Build hype. Provide a brief profile and photo of one of your special events, as well as positive experiences from past attendees on your blog or mobile app.

Post teasers about the big day using a unique event hashtag. Be sure to include your hashtag on all communication pieces and social media posts.

Create a social media campaign for sharing information and updates about all of the above, and encourage your members/attendees to share them with their contacts.

On-Site

At the event, the goal is to give everyone a voice. Create opportunities for people to connect using collaborative activities. Using a social media wall is the ideal way to bring together all the posts with your hashtag, while showcasing real-time pics and live streaming.

Shareable moments are irresistible to attendees who like to use social media. Giant Jenga, ping-pong, corn-hole, or a large adult coloring book that relates to your theme will allow people to unwind—and they’re great for postable photo ops. They also provide ways for people who have only met virtually to connect in person.

Include a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activity as part of your event, not only to do good, but also to add interest and facilitate networking.

Use polling to take the pulse of your attendees during the event.

Post Event

Keep the great conversations going post-event. To glean valuable feedback, re-design your surveys to only include the types of data you really want. Incorporate a Facebook or Twitter Live discussion with attendees. You will learn what they liked, what would keep them coming back and what they would change about the location, sponsored activities, dining, executive exchange, and more, all while promoting (the success of) your event on social media.

Post an online photo album or keynote speaker slides from your event. Or share a podcast or video recap to your mobile app to keep the memories and conversations going well into the future.

Finally, if your event is recurring, utilize highlights from the previous year’s photos, posts, and videos to jumpstart your upcoming event. Just remember to reach out and share, and you’ll find what works best for you!

To read the complete recap on this session, click here. (Requires login)

It’s Happening in the “D”!

We began 2017 talking about Detroit as a Comeback City, and as we enter the last quarter of the year, we’re going to provide an update on how that growth is continuing to accelerate. It’s led, of course, by the opening of LCA–Little Caesars Arena–in The District Detroit, a new sporting and entertainment area that spans 50 blocks and connects Downtown Detroit to Midtown. LCA is home to the Detroit Red Wings as well as the Detroit Pistons, meaning all four of Detroit’s major sports teams are now located in one central location.

New hotels are also a part of the city’s boom. The Foundation Hotel opened in May in the city’s former historic Fire Department Headquarters. It features a rooftop ballroom along with a beautiful and inviting restaurant, The Apparatus Room, which is extremely popular despite its rather unappetizing sounding name! The Siren is due to open next month after a $23 million renovation of the Wurlitzer Building. It will include an eight-seat tasting counter run by Garrett Lipar, a James Beard semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2016. Shinola is also getting into the hotel game with a 130-room hotel due to open next fall and Starwood is opening one of its new “eco-incubator” brand Element Hotels sometime in 2018.

Keeping up with the metro-Detroit restaurant scene is practically a full-time job. Lady of the House opened in Corktown late last month. Chef Kate Williams will focus on whole animal butchery, local sourcing, and using “ugly” food to minimize food waste. Katoi, also in Corktown, has re-opened as Takoi, following a devastating fire in February. Two days before the fire, it was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Award Foundation’s Best New Restaurant award. Flowers of Vietnam, one of GQ’s Best New Restaurants in America this year is undergoing renovations, but will be re-opening soon. And finally, Wilda’s is set to open in the new center area later this fall. It’s a collaboration between Lucy Peters, of Rose’s Fine Food fame and Michigan natives and brothers Max & Eli Sussman. Plans include offering neighborhood food education programs.

And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg! If you haven’t made a visit to Detroit recently, we encourage you to do so. And be sure to come hungry!

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation, or shamatha, has been defined as “the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment.” It involves being kind and forgiving toward yourself and accepting your experience during meditation. Stay with it and it will become easier to accept anything that comes your way during your day to day life. It has ancient roots in Buddhism, but most cultures have some type of prayer or meditation technique. If you find yourself getting caught up in worrying about the future, the past, or feeling disconnected with the present moment, then you may greatly benefit from practicing mindfulness meditation.

Over the last decade, more and more scientific studies have surfaced focusing on the various benefits that mindfulness meditation can bring to your life. Professor emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, assisted in bringing mindfulness meditation into mainstream medicine. He showed that the practice can improve physical and psychological symptoms and also bring positive changes to health attitudes and behaviors. Being mindful helps you become fully engaged in activities and makes it easier to deal with adverse events. It can improve physical health in many ways, such as relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, reducing chronic pain, and improving sleep. It can also improve mental health in multiple areas like depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and anxiety disorders. A review study at Johns Hopkins University found that mindfulness meditation effects rival those of antidepressants. Research has shown that the beneficial effects of mindfulness are increased the more often a person practices.

There are guidelines to follow while practicing mindfulness meditation. It is an active training of the mind to “achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment.” Most people find it takes 20 minutes for their mind to settle, so that is a good time to start with. It is recommended that you set a timer so that you are not distracted by wondering how much time has passed and when you should consider being done. You should find a place that is uncluttered and with little distraction.

Step One:
Set your posture. Level your shoulders and hips, keeping the natural curve of your spine. Rest your palms on your thighs, drop your chin a bit, and let your gaze fall slightly downward. You may also choose to close your eyes, if that’s more relaxing.

Step Two:
Follow your breath as it goes in and out. Focus on the feeling of air through your nose or mouth, and the rise and fall of your chest.

Step Three:
If your mind begins to wander, no need to worry or block your thinking. Gently refocus your attention on your breathing. You may even say to yourself, “That may be a really important issue in my life, but right now is not the time to think about it.”

Over time, as you keep up the practice, you will begin to notice the increased calmness and harmony in your life.

Move the Middle. Start Coaching.

Everyone is familiar with the statistics, but in case the infamous bell curve is new to you, 70% of your workforce falls in the middle — referring to the middle of your company’s revenue earning potential.

Let’s refresh. The we are mentioning looks like this:

However, did you know that your B players hold the greatest potential to move your organization forward? Contrary to popular belief, solely focusing on your top A players will not give your sales the greatest lift. Now, this is different.

The Focus

So, why is all the focus always on the top players? Well, let’s face it,
sales calls with an A player are much more fun. They will probably close the deal. You will go grab a few beers to celebrate. You will get to brag. Your ego will feel good.

But the reality is this, they would succeed whether you were there or not. They are top performers and, for what ever the reasons, they have the right training, experience, connections, and tools to close the deal.

Unfortunately, your other 60-70% aren’t there yet. It’s this middle who could really use your time on their sales call. They could use your expertise, encouragement and insight. Or maybe they were a top performer at that their last company—before the acquisition—and they simply need more of your product knowledge?

The Shift

So, how do you shift? Is it possible to give your B players more attention and turn them into A players? We think so, and thatthe results could give your organization significant sales lift.

We recommend you start with a simple ‘coaching’ conversation. Although coaching isn’t new to sales management, when was the last time you sat down with a sales rep and directly asked them about their performance? Asked them what is working or not working? What’s holding them back?

A study conducted by the Manchester Group on the effect of coaching estimated a greater than 5:1 return-on-investment ratio. An article in Public Personnel Management reported a study comparing training alone to coaching combined with training. Training alone increased productivity by 22% while a combination of training and coaching increased productivity by 88 percent. (Manchester Group).

Strategic Coaching

If you did only three things today to start being more of a coach to your B players —here’s where we recommend you start:

  1. Ride Along! Go on a sales call with your rep and watch them in action. This will allow you to see their missing gaps. Listen and take notes. Then follow up with your observations—use this as your platform for change, letting them know that you are on their team. Make it social. Make it fun.
  2. Set smaller goals and mini-rewards. Your B player may be struggling for various reasons, and competing for the top 5-10% can be daunting. Consider setting smaller goals and dangling small carrots to keep your B players engaged and motivated. You will be amazed how a small reward can lead to big results because your reps are feeling encouragement, gaining confidence, and building a stronger tool box.
  3. Celebrate small successes! It’s important to celebrate the little wins like landing a significant RFP or presentation, as they are the foundational first step to closing a new piece of business. Make sure you give the work along the way a ‘celebratory’ shout out so your reps know you are watching and that you are invested in their win.

There is also a bonus result with this strategy. The shift in your B players will undeniably turn the heat up on your A players. Enjoy watching them scramble and fight to keep their number one spot. Your sales numbers will appreciate the protective fight!

In summary, we believe that by focusing on the middle 60-70% of our team, there is great potential to move your sales organization forward. It is here where small achievements can make a significant financial impact. If you are able to create a shift in your B players through strategic coaching, you will see an increase in sales engagement, as well as overall employee satisfaction and retention.

The Essential DMC

Our business is to provide you with the best trip, meeting, or event possible. Created around your specific needs to reward your top-tier producers, each project is executed by working closely with you. Often, we’ll also work in tandem with another important part of our team: the destination management company (DMC).

A partner in the truest sense of the word, the best professional DMCs are as much about building personal and lasting relationships as they are about creating a superior experience. Their strength isn’t always measured by cost or size either. What we look for are destination planners who expertly blend fun and function to help us bring you the perfect experience. Our favorite partners:

  • are innovative and creative
  • contribute team-building ideas
  • facilitate rate negotiation
  • align with our core values
  • embrace impeccable customer service
  • are committed to excellence

A DMC’s role can range from coordinating special events and off-site logistics to navigating international laws and negotiating discounts. Working together, we always make sure our corporate clients are getting the best product at the most reasonable price—and that each program or event runs as smoothly as possible.

The real fun begins when you experience the local culture in-and-around your chosen destination. Thankfully, we’re not the only ones obsessing about going above and beyond expectations. With an expert knowledge of an area and its people, language, food, and activities, a DMC helps us make each trip or meeting magical. Our favorite DMC team players are truly behind-the-scenes dynamos who assist us in striving to leave a lasting impression.

No one likes to think the worst could happen, but it pays to be prepared. DMCs provide valuable on-the-ground services in the event of an emergency, making them an essential part of risk management and emergency preparedness planning.

“It’s important to have a strong, local partner with intimate knowledge of your program’s location,” according to VIKTOR Program Manager Patty Armstrong. “We don’t anticipate severe weather, a natural disaster or other issues requiring medical attention or evacuation, but we always have a plan we can turn to.”

Now that you know a little more about what a destination management company does, it’s easy to see how DMCs contribute to a program’s success and boost your attendees’ desire to return the following year!

Oh, the Places you’ll Go!

Location, location, location is a well-known real estate mantra. The incentive travel industry has a similar mantra, destination, destination, destination. Trying to come up with the perfect incentive destination can be quite time consuming. After all, to be a viable option, it needs to offer:

  • Safety
  • First class hotels
  • A variety of interesting and authentic activity choices
  • Fairly easy accessibility
  • Great dining options

These are just a few of the things that come in to play when considering potential destinations. The cost of air is also a major factor as air choices continue to decrease and prices continue to increase. So, what’s an incentive planner to do?

One option is to look close to home, right here in the U.S. of A. With the boom of celebrity chefs and farm to table cuisine and boutique hotels, and curated experiences, lots of second tier cities you might not have thought of as incentive destinations a few years ago now provide solid options for some incentive groups. Portland, for example, comes to mind. It has a great food and craft cocktail scene (food trucks in particular), several boutique hotel choices, lots of outdoor activities, terrific wine from the Willamette Valley and of course, Nike is headquartered just around the corner, although tours there are hard to come by. And the cherry on top? You won’t pay any sales tax in Portland!

Santa Fe, New Mexico is another hidden gem. Terrific hotels, a thriving arts community, natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage, not to mention great food. They’re also known for their art markets and wellness and rejuvenation initiatives. And chances are, many of your incentive qualifiers haven’t been there.

If you’d like to learn more about some of the unique destinations that make for great incentive programs, give us a call at 800-748-0478. And visit our blog from time to time to check out our destination spotlights.

VIKTOR Hires New Senior Director of Business Development

VIKTOR proudly welcomes Evan Gekas as Senior Director of Business Development. Evan will be responsible for developing new business opportunities and creating customized meetings and incentive programs for VIKTOR’s new and existing clients.

Gekas brings 40 years of experience to VIKTOR, with an extensive background in meetings, incentive travel, and reward programs. He has worked closely with the pharmaceutical and direct selling industries, implementing numerous large scale sales incentives, reward and recognition programs, corporate meetings, and creative communication campaigns. Evan’s ability to design the ideal incentive strategy has propelled employee engagement and sales for companies from Merck and UCB Pharmaceutical to Rodan & Fields and Shaklee.

Gekas holds a bachelor’s degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management from Pennsylvania State University. Evan resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife and two sons, and enjoys lacrosse, golf, and time with the family dog. Evan also volunteers at the Greek Orthodox church and youth lacrosse league.

About VIKTOR Incentives
VIKTOR is a national engagement agency that draws from a heritage of peerless hospitality to produce award-winning national and international travel incentives and measurable engagement programs for employees, channel partners, and customers. Headquartered in Traverse City, Michigan, VIKTOR brings more than 40 years of exceptional incentive design and execution to every solution.

Evan can be reached at evan.gekas@viktorwithak.com.

What’s in Store for the Hotel Market in 2017?

While the hotel market continues to be somewhat bullish, signs are afoot that things are finally going to be slowing as we progress through the year. Not a big change, just a gradual slowing. Considering the industry has been enjoying the highest occupancies ever, at least in the 30 years it’s been measured, this news isn’t entirely surprising.

I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation by Jan Frietag, Senior VP of Smith Travel Research (STR) during the Two Roads Hospitality Group Meetings Advisory Council. Jan is a bright guy and always entertaining, which isn’t necessarily easy to do when presenting a lot of facts and figures. However, if you are in the business of selling or booking hotel rooms and space, these trends are important to note.

In a nutshell, room demand is slightly outpacing growth, however STR is predicting that occupancy will eventually flatten and decrease slightly. They don’t see AirBnB as having a major impact at all in this decrease; rather, they see it as simply expanding capacity, particularly in cities with extremely high demand such as San Francisco and New York. AirBnB currently doesn’t share all statistics, but we do know their occupancy has never been higher than 50% and half of their stays are over seven nights, which is vastly different from a typical hotel stay (either group or transient).

STR predicts that consolidation in the hotel industry will continue, yet it still remains to be seen what the eventual results of these mergers will mean to the consumer.

You can find a complete recap and analysis of STR’s research here, and we recommend booking early whenever possible, at least for the foreseeable future!

Viktor Weyand’s Career Spans the Slopes as well as the Globe

Not many people get the opportunity to work with an icon in their industry, let alone an icon in two industries. Those of us who’ve had the opportunity to work for Viktor Weyand know what a force of nature the man can be; and there are hotel and incentive suppliers around the world that know it as well. What you might not know, however, is that our former “fearless leader” got his start on the ski slopes in his native Austria, and that is actually how he ended up in northern Michigan.

Viktor recently had the opportunity to reunite with a few of his former ski colleagues in Aspen and you can read about some of their exploits in this article from The Aspen Times. But if you want to hear the REAL back story, I suggest you track Viktor down (I know, it isn’t easy. He is still a veritable globe trotter.), buy him a glass of white wine and just let him reminisce. You won’t be disappointed, and I guarantee you will be entertained. Besides talking about skiing, he might also tell you how the incentive industry is booming and try to convince you to put together an incentive travel program. Cheers to you, Viktor!

To learn more about VIKTOR’s on-going incentive initiatives, click here.

Navigating Your Way through Trusted Traveler Programs

Frequent fliers now have several options from which to choose when it comes to expediting their way through security lines. The newest of these programs is Clear, which is privately operated but sanctioned by TSA. I recently became a member, and so far, it’s been amazing.  The one drawback is that it’s only in 20 airports right now, but if it happens to be at your home airport, I think it is well worth the cost, and some airlines are offering discounts for the first year of membership.  I’ve used it four times now, and each time, (either via my fingerprints or an iris scan), I’m through the line in seconds. Also, the program is available at several baseball stadiums and is still expanding.

The NY Times just printed a great breakdown on each of the programs, what the cost is, and what type of traveler is best suited to each program. Here’s the link to the article so you can determine which program is best for you.

2017 Meetings Industry Forecast

I’ve had the opportunity to read several recaps on the trends predicted to impact the Meetings Industry this year. One of the best was in a recent webinar by Meetings Today and U.S. Travel featuring Michael Dominguez, SVP & CSO for MGM Resorts. Dominguez is a popular speaker in the industry, and for good reason. He’s knowledgeable, matter of fact and makes his topics easy to understand. Following are some of the highlights from the webinar.

This won’t come as a surprise, but 2016 was the most disruptive year in history. And if the past few months are any indication, that isn’t going to change in 2017. However, the hotel industry continues to thrive.  2015 was a record year for hotels by all measurements: occupancy, rate and REVPAR. And then came 2016, when the same thing happened again. The amount of growth is slowing, but it still continues to grow, even coming off two record years in a row.

Transient demand is off the charts, which is one of the factors contributing to this record growth and to groups having trouble finding space, particularly in first-tier cities. This is benefitting second-tier cities to some extent, but air lift can be challenging to those cities. But who am I kidding? Air lift can be challenging to first-tier cities as well! Groups should consider a Sunday or Monday night arrival to improve chances of finding space as oftentimes these are two nights hotels still have availability.

The pace of change in general makes it very hard to keep up with competitors, let alone the latest market trends. Dominguez cited a quote by Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, “In the new world, it is not the big fish eating the small fish, it is the fast fish eating the slow fish”. I think we can all relate to those words. In fact, Dominguez went on to say that in any given meeting, 40% of the people there will be irrelevant in five years simply because they can’t adapt to change or are unwilling to “unlearn” previously accepted practices.

The webinar also addressed several industry myths–some I will admit I considered to be fact.

  • Airbnb isn’t hurting the hotel industry, it’s expanding it. I referenced earlier that first-tier cities have very limited availability. Considering Airbnb has its largest presence in the biggest cities, it stands to reason they are actually bringing business to these cities rather than taking business away from hotels.
  • It’s All Digital: E-books are actually in decline and Amazon is opening bricks and mortar book AND grocery stores. And believe it or not, vinyl records are making a comeback.
  • Older millennials (28 – 35) act just like every other generation did at that same age. And they want to meet face-to-face more than any other peer group.

Wellness, however, isn’t a myth. This is a trend we’ll continue to see grow and the challenge is how to take it from the hotel experience and incorporate it into meetings and events.

And finally, all this disruption isn’t limited to us here in the States. Europe kicked off the disruption with the Brexit vote last year, and there is more in store for them just as there is for the rest of the world. So, hold onto your hats folks–it’s going to be a bumpy, but also a very interesting ride!

America’s Comeback City—Detroit

Much as we enjoy touting the many wonderful aspects of our hometown, Traverse City, there’s another great city in our state that has been garnering quite a few accolades of its own lately. Yes, I’m talking about Detroit—the Motor City, Motown, or as it is fondly referred to these days, “The D”. After years of negative publicity and being the butt of jokes, this gritty city is finally making a real comeback.

For example, what could be better proof of a resurgence than being ranked 9th on The New York Times list of 52 Places to Go in 2017? Yes, I said 9th, as in the Top 10, rubbing shoulders with exotic locales like Switzerland and Croatia. Not convinced yet? Let me provide a few insights.

In 2016, Detroit was also named one of the hottest food cities by Zagat, and several local chefs earned James Beard Award nominations as well. Entrepreneurs of all types are flocking to the city, led by the success of Shinola, which prides itself on exquisite craftsmanship and products made entirely in America. Revitalization of the Riverfront area has increased green spaces and on any given day you’ll see people walking, biking, and skating along the riverfront, and paddleboarders enjoying the river itself.

A new arena is being built that will be home to the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons, meaning all four major sports teams will be located downtown. Record numbers of people are moving into the city and new housing is being built to meet the increasing demand.

So while we are always happy to have you visit us in northern Michigan, we encourage you to check out our sister city on your next visit to our state. You might just be surprised at what you find in America’s Comeback City.

The Effects of Change on Employee Engagement

Most of us will admit we aren’t crazy about change. We can also agree that most changes, especially big ones, have some type of impact on us. A new study looks closely at organizational change, and confirms what we thought we knew all along: intense change, such as a company merger or a change in leadership, dramatically affects employee engagement.

The study “One Definitive Guide to Engaging Through Change” used a 6-million-person database of employee opinion surveys, maintained by Korn Ferry Hay Group, to uncover the following statistics: During times of change, an employee’s willingness to take reasonable risks drops 18%; belief that poor performance is effectively addressed drops 16%; and agreement that the company is well managed drops 11%. It also found that the employee’s belief that the company is keeping them informed about company performance drops by 19% during times of change.

Fortunately, there are a few steps most organizations can take to lessen the negative impact of a major change:

  • Engage Before the Change: Ensure that employees are truly engaged well before announcing the change.
  • Make Communications Clear: Create a plan for regular, timely, and clear communication.
  • Set Leaders up for Success: Coach leaders, so they understand their role in the change.
  • Support and Equip Managers: Provide the resources required to develop a co-operative spirit.
  • Involve People: To keep a team on track, encourage meaningful collaboration.

With change all around, an organization that recognizes and manages its potential impact will likely encourage workers to keep bringing their best, and still come out ahead. If you’d like to explore ways to engage your workforce, give us a call or check out our ideas on our website.

Event Planning: Food Trends and Allergies

As we say goodbye to the old year and look forward to the new one, we also anticipate the emergence of new trends. And nowhere are we more obsessed with the latest trends than when it comes to what we eat! Regardless of the content we include in our meetings and incentives, food will always play a major role and is one of the main things people will remember—good, bad, or otherwise! So, what’s new in food for 2017?

Well, the good news is, pasta is still “in”, so there’s still hope for all of you carb junkies. The folks at Food & Drink Resources suggest the time for kale and beets has come and gone. What will be taking their place? Hold onto your hat. Are you ready for… khachapuri? Although it doesn’t sound appealing, the description isn’t as bad as the name would lead you to believe. It’s a traditional Georgian (the country, not the place Ray Charles sang about) dish made of flatbread, melted cheese, and a runny egg. Also hot? Seaweed. Sustainable and packed with antioxidants, fiber, iodine and good fats, some say seaweed is the new kale. Peasant food continues to trend, but this year with an Asian flare, in foods like Okonomiyaki (a popular Japanese pancake consisting of batter and cabbage, served with savory toppings). Find more 2017 food trends here.

Are you hungry yet? Yeah, me neither. So, let’s talk about some things that aren’t likely to change—at least not a lot—when it comes to food in the coming year. Dietary restrictions and food allergies. These have become more prevalent with each passing year, and planners need to know how to deal with a variety of specific dietary issues. The most common requests are for gluten free and vegetarian dishes. One of the most important things to find out from your event attendees is whether the request is simply that—a preference—or if the guest could have a severe, even life-threatening, allergic reaction to certain foods. Here are a few steps to keep your event—and your participants—safe.

  • Include a question about dietary preferences and allergies in your registration
  • If a guest doesn’t provide adequate information about their allergy, contact them
  • Talk with your caterer about the specific issues present in your group
  • If doing a plated meal, provide a description of the menu and preparation to attendees in advance
  • If you’re having a buffet or food stations, make sure every item is labeled. Identify food that contains major allergens (dairy, eggs, shellfish, nuts, wheat, and soy)
  • Keep sauces separate (but also labeled)
  • If you have someone that suffers from severe allergies, make sure cross-contamination is addressed in food placement and utensils
  • Make sure servers are aware of the allergies and are well-versed in the contents of the food being served
  • Have an epi pen on hand and know how to use it

Following these few guidelines will keep your events flowing smoothly and your guests engaged and happy. And that’s what it’s all about in the end, right?

Navigating Those Not-Always-So-Friendly Skies

Airfare continues to be a major part of the travel budget for meeting and incentive planners. And while some sources are reporting they see prices leveling off, that isn’t what we’re experiencing in the real world, and we bet you aren’t either.

In this article from USA Today, Rick Seaney shares 5 tips for finding bargain fares. These are great ideas, especially for leisure travel, but when it comes to securing flights and pricing for groups—especially several months in advance of a program—it’s best to leave the details in the hands of an expert.

When you work with an air specialist, the first step will be for them to prepare an Air Analysis for your destination. This will provide information on the airlines serving the destination, the lift available for groups, flight times, length of flights, and the average flight cost. If there are any areas for concern, you’ll know it at this point.

The next step involves an Air Plan Summary, which will show details such as the group flights being held, the seat drop date, when names are due for ticketing, what the rules are for name changes, and the costs of the flights. From there, your air team will manage the remaining details, like making sure deposits are paid, deadlines are met, and ticketing is handled in an accurate and timely manner.

Best of all, if you encounter any flight disruptions (and what are the chances of that happening?), you will have someone to help you navigate the options available to you.

So, consider consulting an expert when it comes to your group meeting and incentive travel. You’ll be glad you did!

IMEX: The World at Your Doorstep

The Incentive, Meetings and Events world comes together in Las Vegas every October for IMEX—the largest hosted buyer program in North America. It’s like taking a trip around the world in three days—on your feet!

It’s the premier showcase for destinations, hotels, cruise lines, DMC’s, airlines, corporate gifts and premiums—with over 3,100 exhibitors in total. And it’s an excellent place for networking, learning and strengthening partnerships. MPI, SITE, PCMA and ASAE are all partners in the initiative, to name just a few.

VIKTOR has participated in this program since its inception in 2011. It’s a very cost-effective and efficient way for us to keep up to date on industry trends, research, trending and emerging destinations as well as technology. From a full day of education on Smart Monday to a variety of certification workshops, opportunities for learning abound, and we make the most of them!

Why? Because it’s critical for us to offer our clients the most up-to-date information on all facets of the incentive industry. Whether it’s travel, rewards and recognition, corporate gifts or the latest in event apps, we want to make sure your programs are on the cutting edge. So, rest assured, we are out there scouring the world for the most creative, engaging and cost-effective solutions to solve your business problems.

What’s Trending in the Incentive Industry?

According to the Incentive Research Foundation and the Incentive Federation’s 2016 Incentive Marketplace Study, there are several key factors impacting the incentive industry today. Number 1, the industry is growing. One of the major drivers of this growth is in non-sales incentives. The service economy continues to grow, and it’s predicted about 90% of the jobs coming into the economy in the next 10 years will be service related. This means engagement is key, so employers must look beyond standard compensation in order to ensure a dedicated and inspired workforce.

Secondly, non-cash incentives continue to grow, with almost 85% of all US companies using them.

It comes as no surprise the Millennials are said to be impacting incentive travel, but the extent of that influence is subject to debate. While they may be driving certain changes, it is unclear whether or not those changes are unique to Millennials or apply across a broader spectrum of age ranges.

And finally, travel disruption is of major concern. Everyone in the industry is looking at how to best deal with increased incidences of terrorism, political unrest, weather disasters and disease epidemics, not to mention the impact of the sharing economy, with companies like Airbnb and Uber changing the marketplace at a rapid pace.

If you’d like to learn more about how to design and create incentive programs that get results, feel free to give VIKTOR a call. And if you’d like to learn more about the key trends shaping the incentive industry, you can read more here.

Bye-bye Buyer’s Market

In case you haven’t heard, we’re no longer operating in a Buyer’s Market. Those days are long gone and won’t be returning anytime soon. Flexibility and the willingness to eliminate certain clauses have gone by the wayside, only to be replaced by stiffer attrition and cancellation penalties, not to mention higher rates. And that’s if you can even find space over your preferred dates! There has been little to no new hotel development over the past 2-3 years, and that is only adding to the problem.

All is not lost, however. It’s still possible to do some negotiating when it comes to contracts–it just takes a bit more time and a lot of attention to detail. A few key things to keep in mind. Hotel companies are consolidating at a rate that is only outpaced by airline consolidation. Flags are changing and there are fewer owners with lots more hotels in their portfolios (i.e., Marriott acquiring Starwood). It’s a good practice to include a “change of ownership or management” clause in contracts. Such a clause can allow the planner the option of cancelling the program without any financial obligations if the hotel changes owners.

With the increase of political unrest, terrorism, unstable weather and disease related disruptions throughout the world, it is wise to consider adding the verbiage “in whole or in part” to force majeure clauses. Typically, we think of this clause coming into effect when the entire program is cancelled, but by adding this wording, it might help eliminate some attrition fees if, say for example, some of your attendees were prevented from attending a meeting/incentive due to strikes or weather conditions in their part of the world, even if those conditions weren’t in effect in the location where the meeting was to be held.

For more information, check out this article from Successful Meetings magazine September 2016 edition.

And if you’d like to learn more about how we protect our clients through our contracting and risk management processes, just give us a call.

Getting out of Your Comfort Zone

Now, more than ever, incentives are about creating experiences. You don’t necessarily have to go to the most exotic destination or stay at the most exclusive resort. Today’s incentive winners are looking for authentic and destination specific experiences that immerse them in local culture and provide great photo ops for social media posts! So forget traditional models and challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone.

In this video, VIKTOR’s President and Owner Mark Bondy talks with Meetings in a Minute about stepping outside your comfort zone when planning meetings and incentives.

Whether it be a “Bike Night” theme at the Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee or a “Paparazzi Red Carpet” at the chic Hazelton Hotel in Toronto, designing a program that speaks to your incentive winners and gives them an experience they couldn’t replicate on their own is what it’s all about. But actually doing it is easier said than done.

In today’s internet world, with everyone blogging and posting their each and every experience in real time, the world is literally at the fingertips of your target audience. They can pull up information on destinations, tours, and local culture in seconds. To make your programs stand out against the competition, you have to provide more than the standard “incentive” fare.

To design a truly engaging, motivating and successful incentive program takes an in-depth knowledge of the audience you’re trying to impact as well as a thorough understanding of what the ultimate goals of the program are. Then, remember to push yourself to consider things that haven’t been tried before. Only then can you begin to develop and design a program that will engage and motivate your audience and help you achieve your goals.

And if you’re interested in learning more about our incentive design process, don’t be shy. You can check it out here.

Oh the Places You’ll Go!

Once you’ve made the decision to use incentive travel as a business tool, you have to decide where it is you’re going to go.  After all, the destination is the primary “carrot”, and you’ll want to use it to promote the trip and possibly even build a theme around it, so it isn’t a decision to be made lightly.

In-depth knowledge of your target audience is vital.  Is it a sun and fun crowd, one looking for a more cultural experience, an adrenaline packed agenda or maybe all of the above?  You’ll need to keep these things in mind, along with budget of course, to come up with a destination that will entice and engage your audience.

In the annual incentive travel survey by Meetings Net and the Incentive Research Foundation released earlier this year, the Top 5 emerging incentive destinations were announced.  At the top of the list, not surprisingly, is Cuba. Although technically U.S. citizens can’t just pack up and go there, there are 12 categories that allow people to visit, but incentive travel isn’t one of them.

Behind Cuba is Panama, where one of the most popular ways to visit is via a Panama Canal cruise. Next is Costa Rica, which has garnered a lot of attention for it biodiversity, friendly people and colorful wildlife.  Colombia came in 4th, (there are actually Panama Canal cruises that include Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia in one cruise!), followed by Iceland, which is gaining attention for its dramatic landscapes and natural beauty.

So where will your next travel incentive take you?  If you’d like to learn more about using travel to accomplish your goals, give VIKTOR a call.  For the complete survey, see the article in Meetings Net.

How to Make Your Incentive Travel Program Successful

Draw the line that connects the behaviors you want to motivate with the financial outcome you want to achieve.

The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) conducted research which uncovered five essential elements that, when combined, formed the core of the successful travel program. These were the items that made the program itself successful:

  1. The earning and selection criteria for the reward were clearly tied to business objectives.
  2. Communication about the program and the progress participants were making toward goals was clear and consistent. Anticipation built throughout the year and kept employees motivated to achieve their objectives.
  3. The design of the travel program, including desirable destinations, interactive sessions and leisure time for the earners, added to the overall excitement.
  4. Executives and key managers acted as hosts to reinforce the company’s commitment to the reward program and recognition.
  5. The company kept detailed records that prove the productivity of the earners and their contributions to the company’s financial performance.

Additionally, to maximize the benefit of an incentive travel program the research concluded the event should include:

  • Recognition of earners.
  • Networking opportunities for top performers to build relationships with other top performers and key management.
  • Collaboration among top performers and management about best practices and ideas.
  • Motivation of earners to continue to achieve high performance.

Incentives Move Business – Travel and the U.S. Economy

In June of 2013, the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives (SITE), released a white paper with some compelling figures on incentives moving business.

“Travel is the sixth largest U.S. industry in terms of employment and is a top 10 employer in 48 states. In 2010, the incentive travel, meetings and events segment of tourism and travel accounted for $92 billion of all business travel expense and 6.3 million jobs in the United States, or 45 percent of all travel-related employment.”

Society of Incentive and Travel Executives (SITE)

The white paper was published to raise awareness and educate businesses and the general public to the facts supporting the positive impact incentive travel and motivation events have, not just on companies.

Employee Engagement: Your Key to Bottom Line Profitability

Employee engagement is a measurable degree of an employee’s positive or negative emotional attachment to their job, colleagues and organization that profoundly influences their willingness to learn and perform at work. They genuinely care about the future of the company and are willing to invest discretionary effort. Employee engagement scores also account for as much as half of the variance in customer satisfaction scores? This translates into millions of dollars for companies. An organization’s employees influence the behavior and attitudes of customers, and it is customers who drive an organization’s profitability through the purchase and use of its products. Engaged employees impact your bottom line. That shouldn’t be any new news for anyone.

But, did you know that disengaged employees can also impact your bottom line? The financial cost of employee disengagement for organizations and economics are surprising. Consider the following:

  1. According to Gallup, disengaged workers costs the U.S. economy $370 billion a year in lost productivity.
  2. According to a McLean & Company study, disengaged employees cost organizations $3,400 a year for every $10,000 in annual salary.
  3. Watson Wyatt found that turnover—the inevitable outcome of disengagement—costs organizations between 48 and 61 percent of an employee’s annual salary.

Ensure that your bottom line is impacted in a positive manner by developing an employee engagement program in your organization. Build a culture with your employees and take advantage of the benefits that come with it. Besides, it’s a mutual feeling. Your employees will appreciate the respect you have for them, building on the loyalty that will set you apart from competitors.