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How To Plan An Incentive Trip Part 3: Running the Trip

Manchester event agency incentive tripv2
Welcome, Eventurers, to the final part of planning an incentive trip!

The first part of the trip is getting everyone together. If you are going straight to a UK venue that could be reasonably straight forward. If you’re travelling beyond these shores, that’ll involve meeting at an airport or the Eurostar terminal. So, although carried out pre-departure, it’s vital that the first thing you need to think about is getting everyone prepared…

1. The Gathering

Everyone should have received joining instructions. These are the basics of where and when to meet and who to look out for. But included within these instructions should be reminders about passports (you’d be surprised!), taking their EHIC card if going to Europe, travel insurance (if not part of the prize) and a driving licence, even if they won’t be driving. With ever increasing numbers of illegal immigrants entering Europe, it’s not uncommon for visitors to be randomly stopped by authorities to check for ID (and you don’t want to be taking your passport on a night out!)

Included in the joining instructions should be an indication of appropriate clothing. It’s all too easy to assume that because you’re going to a warm place that you don’t need warm clothing for the evening, or if you’re going on a boat. Equally, boat shoes are inappropriate for Oslo in winter…

2. The Host with the Most?

If you are hosting a group, how involved in the trip should you be? If they are work colleagues and you know them, then you’ll probably be very involved. If you don’t know them and you’re really there more as a guide then that is a harder call. Our view is that we’re not there to be Club 18-30 Reps, leading the charge and in everyone’s faces; nor are we to be the serious teacher on the school trip, lurking in the shadows and equally, we’re not going to become servants for three days! Working out the level to which you should integrate into the group can be tricky but is usually led by the group. Never forget though, that as the responsible adult, you need to keep your wits about you for troubleshooting and remain very aware of any potential issues either caused by the group or that could possibly effect the group.

3. What to do?

It sounds obvious but try and arrange activities that are relevant to, or even better, unique to the area, perhaps even once in a lifetime activities… snowmobiling in Iceland, surfing down sand dunes in the Dubai desert, sea swimming with dolphins. Activities that winners wouldn’t usually spend their own money on or get away with spending the family money on! Even so, sometimes you just can’t predict how activities will be received. On a trip to New York, we took a group out in helicopters along the Hudson, around Liberty, and over the south side of Manhattan. Not cheap. But for the group, the most enjoyable memory they had of the whole trip was ice skating in Central Park (which cost $19) – because it snowed!

4. Group dynamics

Sometimes groups know each other sometimes just a few do but many don’t. Even if they don’t all know each other, experience has taught us to try and keep the group together as much as possible outside of scheduled activities. So, leisure time before dinner is fine but rather than having no plan, pre-booking space in a few bars gives the group the opportunity to mix, drink, relax without having to look for suitable bars, finding the space for a group of their size etc. If some want to wander for a bit, they’ll always have somewhere to regroup.

5. The Extra Touches

People will always remember the bigger activities they take part in on a trip but never underestimate the power of those little extra touches. At the beginning of the trip they can help set the tone and remind people that they are regarded as special: the welcome drinks on arrival, the in-room gift, perhaps special signage.

You’ll probably have to move people around from A to B at some point but it doesn’t have to be a coach, it could be a boat, SuperJeep, tuk-tuk, helicopter… how about drinks en route?

You could provide access to places that the public simply cannot get to. For a client group we took to Las Vegas, we sought out and got access to Hugh Heffner’s private club! For another group we arranged (after months of negotiations) a tour of the Taittinger estate, chaperoned by a family member!

Here’s a final top tip – always check passport details for birthdays. We’ve had quite a few on our trips and there is always a little surprise planned for them…

Until next time Eventurers!

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How to Plan an Incentive Trip: Part 2 - Launch and Communication

Manchester Event Management Agency Incentive Trip

So you’re back from your recce, the expenses receipts have been submitted and the thousands of images you’ve taken are uploaded – what’s next?

Again, there are four broad stages to really driving your incentive and motivating a change in behaviour – after all – that’s what it’s all about:

1. What’s the plan?
You’ve seen the places, met the suppliers and tasted the atmosphere – so what are you going to recommend? You’re going to have a debrief with the client but you can’t recommend everything. Your first task is to gather your thoughts on what activities to include, places to visit, restaurants to dine at. Nothing is being set in stone, but begin to get a feel for what could be achieved. What mix of places and activities would work well for the group? And whilst you’re doing this – never forget your likely audience. Don’t go on what you’d like to do or what you think the client would like to do. Or if you are the client then put the group first. They won’t thank you for taking them on your own personal joyride, which they hate. Think of the demographic of your group.

Top Tip – include plenty of downtime. People always appreciate breathing space on incentive trips. Sure - they want fun stuff to do but energy reserves soon begin to drain!

2.  Make some noise
If you haven’t already done so (and timing will dictate this) hold a launch event to acknowledge the start of the incentive. Whether a single office or over multiple sites, get the message and objectives out there, not to mention the rewards, with branded material, desk-drops… perhaps you could set up a microsite. Teaser desk-drops can work wonders. If they are on message, the item will stay around on a desk forever! Try and keep the theme relevant to the reward but you can also mark the occasion by breaking the routine – perhaps bringing in a special lunch or themed snacks.

3.  Communication
Psychologists tell us that we all love rewards, even if that just means finding out some new information – learning something interesting. So, why splurge the whole plan in one go?

By all means share the big picture but save the detail for later on. For our clients, we often create a teaser email campaign so every few weeks everyone gets a little more insight into what they’re competing for. It gives participants a boost, reminds them about the incentive and how much they want to win it! We sometimes have spot prizes too so that interest is kept high week-to-week and especially for those that may not be in the front running.

4.  Winner takes all!
If at all possible, gather the troops in to announce the winners in person – another mini event. But if your players are all over the place then it will have to be done via the email comms. That said, you could still send them something that will arrive at their desk. Something that has the double effect of celebrating their win and showing colleagues that they could have won. Our winners’ presentations focus on the destination in some way: themed clothing, local produce, destination guide – and importantly – the full itinerary and a link to an incentive App.

The planning has happened, the incentive places have been won – in part three we’ll take you through what to do when it all comes together.

Until next time Eventurers!

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How to Plan an Incentive Trip: Part 1 – The Recce

Managing an incentive trip

[What? The venue didn't tell you that the square they are on is where the local drunks take their siesta?]

Let’s not forget, fellow Eventurers
, winning an incentive trip, whether in the UK or overseas is a big thing for the winner. There might be a few bragging rights earned amongst colleagues; friends and family will be impressed but ultimately of course, the trip is a reward for all of the winner’s hard work and dedication.   There should be plenty to look forward to and if the planning has paid off, the real power of the incentive is when the winners return and share their stories with their work mates – what better motivation for everyone to work towards the next one?

Key to ensuring this sort of response is the recce.

A recce is basically a site visit – but on a whole different level. The amount of planning that goes into the recce can seem disproportionate to the duration of the visit, but this is where you find out whether your desk research has given you an accurate picture of what you are dealing with.

And let’s not forget, in order to even get to the stage of the recce, you’ve already carried out a whole lot of research into options for locations, venues, activities, transport etc. Your client has selected this option as their preferred choice and so between you, there is already quite an investment of planning, time and emotion into the recce option.

The information you’ll need to gather on the recce will vary slightly depending on whether the final incentive trip will be hosted or not. Either way, the four core elements should be as follows:

1.  Identify the Suppliers
The chances are, your group will be staying at least one night so start with the basics – identify some target hotels to visit. There’s a lot to consider: the location, price, quality of rooms, vibe and fit with the group, can coaches drop off nearby and crucially – the kind of service you’ve received so far. We would usually have one or two targets in mind but have another three visits scheduled as back ups.

All of the above applies equally to all of your other suppliers such as activity providers, restaurants or transfer companies. Have a preferred selection already in mind along with some back-ups. Plans can change at short notice for reasons not of your own making.

2.  Plan Your Meetings
It’s not enough to just stroll around looking at places and spaces – prior to arriving on your recce, you’ll need to have scheduled meetings. Not an easy task when you’re only there for a short while and you’ve got to work around their diaries too. Not only do you have to find the suppliers, you have to find where they are on the ground, relative to each other, so that you know how to get to and from them, the quickest way possible. You’re a stranger in a strange town, often with a language barrier. Google maps will get you so far but it might take longer than you think for your mind map to kick in!

Also, you need to check out the immediate environment. Being there, on the ground can tell you a lot that perhaps, you wouldn’t learn from the venue. They’re unlikely to share that scaffolding clads the building and dust is everywhere, or that the square outside is where the local drunks gather for an afternoon nap.

3.  Absorb the Bars & Restaurants
Tough job eh?
The chances are, bars and restaurants will be as important to the success of your incentive as the hotel and activities. You may not be able to sample all of the food options at every restaurant you visit but you can get an idea of menu, prices, spaces within the restaurant, atmosphere and how you think your group would be treated. Look for any potential enhancements such as welcome drinks, exclusive seating areas and critically, whether they accept card payments. Strange as it sounds, not all places do, especially in Europe. This could be critical if the group won’t be hosted by someone from the agency.

4.  Become the Font of all Knowledge
If you will be hosting the group (and the host should always have done the recce!) they will quickly come to rely on you for everything, that includes local knowledge. Keep an eye out for local ATMs, pharmacies, taxi ranks, local points of interest such as squares to visit, even doctors and dentists could be useful! Talk to everyone you have a meeting with to gain as much on-the-ground knowledge as possible. You’re on the lookout for hidden gems that can enhance the group experience and potholes that might cause it to lose a wheel. For example, your recce might be taking place at a different time of day/week/month/year to when the group will be visiting. You’ll need to overlay knowledge of this difference on top of the knowledge of your experience. For example – if the town is going to be a whole lot busier at the time of the trip, would you plan things differently?

At the start of the recce you’ll be like a sponge soaking up information and by the end, you should be able to start formulating a draft plan. It can be quite exhausting working on the recce but the information gathered is hugely rewarding. Hopefully, you’ll be overwhelmed by positive options, although the reality is that you may be separating some chaff from your wheat! Some of your draft plan may resemble your original desk-based plan, but by now you will have so much more information to fill in the gaps.

Our biggest two tips are to leave some downtime between meetings and visits – not only will timings fluctuate but you’ll be able to write up notes immediately after your meetings. You’ll be amazed how quickly they’ll begin to blur.

Secondly, take pictures of as much as the town/area as you can – not just the venues you visit. Not only will you have visual references of the places you end up using, you’ll have general imagery for marketing and comms.

That’s all for part one – part two will look at post-recce planning and creating the comms and marketing programme to really drive enthusiasm for your incentive!

Until next time, Eventurers!

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