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Where do you stay when you’re planning a road trip with an incentive group and want to take your dogs with you? More and more hotels are meeting pet-lovers’ needs, The Siteseer discovered. Here are some New South Wales suggestions.

The Grove at Clifton Grove, near Orange

Heather Dunn and her husband Terry (below), who’ve lived in Orange, four hours’ drive west of Sydney, for many years, can cater for groups of up to five at their leafy property on the outskirts of the rural New South Wales town – eight kilometres’ drive from the Orange Post Office. Not only do visitors get an effusive welcome from their little dog, Lancelot, when they arrive, they discover that their own canines are welcomed equally enthusiastically.

“Ozzie just came and had a cuddle with us,” said Heather one winter afternoon after I’d checked in to their snug B&B, The Grove, for a couple of days. “Then she came with us for a walk when we went to feed the rabbits, and has had a marvellous time.”

While the extent of their tolerance for having dogs to stay and roaming their property may be unusual, demand for such pet-friendly service is growing, says Heather. “We’re getting more and more people interested in doing so,” she says.

In addition to people holidaying with their pets, travelling to the area to sample local food and wine, many clients are temporarily in town because they’re picking up puppies or new dogs from country properties nearby, Heather adds. “Since the lockdowns began, school holidays have been really busy. I think the fact that we’re pet-friendly gives families the peace of mind that comes with having their loved dogs with them.”

Rooms here, featuring beds with electric blankets, are AUD170 per night, with breakfast included.

For more info, click here.



Oasis Motel, Peak Hill

The managers of this discreet property in the small town of Peak Hill, set on the main road between Dubbo and Parkes, allow dogs to be brought into some rooms, which are all ground-floor with easy access to a grassy area, barbecue facilities and swimming pool.

The rooms are small and compact with the conveniences guests need in summer or winter: aircon, microwave, toaster, fridge and so forth.

The town has several shops and cafés, and an ex-services and citizens’ club with a good Chinese restaurant, a great Australian country tradition.


Among the local attractions are walking tracks, fishing and an defunct open gold mine, legacy of a gold rush at the end of the nineteenth century.

Rooms here are AUD90 per night.

For more information, click here.



Moonraker Motor Inn, Parkes

At the edge of the pretty town of Parkes, five hours west of Sydney, the Moonraker Motor Inn welcomes dogs and is in the process of renovating its 24 rooms to do so more effectively.

“We’re half-way through the renovations,” explains General Manager Vaseem (Vas) Ahmed. “The pet-friendly rooms will be the best in the motel once we’ve completed [the work].”

The rooms here are significantly bigger than those in standard motels and have easy access to a large grassed area, security-lit at night, where hounds can exercise. The licensed restaurant, Clarinda, does a brisk trade with a traditional Aussie menu with such staples as crumbed chops and mash, steaks and salads. The property is a couple of minutes’ drive from the town centre.

A well-known local attraction for incentive groups is the giant Parkes radio telescope, 20 minutes away, which is still operating and was one of the antennae used to receive live pictures of the Apollo moon landing. The staff in the facility’s shop allow dogs to be brought onto the premises.

Also nearby, at the airport, is the Parkes Aviation Museum whose exhibits include a variety of commercial and military aircraft. Visitors can enter the planes and look around at their leisure; admission is free.

Rooms at the Moonraker start at AUD 100 per night.



For more information, click here.



Bathurst Explorers Motel

With a marketing tag of ‘spend a night not a fortune,’ this double-storey property in the city of Bathurst, three hours’ west of Sydney, welcomes dogs in its ground-floor rooms and is clean and comfortable, with a number of room configurations. The dining room represents great value for money, with continental breakfasts for $5 and a full breakfast plus coffee costing me $12. Electric blankets are a welcome feature in Bathurst’s notoriously chilly winters.

Rooms at the Bathurst Explorers Motel are AUD100 per night.

For more information, click here.





Set a short walk from famed Waikiki Beach, the Hawai’i Convention Center is an event destination like none other, say its operators. They don’t exaggerate. Walk into the vast lobby and you find yourself in a captivating environment of airiness, light and space.

HCC_Teri OrtonHere, live palm trees soar toward distant glass ceilings on slim trunks while huge fans circulate the tropical air. Mezzanine terraces provide gathering places, and escalators sweep upward to a multitude of meeting rooms and conference halls. The International Association of Exhibitions and Events voted this Center, completed in 1998, the most beautiful in the world.

“A comment we frequently receive from meeting planners is that their attendees feel more relaxed in Hawai‘i and in our beautiful open-air building,” says Teri Orton (left), general manager of the Hawai’i Convention Center (which is managed by LA-based venue-management organisation AEG Facilities). “Indeed they’re in an environment that inspires networking and collaboration.”

Visitors can connect easily in the sprawling common areas and choose between 47 meeting rooms. The 1.1 million square feet of meeting space can accommodate events for more than 13,000 attendees.


There’s a 200,000-square-foot exhibit hall, two theatres, a 35,000-square-foot ballroom and a registration lobby of the same size, as well as a vegetation-fringed, 2.5-acre landscaped rooftop events terrace used for banquets and receptions.

There are more than 30,000 overnight rooms in Waikiki, and more than 28,000 of them are within a two-kilometre radius of the center, which is 10 kilometres from the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport and close to some of Hawai‘i’s top museums, shopping, dining and entertainment spots.

Central location

The Hawaiian Islands are in the middle of the Pacific. So why would international meetings organisers choose to hold an event here? It’s an easy question to answer, says Teri; Hawaii is centrally located for visitors from North America and the Asia Pacific, with not-too-trying travel times.

“They see value in Hawai‘i because of our accessibility, multi-ethnic food, wonderful weather all year round, and the opportunity to rejuvenate and relax. And just because it’s paradise doesn’t mean you can’t get business done.”

Getting business done

Plenty of visitors realise this, she says, as did the American Dental Association recently when it hosted its annual meeting here. It was one of the biggest gatherings ever hosted by the HCC, attracting over 16,200 dentists, dental professionals and hygienists from 52 countries over five days.

Hawai‘i claims to offer the best of business and leisure. It features a world-class meeting and convention facility and is one of the most sought-after vacation destinations on earth. It’s also known for its innovation and leadership in medicine, technology, business and science.

IMG_1743For PCOs considering it, there’s much assistance on hand. Meet Hawai‘i, a collaboration of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA), HTA’s Global Marketing Teams and the Hawai‘i Convention Center, has an extensive local network of professionals and outreach initiatives – including the Elele Program, which enlists the support of community leaders, known as ambassadors, who have ties to professional organisations. These volunteers often have insights and personal relationships that help the Meet Hawai‘i team craft more thoughtful bids and reach key decision makers, they say.

Many national and international conventions require an invitation from a Hawai‘i contingent to consider the islands as a destination, so the local ambassador can be a valuable asset in securing business for the Hawai‘i Convention Center and hotels in the state. “The Meet Hawai‘i team also has representatives in Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, and Oceania,” says Teri.


Value for money

Critics say PCOs find it hard to get the same bang for their buck in the US as they would in Indochina, for instance. The Meet Hawai‘i team is clear on this: it depends on how you define value, on who you are and what you seek. They say they take time to understand their clients’ objectives, program needs and budget. Then they apply their knowledge of the destination to ensure the right results. she says.

The center hosts a variety of events. At the end of November it hosted the Pacific Rim Futsal Cup. This tournament will be held on the new indoor athletic courts for the next four years, using the nearly 89,000-square-foot Exhibit Hall 1 to set up five courts for simultaneous play. Statewide spending for this event alone is estimated to be around USD $3.8 million.

Sustainability in mind

The HCC has been designed in alignment not only with what the locals call the Hawaiian sense of place, but with sustainability and efficiency principles in mind, and careful attention being paid to reducing waste in each stage in the event process, says Teri.

IMG_1770It recently launched its “Hoʻomaluō Program,” a comprehensive approach to environmental sustainability aiming to “enhance the guest, planner, staff and community meetings and events experience”. This project was launched in conjunction with the 2018 American Dental Association meeting.

The center has won a swag of sustainability accolades, such as the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification. And through its One Million Trees effort, it supports reforestation on the Hawaiian Islands. “The awards recognise the dedication of our staff to providing a world-class experience in Hawaii,” says Teri Orton.

Meanwhile the operators are continually seeking ways to improve the conference experience for exhibitors. Such steps recently involved the addition of massage chairs, charging stations for mobile devices, a new business center, plush furniture, an online interactive map and 3D floor plans that allow exhibitors to view and tour services and spaces.

“Our guests, planners, staff and communities have come together for more than two decades to preserve, protect and enhance the natural beauty of the Hawaiian Islands,” says Teri Orton. “Since our opening 20 years ago we’ve been deeply committed to a multi-faceted approach to environmental conservation that inspires everything we do and touches everyone we serve.”

More information, visit

Hawai‘i Convention Center
1801 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815

Phone: +1 (808) 943-3500
Fax: +1 (808) 943-3099


Convention Center Low Light Aeria_8x5in-NEW







The engaging, effervescent Director of Sales, Marketing and Revenue for the DoubleTree Hilton in Waikiki Beach, Cheryl Nasser, is an enthusiastic advocate for the islands of Hawaii – and her hotel. The Siteseer chatted with Cheryl recently to find out what makes them special, and why PCOs could profitably consider meeting there.

The Siteseer: So Cheryl, why should an events organiser hold a meeting in Hawaii, and at your property?

Cheryl Nasser: The people, for one thing. In the 14 years I’ve been in Hawaii I’ve lived on three islands, and the people share something wonderful in common. They aren’t all necessarily of Hawaiian blood, like me, I come from California, but they all embrace the generous Hawaiian culture. This places great emphasis on friendliness and family, and Hawaii in turn embraces the diverse people who’ve come to live here. I really love and appreciate this, both in the workplace and in my personal life.

The DoubleTree Hilton itself embraces that inclusive culture, and it starts on arrival with the friendliness of the staff, the chocolate chip cookies and so on that are presented to you. It’s about caring, and that’s also part of the DoubleTree brand and its standards.

43602248SS: Where do your meetings clients mostly come from?

CN: Some business is from local enterprises, government and military around the island of Oahu [where Honolulu and Waikiki are located] for meetings and leisure. Our meetings encompass anything from seminars and training sessions, to banquets, weddings and celebrations like high-school reunions.

SS: Do you get many inbound events?

CM: Yes, our hotel and Waikiki itself are popular with Japanese visitors for example. We do lots of student group tours from Japan, on exchange programs or the programs they need to do to get into college. We also have a definite and emerging Chinese market, matching what’s happened around the world everywhere from New York to Chicago, Australia and elsewhere. In the years that I’ve been here I’ve seen huge growth in this sector.

SS: One of the first things a PCO or anyone looking to organise a meeting wants to know is what they’re going to get for their money? Do you represent value?

CN: Part of our value is that we’re centrally located, a very short walk from Waikiki Beach. It’s a place where people can meet and be close to the beach, restaurants, shopping and so on. We have beautiful weather throughout the year, and there’s easy access by air. There’s also what can best be described as a sense of place when you’re in Hawaii; you know you’re going to have an enjoyable leisure component, that you’re going to meet, yes, but you’re not going to meet all day. You can have fun, see the island, and Hawaii has been put on the map [gastronomically] in the past few years, with great seafood especially. We have top chefs here.

We’re close to the widest stretch of the beach on Waikiki, which many people don’t realise. We’re set next to a pretty park which is government land that will never be built on – a great place to relax and stroll. Plus the Hawaii Convention Center is only two blocks from the hotel.

IMG_1799There’s a big emphasis on sustainability, which more and more visitors expect. For instance the Governor of Hawaii wants us to be completely sustainable in the next ten years, in everything from agriculture to food production, and to look after our ocean environment, which is vitally important for the future of the world, not just Hawaii.

SS: What would the average rate be for a typical conference or wedding here?

CN: Our conference day rate depends on the package and whether you’re going to have food, [so it’s negotiable].


It goes by season but during the summer the room rate would be in the USD 200 to $220 range; at other times it would be $180 or $190. We look at the market and see what demand is.

Look, at some level we’re not going to be able to compete against some countries in terms of cost. We’re part of the US and have certain standards for wages and so on. But the experience you get is great value. People see that when they’re here.

Many groups will incentivise their sales teams with a trip to Hawaii, and some of the outer islands with high-end resorts are outstanding places for such groups. Every island has just about everything you want to experience as a delegate, from horseback riding to diving, hiking, eating out, sampling local beers and spirits. We have it all really.

SS: Is there a better time of the year to get better deals for conferences and events?

CN: The [northern] winter time, November December, is a better time to get the best value on meetings and room rates. You see better prices for airfares, from all over, as well in this period. And we have a spring rates period through April and May.

We continuously upgrade and refresh the property. The hotel runs at high occupancy so we get lots of constant trade. Book early! 

HNLKADT_meetings_full_ilimaSS: Tell us about the hotel’s meeting facilities.

CN: We have ten thousand square feet of meeting space within 10 meeting rooms. This doesn’t include our pool deck and the penthouse lanai, which have beautiful views and are popular for outdoor events. Our largest space can accommodate up to 180 people for dinner.

As mentioned we’re a great location, a two-to-three-block, eight-minute walk from the beach and close to our sister resort property, the Hilton, and Hilton Hawaiian village [a major hotel, restaurant and shopping precinct] which has thousands of guest rooms in five towers.


SS: Tell us a bit about your background.

CN: I’ve been in the industry about thirty years. I started my career in front office, working on the US mainland, in southern California and San Francisco. I worked back of house for a time as well. I joined Hilton out at the Hawaiian Village and also worked on the island of Maui, where I lived for six years. I’ve been with the DoubleTree here for five-and-a-half years, having started out in revenue management and staying in that area until the beginning of 2018. One of the great things about working in this industry is that you have opportunities to get, and give, promotions.

So at the beginning of 2018 I was given the opportunity to take over sales and marketing as well as revenue management. I now oversee a team of six.

It’s a great place to work. We have many team members who’ve worked here and in the wider Hilton group for 20 years or more. We have a new general manager, Fernando Vasquez [pictured below, with Cheryl], who recently joined us.

SS: You must have had interesting experiences dealing with guests?

CN: Yes, we’ve had vice president Biden visiting here, and actors from Hawaii Five-O.

One time when we had an overbooking, a businessman refused to leave even though we said we’d pay for a room at another property. He wouldn’t budge and said he was going to sleep on a couch in the lobby. Eventually, though, he did leave and the next day he called to apologise for his behaviour. I always say to the team that when guests arrive you don’t know what they’ve experienced to get here. They may have had flights cancelled or delayed, and one little thing tips them over the edge.

There are so many Hilton hotels. In all of them [success is] about building relationships. And one of the challenges for us is that there are still many people who don’t know we’re here. And as I said, our location is ideal.

More information, click here.



It’s a small thing for some people, sure, but it suggests a well-run establishment, whose operators are mindful of the green sensibilities of many of today’s travellers.

I’m talking about the two-litre glass, recyclable bottles of drinking water that are provided in the 48 guest bedrooms of The District hotel, Boracay, one of the most beautiful of the 7,107 islands in the Philippines. As anyone who knows Asian beaches can attest, discarded plastic is a ubiquitous scourge, and in a small way The District is trying to do something about it.

The four-star hotel is set on Boracay’s famed White Beach, a stretch of gleaming talcum-power sand on the western side of the seven-kilometre-long island, in the busy central tourist area known as Station 2. This precinct’s unimaginative name belies the beauty of the beach itself – and of the hotel. It’s a delightful white-painted building whose cool interiors, symmetrical lines and elegant stone pathways and finishes are redolent of hostelries of the Greek islands and southern Spain.

The District Boracay - FacadeStandard room rates include round-trip transfers from the airport at Caticlan on an adjacent island, involving a private speedboat ride and a choice of breakfast or brunch buffet for two. The District is in fact the only resort on the island that offers guests the option of either breakfast or brunch as part of the regular rate, says Marketing and PR Manager Vina Mataganas.

It’s great value for money for events and leisure visitors alike, Vina says. “You can have your late breakfast or brunch till 1pm, and guests enjoy complimentary massage samplers at our spa or complimentary drinks at the bar. In addition to the physical treats they enjoy personalised service, which I think is really at the core of a great resort or hotel.”

Wedding ceremonies are a key component of the District’s business, as are private dinners and corporate events. The conference room can accommodate up to 80, and can be easily converted into two rooms to cater for smaller groups. And there’s an events roof deck (and bar) that overlooks the beach. On this elevated first-floor perch guests can enjoy evening cocktails while watching the sun sink into the South China Sea.

The hotel’s MICE business is at present mostly local, but it also hosts international incentive visitors, says Vina. One recent group, for example, came from Russia.

The District Boracay - Deluxe Room (King)There’s a serene lap pool as well as a spa and fitness centre, and two restaurants serve as well-priced alternatives to the plethora of other outlets that front onto White Beach.

One of the District’s restaurants, the Caruso, has tables inside the hotel, on the ground floor, and set out on the beach after dark. (It will operate at The District until May 31 then be replaced later in the year by a new restaurant, The Plenary, offering comfort food, and a café, the House Brew.)

The breakfast and brunch buffets offer a variety of local and western fare, from fresh fruit and salads to Filipino dishes like fried pork and noodles. In an egg station, smiling chefs whip up omelettes to order, virtually in an instant. The buffet restaurant, The Star Lounge, has both alfresco and indoor areas, the latter suiting diners who prefer eating in cool surrounds.

But, undoubtedly, one of the most attractive features of the establishment is the beach itself. Guests leaving the hotel step, literally, from the front door onto the sand and into the shade of rustling palm trees. The azure water, fifteen metres away, is a balmy-bathwater temperature all year round.

“Most important of all, we know our guests by heart,” says Vina. “We offer unrivalled and personalised service; in fact we’re a consistent recipient of TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice Award, mainly because of our service, as well as our location and facilities.”

From USD180 per day

Meeting package rates here range from PHP 1,800 (USD 36) to PHP 3,200 (USD 64) per person per day, depending on menu choice and whether organisers opt for half-board or full-board meals. Room rates start from PHP 9,900 (USD 198). “But we customise packages, which gives our guests flexibility in managing their budgets,” says Vina.

Events visitors, meanwhile, appreciate The District Boracay’s embrace of sustainability principles in a variety of ways. For example the hotel uses solar power to augment its electricity needs, via a hundred solar panels installed on the rooftops. “We’re for sustainable tourism; that’s why we make sure we do our part in offsetting our operation’s carbon footprint,” says Vina.

More information here.

The District Boracay - Resort Grounds



I gave my first address at an event when I was just twenty-one. A friend had asked me to amuse the 100-odd delegates at the black-tie function with a witty introduction. I’d seen other people talking publicly, many times. They were eloquent and seemed relaxed. How tough can it be? I thought to myself. All I needed to do was pitch up, be myself and I would surely be just as entertaining.

It started. By the time the guests were seated I’d had several drinks. I stood up, looked at the expectant faces of the guests, and froze.

A visceral fear gripped me as I suddenly realised I had nothing to say. Though in hindsight it was obvious what I should have done, I couldn’t even bring myself to thank my friend for inviting me to talk. Seconds stretched agonisingly while the guests waited for me to begin. Then I remembered a joke. I’ll make them laugh, I told myself.

I still remember the gag. It was about a woman who tells her butler to remove her dress, then her shoes, then her underwear. The punchline was: “Now Jeeves, don’t ever let me catch you wearing my clothes again.”

I’d thought the joke was funny when I first heard it in the raucous environs of a pub. Now it raised barely a titter. Inwardly I squirmed. The gag was wholly wrong for the formal gathering. My friend was embarrassed too, and quickly took over.

I’ve thought about that evening many times, because the incident has several lessons for speech makers, and always epitomises, for me, some of the worst mistakes they can make at conferences and functions. Since then I’ve tried to make amends – and learned some important rules.

youth-conference-1563244-1918x608If you heed them you may find people will love hearing you talk. A happy audience is an attentive one – who’ll absorb the messages you want to deliver. And when you know they’re enjoying what you’ve got to say, you’ll have fun as well.

These rules are simple. Some of them are elementary, but many people forget the obvious, which is why folks you’d expect to know better, like senior politicians and self-important business managers and company leaders, so often bore their audiences rigid at functions.


Mark Twain pointed out that it can take more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech. As I discovered at my friend’s event, there’s no short cut to a good one. To make an entertaining, inspiring and informative public address, good preparation is arguably the most important weapon in your armoury. And as with all worthwhile creative endeavours,  the more effort you put in up front, the better results you’ll get.

Find out all you can about the subject by reading or talking to people who are intimately acquainted with it. If the speech is about a product, for example, talk to everyone involved in creating and marketing it and read up as much of the relevant literature online and elsewhere as you can; if it’s about a company, phone up or write to key people. Ask them for stories and insights about the enterprise which you might be able to use.

Research quotes you might want to include, then sift them to select the ones you like best and which best illustrate the points you want to make.


Though it can fail disastrously if used inappropriately, humour is a vital ingredient in just about every conference address. A message for every nervous speech-maker – one that should, in theory, help to alleviate nervousness if it’s properly absorbed – is that your listeners want you to succeed when you step up to the podium. That’s because everyone has sat through speeches of excruciating boringness and lengthiness, and they’re sick of it.

Far too many speeches are boring. In many cases the culprits are people in positions of authority who are used to having captive audiences hanging on their every word because they have no other option.  They’re often executives, bureaucrats, politicians, academics, teachers and – yes Lord – the clergy.

I well recall sitting through an hour-long speech during a publishing-industry event in Sydney. It was delivered just after lunch, the time known as the dead hour at conventions, in a droning monotone by a company’s financial executive. Unalleviated by humour, it had no structure, being entirely a recitation of figures and facts accompanied by the occasional overhead chart packed with columns of incomprehensible numbers, graphs, arrows and boxes. People fell asleep; some left.

I was trapped in the centre of a row and couldn’t escape without making a spectacle of myself, so I was forced to endure it, becoming more and more angry about being subjected to the ordeal.

angry-1431096The clergy are notorious sinners when it comes to talking boringly and humourlessly, and always have been. The American president Calvin Coolidge reportedly once sat through an interminable hellfire and damnation sermon from a preacher. When asked afterwards what the preacher spoken about, the president replied: “Sin, he was against it.”

Everyone has suffered through events like this. That’s why a speaker who’s genuinely amusing, entertaining and interesting is loved by audiences. Subconsciously, folks who wait for an address to begin are hoping that, just this time, they won’t be bored half to death.

If the talk is better than they expect, they sit up, their eyes brighten, they think to themselves, This is not so bad. Gags, one-liners and little stories that they’d ordinarily find mildly funny now make them laugh aloud. And laughter is contagious; it has an energising effect on an audience and helps to sharpen its attention.

So, as they look up at you, captive audiences who sit and wait for you to begin your talk are subconsciously asking, “Please, entertain me.”

To illustrate what I mean, some years ago I was giving an address to about 300 people at a conference, and discussing a new system we had introduced to produce and publish a magazine. I knew some in the audience had misgivings about the proposed changes, so I told a story.

“I know some people are nervous about this change,” I said. “It reminds me of the American astronaut who was asked whether he was nervous while sitting in his rocket on the launch pad. ‘Of course I was nervous,’ he said. ‘I was in a machine made from 100,000 parts, all produced by the lowest bidder.’”

Not that funny, but it worked. The audience, who’d been in a stupor while sitting through long presentations earlier, now laughed loudly. The reason it worked is that the theme of the gag – nervousness about something new and challenging – was directly related to the theme of my talk.

Attempts at humour that are inappropriate or unrelated to the subject/s of the function can be catastrophically un-funny.  I once attended a wedding at which the best man stood up to talk about the bridal couple. His jokes were crude and embarrassing. He ended by telling a joke about a Frenchman who had wished a married couple “a penis” (happiness, geddit?) on their wedding night. Nobody laughed. The parents and grandparents sat stone-faced.


Most addresses must have a focus, and their “ingredients” – the observations,  jokes, stories – should relate directly to it. If you’re talking about a new product, don’t digress by discussing show business, or politics, or lawyers, unless you can demonstrate the relevance of these observations to the theme of your talk.


To paraphrase the British poet T. S. Eliot, the key to successful communication is “show, don’t tell.” Essential to speech-making at meetings is the ability to illustrate the themes of your address with real-life examples: anecdotes. By using these you can demonstrate to your audience aspects of the ideas you’re discussing, rather than simply telling them things and expecting them to take your word for it.

You can tell your listeners a product or new brand is worthwhile, but why should they believe you unless you can supply evidence to support what you’re saying? That evidence can be powerfully supplied by the right anecdotes.

Anecdotes can be funny, or serious, but insightful. Above all they must be relevant. Obviously those you use must be evaluated. If you’re discussing the financial growth of a telecommunications company, for example, it won’t serve you well to illustrate your theme with an anecdote about what’s happening in the motor industry, unless you can link it directly to the focus of your speech.

let-us-talk-1166896-1920x1280USE OTHER EVIDENCE

In speech-making at conferences, you should enrich your presentation with more evidence than what can just be provided via anecdotes. Often this takes the form of statistics and trends.

But here’s a potential pitfall. Statistics are boring in anything other than the briefest form, and so are market trends, macro-economics, recitations of dry history and so forth. If you’re citing stats, choose two or three that are short, and most strongly illustrate the point you want to make.


For example, if you’re talking about advertising sales in a publishing company, something as brief as this might be appropriate:

The third quarter has been a challenge. We’re eight percent behind budget in the southeast, tracking on budget in the north and around 14 percent up in the southwestern districts. Happily, October looks like being a record month, with three new clients signing up for the first time. We’re confident that we’ll still hit our targets for the fiscal year.

Then move on. Any more statistics here – dealing with this subtheme – would be overkill, especially if you have more potentially dry subjects and stats to get through.


Carefully selected quotations can be a key component of any speech, for any occasion. The intelligent reflections of successful people, especially if they’re concerned with the issues under discussion, are insightful and useful.

They add a new intellectual dimension to a public address that prods a listener’s mind, helping to keep your audience thinking and attentive. Moreover, they can add to your listener’s enjoyment by giving him or her a perception of “buy-in.”

It’s a form of intellectual flattery: you’re sharing with them insights into the minds of great people, knowing they’ll appreciate them. And they invariably do.

Here’s an excerpt from an introduction to a seminar:

As you know, the primary reason for this seminar is for us to talk over issues relevant to the company and, ultimately, have a drink and a chat. We all work so hard these days on a never-ending production cycle that we have little time for relaxed examination of our working lives and informal communication. And as Socrates said 2500 years ago, “the unexamined life is not worth living”.

It’s a brief quote from Socrates, but a nice punctuation at that point of the talk . . .

Here’s another:

I believe a Greek prime minister once said, “Last year we were standing on the edge of a precipice, this year we’ll take a great leap forward.” We felt a bit like that in Melbourne when we were planning our anniversary celebrations. The anniversary was a great opportunity to gain exposure for our company, we knew, but it was also a leap into the unknown . . .

Especially effective are quotes from famous people that make an audience laugh. I used this one from Churchill to comment on wordiness in speech-making, near the end of the talk when I wanted to tell the audience I wouldn’t keep them much longer:

During a long and boring speech being delivered by an opponent in the House of Commons, Winston Churchill slumped forward in his seat and closed his eyes. His opponent stopped and asked, “Must you fall asleep when I’m making my speech.” Churchill replied, “No, sir, it is entirely voluntary.”


This is the most overlooked advice in speech-making, and it’s been thus for centuries. Ever since Romans stood in the sun to hear Caesar and his senators orate all day, people have suffered under the drone of the egregious public-speaking bore.

meeting-room-1480575Some of the greatest speeches in history have only lasted a few minutes, notably Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address (four minutes) and Reverend Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech (five).

There are reasons that these great orations have stood the test of time, and brevity is one of them, though obviously the length of your address depends on how many minutes you’re required to talk.

Once you’ve written or prepared your speech in notes, go over it again and again – at least three times – to see what you can whittle out of it without losing the sense or meaning of what you want to say. This cutting and editing process is a valuable discipline, and it’s surprising what you can lose in the way of extraneous adjectives, phrases and needlessly long explanations. Every word you cut while maintaining the integrity of your address helps to strengthen it, and your audience will probably thank you for it.


To set the tone for the rest of your address, you must grab and hold your audience’s attention from the start. Here’s an anecdote that came from one of my wife’s university dissertations, which could be used to bridge into a number of themes, including integrity, honesty or wealth:

The urge some people have to mythologise the past was brought home to me when I went with my family to visit the California castle of media magnate William Randolph Hearst. After touring the estate, which includes a swimming pool surrounded by ancient Greek columns and other treasures plundered from the art houses of Europe, visitors can browse through a museum which depicts Hearst as a devoted family man.

The truth is, Hearst’s wife never set foot in the home he spent more than 30 years building with his newspapers, which were driven by his own political ambitions and commercial interests. His mistresses visited often. Hearst, for all his wealth and moral posturing, was a fraud. He was not true to the image of himself he tried to portray.

You could then continue by saying, “Today I want to introduce a group of people who have always stood up for what’s right . . .”


Ladies and gentlemen, once again I have the pleasure of welcoming you to the Chairman’s annual awards dinner. And I see that those of you who’ve heard my speech before have tried to get seats near the doors for an easy exit. But you’ll be pleased to know that while thinking about what I’d say, my wife advised me to be brief. “Remember,” she told me, “that the Gettysburg Address has 271 words and the Ten Commandments have 297.” She also reminded me that we’ve been married for 53 years, and it only took two words, “I do,” to get us to this point. So I promise to be brief.


Good morning everyone. It’s a pleasure to be in the company of civilised people who appreciate you, but of course I also enjoy occasions like these . . . I wanted to talk to you today about a technique for getting business and exposure for your company that’s very cost effective if done properly, and which few people in business appreciate.

Another, starting with an appropriate joke, because it was for an audience of male workers at an event at an industrial plant:

Welcome to our birthday celebrations. I promise to be brief. I remember the story of the company chairman who gave a talk. Afterwards he asked a young colleague how he thought it had gone. “You gave a Rolls Royce of a speech sir,” the young man said. “What do you mean?” the chairman asked. “Well you were well oiled, you ran on for a bloody long time and I couldn’t hear a thing,” he replied. I’m not well oiled yet, but . . .

At a school event:

Members of staff, students and especially parents. . . . it is a special privilege for me to welcome the parents here, as this is my first opportunity to talk to you since my election as President of the Board in May. Much has happened over the past seven months and I would like to take a few moments to outline some of exciting developments. In doing so I’m mindful of something I saw in a rest room during a recent trip to Atlanta. The rest room had one of those hot-air contraptions for drying your hands and someone had written on the button that activates the hot air: Press here for a message from the company president.


You may have heard speech-makers starting with something like this: I wish I’d had had more time to prepare for this, so please excuse me . . . Or, Forgive me, but I’ve been terrified about giving this speech . . .

Wrong! Your audience don’t need or want to hear that, and won’t care, no matter how tempted you are to try to curry favour by appealing vaguely to their sympathy, or feel better yourself for trying to “excuse” what you’re about to say. It’s an immediate downer, and will give your listeners a negative impression that’s likely to devalue everything you say thereafter.


As in a good novel, a great story or piece of music, if you finish on a rousing and uplifting note, you’ll reinforce the messages of your address and leave your audience with an impression they’ve heard something worthwhile. If your talk fizzles out on a negative note, with a few mumbled stats, for example, followed by “that’s all I have to say,” it will seem weak because it will be.

Always come to a strong conclusion or call to arms, even if it’s short and very simple. One device is to have three “bullet” points, three being a number that many orators and educators recognise as having most impact and rhythm. Here’s an example:

And that’s why we must not forget for a moment who we are, what we’ve achieved and what we’ve still got to do. Thank you for listening.

An ending from a talk at a school function:

Our community is a family. As in all families, you may have differences and disputes with it. But don’t lose faith in it. Believe in it. Its faults are yours to fix, not to criticise. You are its inheritors and its future is in your hands.


I won’t keep you. At any time during a speech, the British Medical Association says, ten percent of the audience are listening, ten per cent are asleep and the rest are fantasising – and I believe I may not be improving on those stats. So in conclusion I’d like to acknowledge the other Board members and the help they’ve given me. I’d also like to thank the staff for their wonderful support. Thank you again.

And this finale from a conference address by the chief executive of an energy company:

Much is at stake, and the risks are real. The early Roman and Greek civilisations had wonderful engineering and brilliant buildings, yet by the Middle Ages people had forgotten how to build. We must not allow that to happen again. Engineers are the people who can secure a better future for mankind. It’s up to each and every one of us here to be heard – and to ensure we are part of that future. Thank you.


A simple rule, often forgotten. When you stand up, or walk to the podium, smile, and keep a smile in your voice. It helps create the right kind of energy in the room, and your audience will be more likely to like you and absorb what you say.


One you’ve done your legwork – completed your research, written and edited your speech, practised and recorded your presentation – step back and think about it strategically. Are some sections too long, are some interesting bits too short? Does one topic merge seamlessly into the next?

By practising, editing, keeping the flow going, abbreviating boring info that you have to get across and stretching out entertaining stories that people will want to hear, you’ll deliver a speech that people will listen to.

If it’s really good, they’ll never forget it.

For more information and advice, contact Bruce Heilbuth at The Siteseer at

Bruce 2



The Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts group shares its name with the mythical, isolated Himalayan utopia described in 1933 by British novelist James Hilton, in which residents are always relaxed and happy. In many ways it’s an appropriate comparison.

That’s because even the most experienced of travellers surely can’t help but be uplifted by the jaw-dropping views from the rooms of Shangri-La hotel in Sydney. They take in the poetic lines of the old steel bridge, the teeming harbour traffic and ferries, the sails of the Opera House, juxtaposed with the clean lines of skyscrapers and water that glitters, in the words of the great Australian writer Clive James, like crushed diamonds. This is Sydney at its best.

Success in the incentive and event market hinges on the ability to deliver exceptional service, observes Paul McMurray, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Shangri-La hotel, Sydney.

Horizon Club Rooms_Pics Mauro Rische (3)Every operator will say this of course, but this hotel has a highly experienced on-site events team led by a respected professional, and the cheerfulness of obliging employees is evident from the moment you step into the marble-floored lobby.

Moreover the incentive and events market is acutely focused on destination these days, says Paul McMurray, which is one reason the hotel enjoys a booming MICE business.

Why Sydney?

“Sydney is a “trip of a lifetime” destination”, explains Paul, “that can reward and inspire high achievers.”

Aside from the beauty of the harbour, it has over a hundred great beaches, outstanding restaurants, a thriving arts scene, showcases just about every sporting code under the sun and has a pretty efficient public transport system.

“It’s becoming increasingly apparent to us that companies are moving away from the traditional and towards the special,” Paul says. “This is where Sydney truly shines – in cultural experiences that add a wow factor to incentive or event programs.

Grand Ballroom_Event 2_Shangri-La Hotel, SydneyThat could be, for example, climbing the bridge together, sunset sailing while harbour island hopping, enjoying views of the city from a helicopter and so on.”

The hotel has a good track record with boutique, high-end groups as well as larger city-wide programs which has resulted in good relationships with decision makers who organise and travel with groups, he adds.

These groups can choose from 18 flexible spaces for groups of ten to 400 –  including a covered outdoor venue – and a Grand Ballroom that can seat 750 theatre style and 800 for stand up cocktail. The ballroom’s attributes include a complete lighting, sound and visual system that can be controlled with a wireless iPad, adjustable LED spotlights for table pin-spotting, four skylights with customisable colour settings at the touch of a button, and six motorised projection screens.

As The Siteseer can attest, the hotel offers fine attention to detail in its 565 rooms and suites, which have generous windows and where the furnishings reflect the colours of the harbour. There’s a swish spa, which groups can book exclusively, and a range of dining options including Altitude, a signature restaurant with views of the city on floor 36.

Though it’s a primarily a western hotel, a beautiful Asian influence is evident everywhere: in the service, food and décor – what one staff member describes as “a slice of Asia in Australia”.

Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney Grand Ballroom“Our repeat business is a testament to our ability to meet clients’ needs,” says Paul McMurray. (Indeed with the power of social media these days, the hotel’s operators recognise that having clients as ambassadors is critical. Moreover the Sydney hotel gets mostly fulsome reviews on TripAdvisor and elsewhere).

Another advantage of the hotel is its relatively discreet location, a bit removed from the main part of the CBD, yet still only a few minutes’ walk from it and the main ferry terminal, Circular Quay, and the old precinct of The Rocks, established shortly after the founding of the New South Wales colony in 1788.

New loyalty program

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts recently created other incentives for people meeting at its properties, launching “The Events Collection and Golden Circle Event Planner Rewards loyalty program”. This provides meeting and travel professionals and members of Golden Circle – the frequent guest scheme – with the ability to earn “elite” status and earn and redeem points for meetings and events throughout the group’s portfolio.

The Events Collection offering is valid for meetings and events booked for groups taking 25 or more paid guest rooms for at least one night and with a minimum function room spend. In addition to other enticements, groups can get a 10% future event credit.

Special rates on specific dates

Online rates starts from around AUD 260 per night. Organisers can get special rates for groups of 10 or more rooms for meetings or events on specific dates. And if a group or conference books a Sunday night, the hotel is usually able to offer savings. “This is particularly true in the winter months, which is a wonderful time to experience the sights and sounds of Sydney,” says Paul McMurray.

Altitude Private Dining Room

Hotels across the globe are increasingly encouraging guests to embrace green practices. Yet while guests think they’re supporting the environment by shutting off lights and reusing towels, they may in fact be victims of “greenwashing,” according to online publication Eco-Business.

Greenwashing is a corporation’s deceitful practice of promoting environmentally friendly programs while hiding ulterior motives, says Eco-Business, which offers “news, opinion, advertising and marketing services for Asia’s sustainable business community”.

bottel-oil-green-3-1425647Such practices, including a sign that reads “save the planet: re-use towels,” coupled with claims of corporate social responsibility, have soiled the trust of American consumers who are increasingly recognising hotels’ green claims may be self-serving, it says.

This could cause hotels to lose valuable repeat customers.

Writing in the Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Washington State University hospitality researchers Imran Rahman, Jeongdoo Park and Christina Geng-qing Chi investigate the consequences of greenwashing in the lodging industry and suggest ways hotels can establish credibility in consumers’ minds.

Their paper, “Consequences of ‘Greenwashing:’ Consumers’ Reactions to Hotels’ Green Initiatives,” comes at a time when as many as 79% of travellers worldwide agree that implementing eco-friendly practices is important to their choice of lodging. Research shows a majority are willing to boycott a company if misled.

Causes of consumer scepticism

The researchers surveyed over 3,000 consumers to see whether recognising a hotel’s hidden motive of profit caused them to be sceptical about the hotel’s environmental claims and if it influenced their intention to engage in a linen-reuse program or to revisit the hotel.

Since environmentally conscious guests are often willing to pay higher premiums for green hotels, the researchers also examined whether their sense of moral obligation would override scepticism and willingness to participate in a linen-reuse program or revisit the hotel.

Results indicated that recognition of a self-serving motive indeed made consumers sceptical and unlikely to participate in the green practice or revisit the hotel in the future.

However, researchers found that consumers with high levels of environmental concern still felt morally obligated to participate in the hotel’s green initiative, despite realising its greenwashing tendencies.

“We were surprised to discover consumers with high environmental concern don’t have an ‘all or nothing’ attitude,” said Chi. “Our results showed when ecologically conscious consumers know a hotel is not truly green, they will still use the linen-reuse program but they will not revisit the hotel.”

In addition to recognising self-serving motives, the researchers suggest several reasons why consumers may balk at believing hotels’ green claims. Chi said hotels that fail to integrate green practices throughout their establishment — for example, advertising a linen reuse program but not having recycling bins available — might easily make consumers sceptical, especially if the consumer’s comfort is sacrificed in some way.

Consumer scepticism also may build when hotels engage in simple practices such as discarding disposable toiletry containers, changing the bedding and towels less often or asserting they’re green by simply hanging a sign that says they are.

Additionally, if consumers realise hotels have joined commercial green marketing and central reservation associations that don’t inspect the credentials of the applicants, they may view this action as unethical, deceptive or even corporate hypocrisy, said the researchers.

Establishing credibility

The researchers suggest several steps hoteliers can take to develop a positive image of their hotels and reduce consumer scepticism. They said the single most important factor is to become certified by independent and credible agencies such as Green Seal and Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED), the two major certification programs in the lodging industry.

no-lies-1444290“Having a comprehensive green program, certifications by independent and widely accepted green agencies and communicating the message to customers are key strategies hotels can use to appear more credible in the eyes of consumers,” said Chi.

Additionally, the researchers suggest hotels use word of mouth to attract customers by posting favourable reviews on websites and social media channels and by training staff to follow the establishment’s green practices and be able to inform guests about them.

“Today’s consumers are not always buying the green claims made by hotels,” said Chi. “It is imperative that hotels go the extra mile in integrating environmentally friendly practices to develop credibility in consumers’ minds.”





The Millennium Hilton Bangkok looks directly over the Chao Phraya River, which snakes through the heart of the Thai capital. From all its 533 rooms, especially those on the upper floors of the 32 storeys, guests have spectacular views of the teeming life of the waterway.

There are plenty of hotels in Bangkok, and some are located near the Chao Phraya. So what’s special about this one? The resort-like attributes of the property are a big drawcard, explains General Manager Heidi Kleine-Möller, pictured below left.

Flow-Terrace“Staying in this kind of atmosphere, with a view of the river and its life is something visitors don’t usually find in other hotels in the city,” says Heidi. “European MICE clients coming to Bangkok tell me they prefer this kind of experience to the shopping-mall set-up they see elsewhere. That may be on reason our occupancies are so good.”

Though it’s not set precisely in the centre of Bangkok, the hotel is well connected to all parts of the city via the waterway and skytrain, and close to many local points of interest, shopping places and a bustling night market. It operates its own shuttle boats.

Another drawcard is splendid meetings facilities – high-ceilinged ballrooms (the Grand and Junior) which can seat over 700 guests and spacious pre function spaces. The hotel has 13 breakout rooms, ten of which are on the thirtieth floor with natural light and river views, says Assistant Director Marketing Communications Suteera (“Pui”) Chalermkarnchana, pictured below right.

Meetings clients have several choices of dinner venues. The ThreeSixty Lounge is an indoor- outdoor place that works well for welcome receptions. Delegates can dine here while taking in spectacular views of the Bangkok skyline. The Flow restaurant, an airy eatery looking directly out onto the river, serves a vast buffet and is flanked by an adjacent cheese room.

IMG_0610THB 1,500 meetings package

Yet another drawcard is price. The rack rate for rooms online (depending on dates) starts at around USD 125. A recent full-day meetings package offer for THB 1,500 (about USD 40) included two coffee breaks and lunch, all AV gear, water, mints and Internet access.

Of particular benefit to events guests, says Pui, is HiltonLink, a free service that makes it easy for individual clients to control their arrangements, enabling them to book online using the group rate they’ve secured.

“They have the option of building a custom web page or we can provide them with a booking link in up to 23 languages,” says Pui. “Then they simply share their link with their guests – send it in an email or post on other sites to spread the word.”

Many of the hotel’s MICE business these days comes from government and embassy clients, the IT industry medical and pharmaceutical companies and bridal parties, says Heidi. The hard-working staff spend much of their time “making the impossible possible,” as when they worked overnight recently to set up an Oktoberfest function, or when 400 people arrived for a dinner when fewer than that had been catered for.

Executive Suite“It’s about flexibility and how willing you are to make the impossible happen,” Heidi says. “Our attitude is of course we can do it. How we’ll do it is our problem.”

As a result the hotel is on the “TripAdvisor Hall of Fame” for consistently achieving good traveller reviews. “The five-day event was professionally slick and ran seamlessly and, most importantly, we received very positive feedback from our internal and external guests,” wrote one client. “We are pleased to share that our guests had had only good comments and positive feedback regarding the Hilton Millennium Bangkok.”


Siteseer says:

This is an elegant, comfortable good-value hotel in a spectacular location with excellent food, facilities and staff. But Hilton should review its irksome policy of charging guests for Internet access in rooms.

For more information, click here, or email

The Siteseer was a paying guest of the Millennium Hilton Bangkok.

Millenium Hilton Bangkok









At any time in a meeting or conference, a wag once observed, 10% of the audience are listening and 90% are fantasising. And therein lies one of the biggest frustrations for planners.

According to events technology and research company Lumi, 57% of people check emails and 73% engage in “non-meeting related” activities when they’re sitting in conferences. That’s why increasing audience engagement is a priority for 91% of event managers.

A major problem is that people are too often bored witless when they attend corporate events. At a recent presentation to organisers in Sydney, Lumi personnel identified four ways to help make meetings more productive, and to keep people in their seats.

mlCAWKuGet better and more ideas

You must ensure attendees are actively engaged before, during and after the occasion, they say. Teaser content could include short clips from keynote speakers, a peek at new technology on display or photos of the set-up. Stagger the release of event information to help create anticipation, and survey your audience to match speakers with topics. If you’ve invested in an event app, encourage attendees to download it and create a profile.

Separate ideas from the person

If people can remain anonymous, they’ll be more likely to ask questions and give useful insights. There are a number of reasons they don’t speak up or give feedback in meetings. One is fear of losing face or reputation, which results in an attendee saying, if they do actually talk, only what they believe is most “agreeable”. Another relates to the belief that theirs is a minority view.


Give everyone an opportunity to contribute

Technology that attendees can use to give feedback or vote in real time ensures no one is left out and overcomes the natural reluctance of many to ask questions publicly. That’s why the trend to live interaction via apps on phones, pads and laptops at meetings is rapidly increasing, say Lumi staff. Hand-raising isn’t an efficient way to measure opinions and gain feedback, especially with larger groups, they point out.

oh4ejpMBy giving your audience a voice, you’re much more likely to get meaningful answers to a question like this: “What’s the one serious question you would like to ask your CEO?”

Moreover, giving the audience a way to participate turns a device that’s a distraction into a device for interaction. Lumi has a messaging and polling app, Meetoo, that allows clients to engage hundreds of participants in real time, even if they’re located around the world.

Be open to feedback

During the event itself, attendees’ comprehension of the issues at stake in real time via apps and technology (such as “what do you understand the challenges to be?”) is a key area you need to probe, as is real-time presentation evaluation (such as “please rate the previous speaker.”) Getting instant feedback is now part of a typical conference agenda.

After the event, in particular, consider surveying attendees. It shows you care about their opinions while providing practical feedback you can use to create better events. To keep attendees engaged afterwards, you should provide content they can easily consume and share, like video or image compilations, Lumi says.

Go here for more ideas:


Meetings on ships are easy to arrange, cost-effective and exciting, and there are more benefits aboard than ever, says Joyce Landry (below), CEO and co-founder of cruise events specialist company Landry & Kling. The Florida-based industry pioneer talked to The Siteseer about her business and what’s on offer.

The Siteseer: Are you really finding there’s more interest in meetings afloat these days?

Joyce Landry - PhotoJoyce Landry: Yes, meetings and incentive planners are looking for new experiences and more opportunities to boost motivation and loyalty. At the same time they’re challenged to demonstrate strong return on investment and return on engagement [ROE], often with tough time and budget constraints. An event at sea delivers it all – great experiences, creative meeting spaces and with multi-generational appeal, and it’s all-inclusive and easy to plan.

SS: Tell us a bit about your company.

JL: My partner Jo Kling and I are former cruise line executives who shared a common vision back in 1982: to bring cruising and the corporate world together. Our company was the first resource for business meetings on cruise ships, and that’s still our primary focus more than thirty years later. We provide cruise solutions and custom cruise planning for ship buy-outs, incentives, cruise meetings, theme cruises and dockside ship charters. We’re the only cruise event specialist that’s been inducted into the Cruise Lines International Association Hall of Fame.

One of our specialties is cruise ship charters. We also originated the concept of using chartered cruise ships as floating hotels to provide supplemental dockside housing during big city events, like the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad.

Ovation of the Seas (1)SS: What’s new in the industry?

JL: Well Asia-Pacific cruising is booming! For example Royal Caribbean International signed a deal recently with the Singapore Tourism Board and Changi Airport Group to promote and launch more cruises than ever from Singapore. Royal Caribbean also plans to increase the number of departures from Singapore on Mariner of the Seas [which can accommodate over 4,000 passengers] to more than forty a year.

Their new ship,Ovation of the Seas, will homeport in Sydney for winter 2016-17 and will be the largest and most technologically advanced cruise ship in the region. Meantime MSC Cruises is sending MSC Lira to China in early 2016 and may be building new ships for the Chinese market.Princess Cruises is also building a new ship that will be based in China year-round.

SS: What are the main advantages of using a specialised agency like yours?

JL: We’re not an all-purpose travel agency and we don’t work for any single line; we offer impartial cruise event advice and a menu of services – everything from ship selection and operational planning to onsite staffing and marketing support. Most members of our team have a background in the industry and we know what it takes to convert a land-based program to a cruise environment.

SummitAmericas-Dockside Trinidad-Ship-BannersOver the years, we’ve established relationships with cruise lines and suppliers, and we have lots of creative ideas for customised experiences. We’re based in South Florida, widely known as being the cruise capital of the world, so we can inspect many ships and meet face-to-face with line executives on behalf of our clients.

SS: What are your most popular programs? Is there an “ideal” size for a conference or incentive group aboard, or length of cruise, in your experience?

JL: Our most popular events at sea are incentives, all types of meetings and conferences, as well as ship charters – anything from an executive retreat for fifty people to a 5,000-person convention. The length of cruise programs are typically four to seven nights, with most top-tier incentive programs on new or “ultra-premium” ships sailing for seven nights.

We’re always on the lookout for outstanding short cruise itineraries and last-minute charter opportunities to share with clients. We keep an updated list of these short cruises on the Cruise Gems page on our site.

SS: What are the other benefits of conferencing afloat?

JL: [There are distinct trends like] enhanced onboard wifi capabilities and more competitive Internet service pricing, high-tech entertainment venues, more culinary options, celebrity chef partnerships and interactive dining experiences, and more outdoor spaces for eating, entertainment and sports. There are also more active and authentic adventures ashore, and exclusive private [“ship within a ship”] enclaves available for groups to book, like MSC’s Yacht Club concept, and “The Haven” concept on Norwegian Cruise Line vessels.

SS: Where does your clientele hail from, mostly? Are you finding they’re becoming more budget conscious?

JL: They span the globe, from North and South America and the Caribbean to Europe and Asia-Pacific. While we’re noticing a return to high-level incentives, planners are still watching their bottom line. The all-inclusive aspect of ships obviously make them an attractive alternative to land-based venues. Meals, entertainment, sports facilities, meetings space and AV equipment are all complimentary.

The-crowd-onboard-ITS-THE-SHIP-2014SS: Can you point to recent examples of successful events for which you’ve been responsible?

JL: Our website has some good meetings-at-sea stories, including the SKF Latin America Distributor Conference. This presented us with some onboard challenges that required creative solutions, like building plasma screen kiosks to showcase products that were too large to bring on board, sourcing a translation services company to provide simultaneous multilingual translations in meetings, and working with the ship’s staff and chief engineer to create a big farewell event on the sports deck.

We’ve also had great success in planning and operating music-themed charter programs, like The Livescape Group’s “It’s the Ship” festival (above), Asia’s largest music event at sea. [See the promo clip here:].

The 2014 event was very successful and the November 2015 sailing is quickly selling out. An estimated 3,100 electronic dance music fans are expected to be onboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas when she sails from Singapore for three nights of performances by dozens of international and regional acts.

SS: How does your ship selection process work?

JL: There are over 300 cruise ships sailing, so busy meeting planners simply don’t have time to sort through all the choices to find the best fit. That’s where we come in. We listen to clients, and research and recommend the best options based on their needs. We then use our knowledge and experience to get the best deals.

CelebrityReflection-ConfRoom-ASS: What does the future hold?

JL: More than 30 new ships are currently on order, including mega-yachts, expedition ships and river vessels, and with cruise lines recognising the burgeoning international MICE market, I believe the future of meetings and incentives at sea couldn’t be brighter.

For more information visit, or call +1(305) 661-1880.

See a clip of Joyce Landry giving some great packing tips here:

And Landry & Kling’s “Scuttlebutt” blog here: