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Curating New Experiences, New Content, and New Possibilities

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It was when the hawk arrived that I knew we had a winner. It was lunchtime, about halfway through our event, and attendees were sprawled around an outdoor terrace at beautiful Terranea Resort, perched right on the Pacific Ocean in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. They had just participated in an intense interactive program, and were eating, chatting, and relaxing under the Southern California sun when Terranea’s resident falconer showed up.

Our attendees loved it. They smiled and pointed and snapped photos as Joe Rey III sent a magnificent Harris’ hawk swooping from his arm to a nearby tree branch and back, then explained that Terranea uses birds of prey as an environmentally friendly way to control its seagull population. For the next half-hour, this was our agenda.

And this was Curate, a first-ever executive-level, cross-disciplinary forum produced by Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI), where I serve as vice president of content development. Created as the foundational benefit for HSMAI’s new Organizational Membership, Curate is a different kind of event, bringing together thought leaders and influencers in hospitality sales, marketing, and revenue-management professionals for the express purpose of helping us help them — by identifying top industry challenges and telling us what types of HSMAI content would be useful in addressing those challenges.

At the inaugural Curate, held at Terranea on April 18–19, that meant priming our attendees with lots of background and context — and getting out of the way. Prior to the event, we’d surveyed HSMAI’s Organizational Members about the issues that were top of mind for them, and we presented the results on site, then used interactive cloud-based technology to poll attendees on which ones they’d like to explore. Throughout Curate we led them through dynamic small-group discussions, with each group using other interactive platforms to record their comments and suggestions. At the end of the day we had pages of insights about the main challenges facing our members — fuel for articles, white papers, podcasts, and other future content we’ll produce for them.

Just as important, we gave our attendees a high-quality live experience. Terranea itself was a big help — a gorgeous setting with delectable food and peerless service, creating the perfect backdrop for getting people to loosen up and think differently. We also had a thought-provoking keynote from Alibaba Group’s Raphael Lanfant, who discussed the future of commerce; an innovative, in-the-round room set; and, yes, that graceful, gliding hawk.

I’ve been around association meetings for a long time, and thought I’d seen every conceivable permutation. But helping plan and run Curate showed me that when it comes to serving our members with creativity and relevance, there are always possibilities.

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