by Meetings & Conventions Asia | April 10, 2018

Engaging delegates matters most to planners, and maximizing ROI based on engagement strategies is the golden goal. Technology is the enabler and the activator of wow moments with high-tech elements such as audiovisual displays that dazzle; drones that capture event highlights; and giant LED walls or virtual reality that immerse audiences in the impact of the moment.
 
But power engagement strategies are more than just about employing dramatic tech effects. The most effective strategies are also about immersing delegates in the local sights, sounds, vibes and ambience of their surroundings. The destination matters, and this is where the planner has the world at their disposal when deciding where to hold their events.
 
Destinations that engage the senses with their local uniqueness and array of experiences will win the day. When delegates are able to come together to appreciate locales and cities and enjoy meaningful activities, planners would have succeeded in amplifying engagement that goes beyond the ROIs.Advertisement
 
Here are some scenarios in which planners may get their delegates to experience, explore and create deep impressions and memories.

See and contribute: Giving back to local communities

Preserving the environment includes fishing responsibly and sourcing for food from local suppliers (Credits: JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa)

Green is the new black and for companies that walk the talk, the grass is always greener on all sides. Sustainability and eco agendas are often tied up with corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes, and corporate planners who love this theme will find gems in Hanoi and Phuket. The rustic ambience, deep history and natural scenery will inject soul into meaningful projects.
 
Go back in time in Hanoi

Hanoi's Old Quarter beckons with its treasure trove of colonial architecture, Buddhist temples and pagodas juxtaposed against buzzing streets busy with vendors and visitors. Against this rich backdrop, organise team-building activities such as treasure hunts and city races with top prizes that benefit local charities.

Engaging children from orphanages during the festive season (Credits: JW Marriott Hotel Hanoi)

Make a difference at children's homes and orphanages, and plan a programme with meaning. At JW Marriott Hotel Hanoi, children are invited to the property to take part in the Lighting Ceremony, a charitable event to signify the start of the Christmas season. Consider a similar idea for an event that engages delegates with children's activities. Or work up a passion by engaging delegates with a charitable run that helps to fund schools, libraries and other facilities for disadvantaged children.   

Enjoying the ambience of the Old Quarter in JW Marriott Hotel Hanoi (Credits: JW Marriott Hotel Hanoi) 

Whether it's the spirit of giving or the soul of Hanoi that speaks the loudest, delegates will experience the essence of Vietnam at the hotel. The vibes of the Old Quarter resonate in event themes, be it in one of the 17 meeting rooms offering over 5,000 sqm of flexible meeting space, or in its outdoor venues. Breaktime also becomes a culinary discovery of local favourites such as banh mi, fresh coconut/sugarcane juice and sweet fried pies - served with flair and brought up to you on a vintage bicycle. Seamless planning by the hotel events team ensures that delegates get a taste of local traditions and flavours throughout their stay - within the hotel and outside of it.

Rest, relax and restore in Phuket

Fancy reclining on a hammock and sipping on a cocktail on the beautiful Mai Khao beach? That feeling of bliss will be even more satisfying if you've had a hand in ensuring the conservation of that natural beauty and its marine life. 

Delegates learn more about the fishermen's trade and livelihood (Credits: JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa)

House your delegates at JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa, and begin your CSR journey: all guests are welcomed with environmentally-friendly bracelets handmade by the underprivileged women of the sea gypsy community. The hotel - located on Mai Khao beach, one of the protected beaches for nesting turtles - also plays a key role in funding the activities of the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation. So, what moves you? You can clean the beach and reefs; plant mangrove trees; rescue/release turtles, and take part in educational workshops or recycling projects.

All decked out for an outdoor event at JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa  (Credits: JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa)

The high note of this experience? Take in the beauty of the beach and the gorgeous sunset views with an outdoor beachfront dinner event. Or dress up the 636 sqm Mai Khao ballroom to impress up to 450 pax.

The song taew (wooden bus) gets delegates rolling on their CSR itinerary (Credits: JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa)

CSR Planning is easy with the hotel's range of team-building programmes. A popular choice is the Song Taew CSR Explorer, which takes delegates around on a wooden bus to a local school to work on improvement projects; the Mai Khao Gypsy Village to help fishermen build squid traps; and Pru Jae San Lake, the last national wetland of Phuket, to build an eco shelter.
 
Do and indulge: Get busy with endless activities
Up the tempo and increase the productivity levels of delegates with an engaging programme that keeps them active and on their feet. Buzzing metropolitan cities such as Bangkok, Manila and Tokyo offer a kaleidoscopic landscape of ever changing options.
 
The fun begins in Manila

From food parks with live music to street parties, Manila lives up to its name as the capital of fun. Whether it's historical discoveries in Intramuros; bargain hunting in Quiapo; street art appreciation Bonificio Global City in Taguig; or participating in the city's many fiestas and festivals, delegates can expect a rollercoaster of fun factors.

The ballroom in Manila Marriott sets the scene for F1 fun with dazzle and pomp (Credits: Manila Marriott Hotel)

A stay at Manila Marriott Hotel, located within Resorts World Manila, continues the delegates' introduction to the trail of fun. They can easily transition from sessions in the largest pillarless ballroom in the country to cosy breakout sessions in The Hub or The Den to the vast grounds of the integrated resort for an endless itinerary.

The F1 theme continues with an F&B spread on the 'tracks' (Credits: Manila Marriott Hotel)

Ideas run amok in Manila Marriott; transform the ballroom into: an F1 racing circuit with car displays and food and drinks served in 'pit stop' areas to welcome delegates; or a golf course complete with tee-off holes and food and drinks served in golf carts to inspire brainstorming. To round off an event with a memorable gala dinner, the hotel staff are experts in injecting fun, pomp and pageantry into the programme. Think marching bands, carnival performers, ballroom dancers or rock singers to add oomph to the entertainment.
 
Go big in Bangkok

Get festive: floating lanterns drift over Wat Arun during the Yee Peng Festival. (Credit: kitchakron/Getty Images)
It's the city of bright lights and big attractions every corner you turn. Shopping, dining and nightlife attractions will continue to be the hot hits for delegates. Whether it's enjoying a traditional performance welcome within the grounds of Wat Arun Temple, or watching a thrilling muay thai show at Asiatique Bangkok, a dining, shopping and entertainment venue; the variety of options is staggering, and makes it easy for planners to dial up or dial down the tempo.

Hotel chefs at Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel engage with guests at live F&B stations (Credits: Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel )

Dining experiences are as colourful as the city's personality, and hotels up their game when it comes to F&B. It's all about the element of surprise and the unusual twist that makes dining a performance in itself. Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel understands this and caters to planners' needs with the R.E.N. Meetings programme, which curates a unique experience offering localised styling of the events space, locally sourced F&B and turnkey social breaks to inspire delegates as they go from sessions to social activities at the hotel. One of the hotel's hits with delegates include the Navigator Table, which takes them on a culinary journey as they sample signature dishes from each hotel restaurant.
 
Fast and furious in Tokyo

Tokyo's eclectic charm sets the pace for a colourful experience (Credits: Massimiliano Sermisoni/Getty Images)

A city of many split personalities, Tokyo is conservative, peaceful, loud and edgy all at once. Her many facades present delegates with varied experiences, be it tucking into great food and beer at a cosy izakaya, relaxing in a peaceful onsen in a Japanese garden, getting up close to trendsetters in Harajuku, or checking out nightlife attractions in Shibuya.

A sense of the seasons at The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo (Credits: The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo )

Hop onto the high life in Tokyo and head to The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo which sits on top of the 53-storey Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi, the highest building in the city. Delegates will enjoy spectacular views from each room and suite, and authentic Japanese "omotenashi" hospitality during their stay. 

The meeting experience begins with seasonal themes that appeal to all the senses throughout the day: Spring brings to life the colours and vibrancy of the season with Sakura (cherry blossoms) coffee breaks offering Sakura-inspired canapes, snacks, beverages and Sakura tea; a relaxing cherry blossom viewing at the nearby Hinokicho Park accompanied by a picnic-style dining experience; and a relaxing happy hour at the bar with Sakura-inspired cocktails.

Each season inspires a curated programme that brings out the best of culinary produce, activities, nature and cultural highlights, while attention to detail by the hotel events team ensures a seamless experience for delegates.
 
Sense and experience: Go high-impact with colour, culture and drama
 
How can planners inject high-definition colour and resolution into their events? Head to India and its colourful cities of pomp and pizazz. It's a destination that will dial up the volume and magnify all experiences into larger-than-life ones that assail the senses.
 
Dreams come alive in Mumbai

Tease out delegates' hidden talents with a Bollywood-themed event. (Credit: b2dare/Getty Images)

When you are heading to the city of dreams where famous directors, producers and actors live, you know you have the chance to create a Bollywood-inspired event with a story plot to entertain even the most jaded delegates. Think team-building contests and challenges for the best-dressed Bollywood 'dancers and actors' and the best dance performances or drama short plays that will bring out the delegates' hidden talents.
 
At JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu, delegates will be able to immerse themselves in the perfect luxurious setting to enhance the glam factor of a Bollywood theme. It is frequented by celebrities and Bollywood luminaries, so do expect a star-studded experience. Receiving the JW Marriott treatment in Mumbai ensures the events team put together an extraordinary experience for delegates.

Mega groups will do well to upsize their experience at Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel, which has a convention hall for up to 1,500 guests and the Renaissance Garden for up to 2,000 guests. Located on the idyllic banks of Lake Powai, the hotel conjures up a colourful and versatile events backdrop both indoors and outdoors to enrich the experience of delegates. 
 
 
Feel and remember: Find the X-factor to go from how to wow

Effective attendee engagement begins with the right venues (Credits: Getty Images)

Feelings are subjective, and so are likes and dislikes. There is no magic formula, but all the elements of a successful event must synergise  effectively and meaningfully in order for a planner to justify ROI and attendee engagement. 
 
From the delegates' check-in to room service to dining, set a positive frame of mind by ensuring a smooth experience before they even begin their conference and team building programmes. You want happy delegates who are eager to begin their journey, and you want to keep the endorphin levels high as they segue from sessions to social activities in the hotel and in the city.
 
Woo with the destination; impress with the details before, during and after the event; and convince with the design of your programme. If you would like to work with events planning experts from Marriott Rewards Hotels, check out Marriott's latest offer where you'll receive bonus perks for your next meeting.