Incentives and the Icelandic factor

When working with companies on incentive programmes, it’s easy to get stuck in a groove when deciding on the location for the event itself.

It’s too easy for new or existing clients who have an ongoing programme in place to revisit those destinations that have already proved to be popular with the audience, whether they are high performing staff, partner businesses, such as resellers, or top-spending clients.

After all, why reinvent the wheel when you’ve got more pressing issues to think about, such as the programme content, logistics and more?

We are all creatures of habit, but pulling ourselves out of our comfort zones can often feel exhilarating and inspirational. The same goes for incentives. No matter how well a programme might be working, shaking the tree in the right way can really make a positive impact.

We have worked with a global IT security company for a number of years. We generally do something in the United States one year, then Latin America and then Europe the next.

When it was time for the Europe event last year, the client said they wanted to go to the South of France – somewhere upmarket to make delegates feel special, with “a beachy resort feel”.

We looked at the makeup of the group and it was clear they were quite an active bunch. They had been doing some exciting things. Now there’s nothing wrong with the South of France, but this group looked like they may prefer something more exciting – off the wall, even. We could have made life easy for ourselves and ran with the client’s suggested destination. But instead, we thought: “OK, we’ll present the South of France, but throw another idea into the mix.”

We’d recently held an event in Iceland and thought it would really work for this group. One of the key reasons was flight access, because flying from North America to Iceland is a really good route. Plus it wasn’t too far for the Europeans. We also thought it would appeal because of the thrill of the unexpected – it’s an unusual, unique location and not everyone has been there.

After presenting all the options… the client chose Iceland.

So how did the Iceland event go down? It was a big success and the delegates really enjoyed the experience.

We have since suggested Iceland to a number of other clients and it was worked really well. No, we’re not on commission from Iceland Tourism. We didn’t pick Iceland off the top of our heads. We considered lots of options and thought it had the right mix of accessibility, excitement and facilities to really benefit that particular group and the objectives of the event and the incentive programme overall.

And of course, this is why the client was so keen to hold the event there, once we’d presented all the facts.

Detailed research and preparation is key, because it’s no good suggesting a new and exciting destination if you find later that it’s a nightmare to travel too, for example, or there are unfortunate characteristics like a high crime rate.

However, questioning your client’s judgement in the right way might just be the best service you ever provide.

Sam Robson is group events director at The Appointment Group Global Events, which has an office in Singapore

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