My Best Meeting Moment, by Emily Yoo, JW Marriott Hotel Seoul

For This Event, the Path to Awesome Starts With a Great Plan

Goal: Create a Next-Gen Business Meeting

Marketplace 2014 was a workshop event attended by representatives of Marriott-affiliated hotels from around the world. There were 150 people from 32 hotels in 12 countries. As South Korea becomes a bigger player in the global marketplace, the interest in the Korean hotel industry has become similarly strong.

At this event, general managers and sales directors gathered to capture a larger share of the Korean market: travel companies, airlines and major corporations such as Hyundai, LG and Samsung. One of the goals was to create a venue where the attendees could network and learn how to take advantage of more business opportunities.

The difference between a good event and an awesome event is in the planning.

The event had been hosted by JW Marriott Hotel Seoul for three years. Previously, they followed a fixed format of meetings, combined with meals and coffee breaks. But this year, we wanted to mix it up and give attendees a new business-meeting model. Our team focused on creating fresh ideas and ways to ensure the attendees had memorable experiences.


A Little Help From Superman

We wanted to create different experiences based on the meeting purposes and designed spaces in our Grand Ballroom that embodied them. In the Celebrate zone, we used welcoming features such as a photo booth and balloons. We created a living room in the middle of the ballroom by hanging a long curtain from the ceiling in a circular shape and putting sofas and coffee tables inside. This provided a place for participants to relax after meetings and network in a more intimate setting.

In the Educate zone, we set up desks and blackboards around a lunchbox station, with a display of old-school themed lunchboxes, which featured characters like Superman and Mickey Mouse, that we ordered from the United States. In the middle of a meeting room where we set up lunch tables, we hung hammocks so attendees could relax and feel — if only for a moment — as if they were on holiday. Each zone offered a different glimpse of future meeting formats that could help participants achieve the specific goals of their business.


Reinventing the Coffee Break

The thing we worked on the most was the coffee break. We used two themes: A kitchen concept created a space where participants who hadn’t had a chance to eat breakfast could enjoy simple breakfast snacks, such as smoothies, cakes and macaroons. An afternoon summer-garden concept had a dessert section, with food set out on grass to give people a feeling of picking clover in a green meadow on a lazy summer afternoon.

Overall, the feedback — through photos and comments on social networking sites and in magazines — was remarkable. One person commented, “It occurred to me that even food could become a form of art when prepared with sincerity.” And another wrote, “It was a refreshing business meeting that avoided the boring format of conventional meetings.… If all meetings were like this, I wouldn’t mind being in one for a whole week.”


The Difference Between Good and Awesome

When we first started preparing, many members of our staff doubted it was even possible to realize the room designs and event ideas we envisioned. But as we planned each zone, we became excited about how we could show a glimpse of what the future of meetings holds.

We knew this was a bold approach, so we wondered how these new settings would appeal to attendees. But the notes and comments we received from attendees confirmed the level of satisfaction. One thing was clear: The difference between a good event and an awesome event is in the planning.