My Best Meeting Moment By Lloyd Doubleday III, JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes

Motorcycles + Smoke + Open Kitchen = a Mind-Blowing Event

Goal: Wow 500 People, Despite Limited Time and Space

A group of top meeting planners for the entire company was in town for a couple of days at another Marriott, but we were asked to take over for a few hours one night. This party got thrown at us just two weeks out, and all our ballrooms but one were booked. We had to showcase the resort as quickly and efficiently as possible and keep 500 people contained and entertained.

We blew smoke through there, had a four-piece rock band, motorcycles, red stools and lots of red lighting.

Cooking Up Magic

At the time, we were doing a lot of parties modeled after the Iron Chef show, so we combined that with two other cooking shows. The invitation said: TV Guide: Iron Chef at 7:30, Hell’s Kitchen at 8:30, Ace of Cakes at 9:30.

People were broken into groups, and we gave them an ingredient—lobster—to use in five dishes. For the first 15 minutes, they didn’t know what to do. They said, “I don’t cook!” And then it just magically started happening, and it was loud and fun. It was really cool.

‘Behind the Scenes’ Becomes the Scene

We didn’t have another ballroom, so we converted the entire back of the house to Hell’s Kitchen. Here we were, taking the best customers and putting them in the back of the hotel and the kitchen. We blew theater smoke through there, had a four-piece rock band, motorcycles, red stools, and lots of red lighting. Some of the servers were wearing demonic makeup. We keep our back aisles pretty clean, but, generally, it’s the last place a hotel wants to bring people.

Blow The Meeting Planners’ Minds

Outside, we had Ritz-Carlton pastry chefs creating cakes and pastries in front of everyone, and people voted on their favorites. Every associate in the hotel was doing something to make it happen. I’ve been with Marriott a long time, and we’ve done a lot of memorable things here, but this is one I will always remember. It was a major challenge, and it went off better than anyone expected. Meeting planners were blown away.