My Best Meeting Moment by Astrid Krauss, director of convention sales at Frankfurt Marriott Hotel

My Secret Weapon When Teaming Up with TEDx on an Event Highlighting Trust in the Modern Age? Keep It Locals Only.

Frankfurt Marriott Hotel Plus TEDx Equals One Excellent Adventure.

Goal: Create an innovative TEDx event that matches its theme: Trust—Old Values, New Realities. 

In 2016, Marriott Hotels began an exciting partnership with TEDx—the nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in short, powerful talks—to launch a series of events throughout Germany. It would be the first time this programming was held in a hotel setting. We were excited to host the Frankfurt talk and received an initial request in January. At first, the TEDx team requested only to reserve our event space, but it later asked us to put together proposals for both food and beverage and audiovisuals—and we were happy to oblige. 

The theme of this series was “Trust—Old Values, New Realities.” In other words, TEDx wanted to question the phenomenon of trust and how relevant it is in our daily routines. They would ask questions such as: How can we still build trust in our rapidly changing environment? What needs to happen to break trust? Who still deserves our trust—especially regarding political and economic systems? And lastly, should we trust automated technology? 

Think Like a Local

We incorporated the theme of trust into all of our event planning and execution. The specific event would consist of a speakers’ dinner the night before—to give the participants an opportunity to get to know one another and network with the Marriott International and TEDx teams—followed by a full day of panels and discussions, and then a closing party that night for the speakers and 200 invited guests. For our food offerings, we explored the idea of trusting regional suppliers to deliver high-quality ingredients. Our executive chef wanted to offer the guests healthy yet delicious treats, and since the event would take place in the fall, we decided apples would be the best fit. Instead of just buying apples from the closest wholesale market, he ordered them from a local farmer who produces organic apples that look and taste as if they were picked from one’s own garden. 

Don’t Forget the Cocktails 

At the speakers’ dinner, we created a rustic apple wine cocktail bar, highlighting Äppler, a classic drink that has been served in Frankfurt for over 200 years. Guests could enjoy it alone or mix their own Frankfurter Spritz, consisting of apple wine, Aperol liquor, a shot of fresh lemon juice, ice and an orange-slice garnish. Everyone was so excited to try it themselves and really enjoyed creating their own drinks! 

Keep the Theme Going the Next Day 

The next morning, the idea of trust was threaded through to the vegetables and fruits that we used for smoothies. We found that most guests do not want to see the polished, oversized produce anymore, but rather enjoy trying fresh seasonal ingredients from farms in the area. The afternoon coffee break continued the apple theme, with mini tarte Tatin, apple cobblers and apple strudels, as well as ice-cream cones, chocolate soufflés, cheesecake in a glass and a savory tarte flambé station. For decoration, our sous chef and pastry chef worked for three hours to create handmade apple trees by placing branches in cylindrical vases and topping them with green and red apples, which were fastened to plastic foam balls to make the crown of the tree. They were beautiful, and guests were amazed!

Think Internally, Too

We incorporated the theme of trust among our own staff members by discussing the idea of trusting in the Marriott spirit to work hand in hand and trusting colleagues to deliver the most remarkable service. This was a unique and effective exercise. Our banquet team did such an amazing job! They were attentive and proactive, and solved issues before they could even arise. The TEDx event team was fascinated by the helpfulness and kindness of our team and the way we went above and beyond. Our director of food and beverage, Thibault Levasseur, even changed into cooking clothes and mixed smoothies at the live station during the welcome coffee break, and all of the audiovisual technicians worked day and night to make sure everything was installed correctly, from the lighting to the sound and projection. Everything was perfect, making it so easy for the TEDx team to focus on the speakers.

Seating Matters

This brings me to the main purpose of this event: the talks. Regular TEDx events are held in locations with only a theater-style setup, and this was the first time the event was held in a hotel. We wanted to show the planners, and the regular TEDx guests, how you can offer different setup styles to match different needs. A lounge area was created in the front of the ballroom for guests who wanted to sit back, relax and only listen to the speakers. Meanwhile, in the middle of the room, regular chairs were set up in theater style. The back of the room was filled with high-standing tables and bar stools for guests who wanted to take notes or use their laptops. Guests and speakers loved this idea because they were able to switch their seats after a coffee break. Moreover, everyone liked the entire arrangement of the ballroom as it was not very formal, but more open and casual. 

End on a High Note

The networking party after the main event was a great opportunity for special guests to meet the speakers and recap the presentations in a laidback and cozy setting. Lounge corners were arranged, as well as small food and beverage stations. Waiters served finger foods, such as mini pulled-beef burgers, veggie chips and pumpkin soup presented in espresso cups. A candy bar was an eye-catcher, and we had dim lighting that created a familiar and intimate ambience. It was the perfect way to cap off a wonderful two days of programming and events.