My Best Meeting Moment By Kathrin Hanisch, Munich Marriott Hotel

Recipe for Converting an Elegant Hotel Space into Oktoberfest

Goal: Design an Environment for 250 Shy Techies to Network

Our client was planning a three-day international IT conference. There would be 250 technology specialists from all over the world who didn’t know one another. They travel all year and spend many of those nights in hotels. Typically, they are sitting in front of their computers and working, but the event planner wanted them to mingle and get to know each other. That was my challenge.

Typically, they are sitting in front of their computers and working, but the event planner wanted them to mingle and get to know each other.

Oktoberfest Food & Drink Theme

We promoted the first night’s dinner as a Bavarian Oktoberfest. We set it up in the ballroom, and it spilled out onto the terrace, where we had a buffet and bar.

We had long tables that seated 10 people each, and there was a DJ—but no dancing, because it was all men. Some of them even came dressed in lederhosen. The long tables and the cooking stations gave guests the chance to interact with one another and the cooking staff. During the event, we had beer steins delivered to their rooms.

Lounge Area Encourages Hobnobbing

The following days, we set up lunches a little bit differently—to encourage conversation. One day, we took all the tables and chairs out of the restaurant and created a stand-up environment. We had a lounge area in the foyer where they could check their email and charge their laptops.

It Takes a (Bavarian) Village

The first night, we had to convert the conference room into Oktoberfest in just an hour and a half. The whole Marriott team pitched in—about 30 people, from all departments, carrying chairs, rolling tables around. That teamwork is something I will never forget. They were all very excited about the accomplishment after the transformation was complete. The event planner was also very positive about all the ideas we brought to life.