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N AVI G AT IN G T H E N E W N O R M A L MICHIGAN PLANNERS SHARE HOW THEY ARE LIVING THROUGH HISTORY

M E E T I N G S M A G S . C O M // F A L L 2 0 2 0 W I N T E R 2 0 2 1

Building Buzz DESPITE THE CIRCUMSTANCES, THREE NEW HOTELS OPEN SUCCESSFULLY ACROSS THE STATE {page 14}


p plea leas su ur re e doing business business It’s where wide open spaces set the stage for memorable meetings. Where the food is local...and the beer, wine, and spirits are too. Where you can slow down, reconnect, and find yourself in a prey great place.

TraverseCity.com


MEET LIKE A LOCAL

Michigan’s Capital City is excited to welcome your events back! Our partners have all taken the Greater Lansing Safe Pledge in order to keep you and your attendees healthy and safe. Utilize the experts at the Greater Lansing CVB to help you navigate the new requirements for safe meetings and events. And while the way we meet in the future may look different, our commitment to offering top notch service, quality venues and premier lodging has not. Contact us today to learn more!

LANSING.org

#LOVELANSING


The Inn at Harbor Shores

Southwest Michigan's Premier Resort

Harborview Ballroom | over 4,000 sq. ft. Waterside Room| over 1,000 sq. ft. of flexible space Plenty of room for social distancing Marina View Boardroom | 600 sq. ft Outdoor patio perfect for welcome receptions Amazing views from all banquet rooms of the St. Joseph River Coffee shop & full-service spa Luxurious resort-style lodging rooms Advanced audio visual capabilities works well for those unable to make in person meetings ST. JOSEPH, MI | 269.983.1111 | INNATHARBORSHORES.COM


Bavarian Inn Lodge & Conference Center Old World Charm with Modern Day Convenience

Let us assist you with planning a safe meeting or event in Frankenmuth! • Current seating for up to 150 guests, following the MDHHS guidelines • Safe Experience Initiative Safety and Sanitation plan in use • 10 Meeting Breakout Rooms • Complimentary Wireless Internet • 2 On-Premise Restaurant and Lounges • Live Nightly Entertainment • 360 European-themed Guestrooms • Walking Distance to Main Street Shopping and Attractions • World Famous Frankenmuth ® Chicken Dinners plus Custom Menus

SAFE EXPERIENCE INITIATIVE

Located In the Heart of Downtown Frankenmuth

Bavarian Inn Lodge & Conference Center One Covered Bridge Lane, Frankenmuth, MI 48734 frankenmuthmeetings.com • 1-877-213-7664


Contents MICHIGAN MEETINGS + EVENTS MAGAZINE | FALL 2020 / WINTER 2021

FEATURE

20

Navigating the New Normal M+E checks in with local planners to see how they’re handling constant change and what they think about the coming year. By Megan Gosch

The Tick of the clock: The fan favorite and Standby detroit classic is a flavorful cocktail, easily made from home. pg 7

IN EVERY ISSUE 16 DESTINATION A new convention center opening in the spring creates new possibilities for Muskegon. By Lauren Pahmeier 32 PROFILE As Larry Alexander preps for retirement, he reflects on his career of records and results. By Megan Gosch

MEETING NOTES 6 CVB SPOTLIGHT The Pure Michigan Pledge brought together Michigan’s business, hospitality, and tourism communities.

8 VENUE REPORT The Guardian Builiding lives up to its label as a National Historic Landmark. 12 MEETING MUNCHIES The large uptick in outdoor events has launched the Andiamo Food Truck’s sales to new heights. 14 NEW HOTEL ROUNDUP Three brand-new hotels across the state are welcome news during a season of closures. 4

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INDUSTRY UPDATES NAVIGATING THE NEW NORMAL MICHIGAN PLANNERS SHARE HOW THEY ARE LIVING THROUGH HISTORY

26 REGIONAL NEWS What’s happening in the local community.

M E E T I N G S M A G S . C O M // F A L L 2 0 2 0 W I N T E R 2 0 2 1

Compiled by Megan Gosch

30 SNAPSHOTS A rescheduled date and rain didn’t keep MSAE from a successful afternoon of safe networking.

Building Buzz DESPITE THE CIRCUMSTANCES, THREE NEW HOTELS OPEN SUCCESSFULLY ACROSS THE STATE {page 14}

ON THE COVER

The Canopy by Hilton Grand Rapids Downtown offers colorful, innovative gathering spaces. Photo by Greg Ceo

P H O T O : S TA N D B Y D E T R O I T

6 PLANNER’S POCKET DICTIONARY Three new certifications have helped planners handle this year’s challenges.


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on trends and how CVBs weigh in planners (26) they best support

ART DIRECTOR PRINT PRODUCTION DIRECTOR DIGITAL PRODUCTION DIRECTOR PRODUCTION COORDINATOR DIGITAL COORDINATOR

Lauren Pahmeier

M SMAGS.CO MEETING

Melissa Duffney April McCauley Melissa Duffney Laurie Burger 586.416.4195 laurieburger@comcast.net

California Meetings + Events • 303.617.0548 Colorado Meetings + Events • 303.617.0548 Minnesota Meetings + Events • 612.548.3148 Mountain Meetings • 303.617.0548 Northeast Meetings + Events • 586.416.4195 Northwest Meetings + Events • 253.732.7133 Texas Meetings + Events • 469.264.7657

//

FALL

2017

Off the Beaten Path

Brittni Dye Deidra Anderson Alex Kotlarek Angela Beissel

ACCOUNTS PAYABLE CREDIT MANAGER ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE SPECIALIST ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER– NATIONAL SALES

Pushing pause during meetings recharges attendees

Traci Zellmann

Katie Ringhand

th Flip to page 30 to meet Impossible Burger, a plant-ba patty that replicates meat

BREAK FOR MINDFULNESS

Lauren Pahmeier Megan Gosch Sherri Hildebrandt

CIRCULATION MANAGER

SS SMALL BUSINE THEIR OWNERS SHARE S SUCCESS STORIE (38)

CREATIVE EXPRESSION s Minnesota abound (47) with artsy venues

FEELS LIKE HOME

at the little things Find comfort in and inns (28) these small hotels

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Travel to local cities familiar names

OM SMAGS.C MEETING

//

SPRING

2018

$6.00 USA

+ VENDORS = ?

PLANNERS and maintaining Pro tips on building vendors relationships with

ADVENTURE ABOUNDS

wilderness Explore the vast of Ketchikan, Alaska

M SMAGS.CO MEETING

MOUNTAIN

Majesty

Veggies,

PLEASE

//

SUMMER

2017

MOTELS MOTOR MODERNIZED A COMEBACK COURTS ARE MAKING

// MAGS.COM MEETINGS

OFF RESTAURANTS INTERSTATE 35 EATS OFFER GREAT & CONVENIENT ACCESS (48

ARIAN VEGAN AND VEGET PACK A RESTAU RANTS FLAVORFUL PUNCH

In Case of Emergenc

BLANK CANVAS

for Art galleries make spaces inspiring event

Pro tips to prepare you f( the worst-case scenario

PLAN PLANNERS GONNA shoes of

Wear the 4 different industry professionals

Reprints: For high-quality reprints of 500 or more, call 800.637.0334 or email reprints@tigeroak.com.

T IGE R OA K M E D IA

FOUNDER & CEO CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER

R. Craig Bednar Susan Isay

900 South Third St., Minneapolis, MN 55415 Phone: 612.548.3180 Fax: 612.548.3181 Published semi-annually Michigan Meetings + Events, Fall 2020 © 2020 Tiger Oak Media. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A.

7 FA L L 2 0 1

HIT THE ROAD

STAY IN STAMFORD

Michigan Meetings + Events accepts no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts or artwork; they will not be returned unless accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

TON PRIVATE DINING GATHER IN GALVES ISLAND CITY ABOUNDS IN THIS

$6.00 USA

ES ELEVATE EVENT EXPERIENC AT THESE 5 MOUNTAIN RESORTS

ut town This Connectic from elicits high praise oers meeting-g

For address changes, ordering single copies, cancellations, or general questions about your subscription, please contact customer service at 800.637.0334 or customerservice@tigeroak.com.

Trend

FORECAS

es chart the course beauty and activiti Grand County’s

options Entertainment and venue (32) are limitless in Las Vegas

mi.meetingsmags.com

MANAGING EDITOR CONTRIBUTING WRITER COPYEDITOR

FRESH POW

make Area ski slopes bear winter easier to

mountains in stylish

M SMAGS.CO MEETING

EDITOR

CITY

suburbs means Traveling to the planners more options for

Plan seasonal office parties into 2018

THE NEXT LEVEL OF

DINING ON HIGH

Then keep it coming. SU BSCRIBE FOR FRE E and receive quarterly issues chockful of regional content on topics like: » trend reports on F&B, décor, team-building activities and technology

» expert advice from top meeting and event professionals » new venue spotlights » people profiles » local and “beyond the border” destinations

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PRODUCTS, PLACES & INSPIRATION

CVB SPOTLIGHT»

A CALL TO ACTION

Community leaders band together to keep residents and travelers safe. As many were still adjusting to the etiquette of social distancing and getting up to speed on the specifics of the latest executive order, Pure Michigan unveiled its “Two Peninsulas, One Pure Michigan” marketing campaign, encouraging statewide strength and unity in the midst of COVID-19. Just a few months later, as many slowly emerged from quarantine, the organization launched its second initiative, the Pure Michigan Pledge. “We launched this initiative to try to get as many people in our community as possible to link up and work together,” says Travel Michigan vice president Dave Lorenz. “In these stressful times, we’ve got to band together to show residents and visitors that we’re all taking this seriously and committed to their safety.”

Designed to foster trust in Michigan’s business, hospitality and tourism communities, and to encourage safe travel throughout the state, the Pure Michigan Pledge represents a firm promise to uphold safety protocols and CDC travel guidelines. “We’re all doing smart things to keep everyone safe, but this pledge lets people know where we stand. Travelers know they’re in good hands and residents know that the more businesses take the pledge, the more comfortable they can feel at home,” says Lorenz. Businesses that take the pledge can download a toolkit of printable assets including tent and rack cards, posters, window signs, email logos and more to promote their promise. Hundreds of businesses have pledged and “it’s having an

By Megan Gosch

impact. People are getting out there, and we had a very busy summer but pledging to take these safety precautions will be more important than ever in these winter months,” he says. With no specific deadline, the pledge will remain an ongoing effort to keep businesses top of mind and connected. “With the meetings, conference and convention sector of our community likely to be one of the last to recoup, we’re doing all we can to try to help our economy recover and get our community back up and running.”

Get Connected PURE MICHIGAN PLEDGE michigan.org/puremichiganpledge | 888.784.7328

PLANNER’S POCKET DICTIONARY»

New training and certifications are helping planners prepare for the new challenges this year has posed.

G B A C S TA R A C C R E D I TAT I O N Designed to help facilities implement the industry’s highest standards for cleaning and disinfection of infectious agents like the novel coronavirus, the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR Accreditation Program lays out the proper protocols and best cleaning methods that facilities and their key staff can put into action. The stadiums, convention centers, restaurants and hotels completing the program can provide planners with trust in facility staff, increased comfort and peace of mind on-site, and assurance that facilities have been properly disinfected. gbac.issa.com

M P I PA N D E M I C M E E T I N G & E V E N T C E R T I F I C AT E

how best to plan for the event-specific

Meeting Professionals International’s (MPI) timely training was curated to help planners navigate and rethink their event strategies for sustainability in a post-pandemic world. In partnership with the Event Leadership Institute (ELI) the certificate helps planners learn to strategize for maximum adaptability, develop checklists for safer event design and establish event tactics to reduce COVID-based risks over the course of 20 CMP hours, live calls, on-demand courses and live Q&A meetings. mpi.org/education

challenges posed by COVID-19, indus-

D I G I TA L E V E N T S T R AT E G I S T C E R T I F I C AT I O N

try leaders and top associations have

Designed by event professionals for event professionals, the Professional Convention Management Association’s (PCMA) digital event certification helps planners learn to lead the design, delivery, monetization and measurement of effective online gatherings over the course of 12 combined classroom hours and self-paced study time that allows for interaction with top digital event experts. pcma.org/products/des

Unprecedented times call for strategic measures. With so many planners wondering

stepped up to offer a roadmap with trainings on everything from cleaning protocols to new contract clauses.

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P H O T O : ( O P P O S I T E ) S TA N D B Y D E T R O I T

Teachable Moment


SIGNATURE DRINK»

TICK OF THE CLOCK Courtesy of Standby Detroit

W

ell known for its envelopepushing cocktails served with a down-to-earth approach, Standby Detroit has not only helped to garner acclaim for Detroit’s cocktail scene, it’s continued to inspire and connect—even in the wake of a pandemic. On-site cocktail catering and private events at the bar may be on hold through April, but guests can still enjoy creative stirred, shaken and carbonated bottled cocktails to go or book a private cocktail class to perfect their home bartending skills. Try your hand at The Tick of the Clock, a fan favorite. “It’s classically driven and heading toward tequila mule territory with a heavy dose of bitters that adds depth and balance to an otherwise very spicy cocktail,” says owner Joe Robinson. “The Tick of the Clock was on our opening menu at Standby, one that I’d made years before during my cocktail catering days. I’d say it’s a Standby classic.” INGREDIENTS: - 1.5 oz. blanco tequila - 1 oz. fresh lime - 1 oz. ginger syrup* - 0.25 oz. angostura bitters DIRECTIONS: Measure all ingredients into a shaker tin, fill with ice and shake. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Pick three fresh mint sprigs and break off the stems with about one inch left. Give the mint a good smack to “wake it up” and place as a garnish on the side of the glass. *GINGER SYRUP INGREDIENTS: - 250 grams peeled fresh ginger - 250 grams cane sugar - 8 oz. hot water

Get Connected STANDBY DETROIT standbydetroit.com info@standbydetroit.com

DIRECTIONS: Peel the ginger using the edge of a spoon. Dice the ginger into one-inch cubes and add half of the ginger, the water and the sugar to a blender. Blend and slowly add remaining ginger until the mixture is fully blended. Strain and bottle the mixture. Refrigerate up to one week.

MI.MEETINGSMAGS.COM

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PRODUCTS, PLACES & INSPIRATION

VENUE REPORT»

THE CATHEDRAL OF FINANCE From the exterior alone, the Guardian Building distinguishes itself as an extraordinary place in downtown Detroit. Over 2 million tangerine-colored bricks texture its 40 stories, later to be named “Guardian bricks” by the manufacturer in honor of the project. Although there are more curiosities to be discovered inside, the one-of-a-kind “Aztec Art Deco” style influences the design and materials in the space. Built in 1929, the Guardian Building is still in impressive condition and continues to host gatherings ranging from weddings to galas, trade shows and educational workshops within its two eye-catching spaces. While the building wasn’t nicknamed the

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“Cathedral of Finance” for the Promenade, the space feels like a cathedral with its remarkable five-story ceiling. The Michigan Mural, also five stories tall, is another element that draws the eye upward in the room, adding to the sense of grandeur throughout the space. On the ornate metal motif that separates the lobby from the Promenade, a Tiffany Company clock shows when the end of the business day arrives, as events in the Promenade can only begin after retail tenants close for the day. For a strolling cocktail hour, up to 275 people can gather within its 5,000 square feet. For a smaller group, the Executive Boardroom seats 20 at its table and provides an overall retro feel with wood paneling, wood

parquet and marble floors. When it comes to amenities in both spaces, planners supply their own catering, audio-visual equipment, décor and vendors for meetings and events. However, planners can count on the Guardian Building to provide two security guards onsite, as well as a building engineer to help with several tasks. Even 91 years later, the history and uncommon elements of the building add up to beautiful, memorable events for attendees.

Get Connected GUARDIAN BUILDING events@guardianbuilding.com | 313.963.4567

P H OTO S : G UA R D I A N B U I L D I N G

The Guardian Building’s several distinctive design features set it apart as a stunning Detroit venue. B Y L A U R E N P A H M E I E R


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Mt. Pleasant, MI | 1.888.7.EAGLE.7


PRODUCTS, PLACES & INSPIRATION

IT’S YOUR BIZ»

SKILLED A/V PARTNERS ELEVATE VIRTUAL AND HYBRID EVENTS

Audio-visual partners take some responsibility off of a planner’s plate when technology is of the utmost importance. BY MARK MILLER

VIRTUAL AND HYBRID EVENTS will be the norm for quite some time. To effectively host an event that is completely virtual or hybrid, meeting planners will need to partner with a skilled audio-visual team to provide the technical expertise and show production knowledge.

Mark Miller

is president of the Rental and Staging Network (RSN) and president and CEO of Markey’s Rental & Staging, a national rental and staging company, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. With more than 35 years of experience in the event technology business, he leads RSN, a top-tier network of live event production companies throughout North America. The network allows event planners and producers to access the very best in live event production throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.

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Although virtual events may feel different, they are powerful and scalable, allowing people from around the world to gather remotely. With a hybrid meeting, both in-person and remote viewers can be engaged in a meaningful way. A skilled audio-visual team understands the technical wizardry that is required to bring everything and everyone together, using a combination of professional equipment and software platforms. “Virtual and hybrid events have overcome the hurdles and expense of travel and lodging,” says Bob Leon, president of Colortone Staging & Rentals, the Ohio area partner of the Rental and Staging Network. “It is more appealing to attend a virtual event than ever before. A higher premium should be placed on the remote attendee.” When done right, virtual and hybrid events are engagement-driven, value-added experiences that produce results extending past the screen. Good show flow and scripting are critical for both inperson and virtual events. Professional moderation is the key to creating engaging virtual events that flow. During a virtual event, “stage management” comes in the form of carefully timed introductions for presentations, interacting in the comments and creating a two-way experience for attendees that runs on time. Speaker coaching is also critical in virtual settings and differs depending on how the presenter will interact with the audience. An A/V partner

will guide presenters through individual “tech checks” to orientate them to the platform, show them how to share documents and make sure their presentation is displayed in an engaging way. They will also work with presenters to confirm there are not any connectivity issues that will negatively impact the presentations, as well as advise the virtual presenter about posture, dress code and maintaining eye contact. To support the live audience, an A/V partner will oversee the chat for those needing technical assistance, create a queue to take live questions and manage audience polling. Not offering a virtual component in today’s environment is a mistake—attendees expect an option to join virtually. For meeting planners, that means budgeting for elements of livestream or other types of webcasting in addition to in-person A/V event costs. “Just as planners consulted with their A/V team prior to COVID-19, that consultation is just as important today,” Leon added. “There are no set rules; all meetings whether virtual or hybrid are different and require tech.” Think of an A/V partner as an extension of the team, who enables the planner to focus on other elements of the event. With all the moving parts in hybrid or virtual events, planners shouldn’t have to worry about the technology—that’s for the A/V partner to handle.


GOLF SPA SHOP DINE MEET

SAFE MEETINGS Whether you are looking to host a small company retreat, or a large conference, we have ample space for your gathering to meet safely. From our 19,000 sq. ft. Governors’ Hall to our board rooms, each space can be designed to follow strict physical distancing and safety guidelines. We are committed to providing you a safe and comfortable space for your next meeting or event. Learn more at grandtraverseresort.com/safemeetings.

Owned and Operated by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians


PRODUCTS, PLACES & INSPIRATION

MEETING MUNCHIES»

ALFRESCO ANDIAMO

The pandemic has brought out a new sense of purpose for the popular Italian chain’s food truck.

Get Connected

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EMERGING LEADERS»

Changed Industry, New Proficiencies PCMA is raising money to help professionals build the new skills they need in an increasingly digitally focused environment. Virtual events and digital skills have become vital to the meetings and events industry like never before. As it wasn’t absolutely necessary for planners to have these skills before the pandemic, the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) stepped in to help professionals obtain the skills they need to help contribute to the future of meetings and events. “We knew early on it was up to the foundation to step up to the plate to help industry professionals recover and thrive. We listened to our members and learned that finding and funding reskilling and upskilling opportunities was No. 1 on their wish list,” says Meredith Rollins, executive director of the PCMA Foundation. In response, PCMA launched the Accelerating Reskilling Initiative. The initiative will fund 1,000 event professionals with scholarships for the Certified Meeting Professional online prep course, the Digital Event Strategist Certification, as well as access to PCMA’s event, Convening Leaders 2021. To help reach its goal of raising $250,000 to fund the reskilling of 1,000 business event professionals, PCMA hosted a virtual fundraiser called Rethink, Reskill, Recover. The September event had 140 participants and raised $57,000 with the help of sponsors and individual donations. By the end of the month, the initiative had raised $100,000. As in-person events resume, these skills will help prepare professionals for success in the meantime. foundation.pcma.org/accelerating-reskilling

P H O T O S : A N D I A M O C AT E R I N G ; P C M A

Food trucks and meetings have gone hand in hand prior to March—but the pandemic and the resulting increase in outdoor events has launched the Andiamo Food Truck to new heights. “With everyone redesigning the way in which they conduct business and celebrate social functions, this outdoor alternative has expanded our horizons and grown our sales to new levels as the outdoor events of up to 100 people are perfect for a food truck,” says Samantha Visconti, director of catering at Andiamo Catering & Event Management. The food truck has been serving up homemade favorites from the Andiamo restaurants since 2015 to reach their fan base in more places outside of their brick and mortars. But this summer more than ever, people chose Andiamo to cater their graduations, weddings, birthdays, memorial services, bar and bat mitzvahs, and more. The Andiamo Food Truck has taken many measures to ensure safety, such as contactless pay, single-use service items and electrostatic misters that disinfect the truck before and after events. Plus, guests can stand and sit in open air, socially distanced lines and tables. The food truck’s menu provides some of the in-house favorites at the Andiamo restaurants, such as pasta and calamari. However, the Andiamo Food Truck allows clients to ask for custom menus, incorporating requests for anything from sushi to fish tacos, Mexican to Middle Eastern food. Regardless of requests, the Andiamo Food Truck works tirelessly to accommodate no matter the menu, the time frame or the location. “We are now very fluid with executing events with little to no notice, as people are desperately seeking alternative types of events for life’s milestones and important events,” says Visconti. With all of the abnormalities that the pandemic has brought on, still having the option to enjoy the Michigan favorite at outdoor events during quarantine has made a strange time feel more normal—and delicious.


PRODUCTS, PLACES & INSPIRATION

Canopy by Hilton Grand Rapids Downtown

NEW HOTEL ROUNDUP»

BUILDING BUZZ

These three new properties are ready to make their mark, welcoming groups big and small. BY MEGAN GOSCH

AFTER A YEAR FILLED WITH UNCERTAINTY and countless projects and proposals put on hold, growth in any sector of the hospitality industry is always welcome news. But a statewide slew of brand-new hotels? That’s something to celebrate. ¶ Here, we spotlight just a few of the new properties offering planners and guests new

Cambria Hotel Shelby Township – Detroit Located just 30 miles north of downtown Detroit in one of the city’s fastest-growing communities, the new Cambria Shelby offers guests an upscale experience with plenty of little luxuries. The new hotel, scheduled to open this month with 95 guest rooms and three suites, is the only full-service hotel in the area. “We were designed with the traveler in mind and our features and amenities showcase that,” says Kimberly Harris, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing. Perks include access to the hotel’s fully-equipped, state-of-the-art fitness center, on-site business center and indoor heated pool. Guests can also enjoy a cold craft beer or sample locally-inspired fare at Verona by Fabio Viviani, the property’s full restaurant and pizza bar featuring a menu curated specially by the world-renowned chef.

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Built with affordable luxury in mind, “the property incorporates elements designed to evoke the region’s natural beauty,” says Harris. With 1,500 square feet of event space, the Cambria Shelby’s naturally-lit meeting room can be split into two smaller spaces and can accommodate up to 150 guests depending on the event’s format. The property’s team also offers planners access to the latest A/V equipment and exceptional custom catering menu options. cambriashelby.com

Canopy by Hilton Grand Rapids Downtown Less than a mile from DeVos Place, the Van Andel Arena, and Grand Rapids Art Museum, the new Canopy by Hilton Grand Rapids Downtown offers a vibrant downtown experience, enabling guests “to get the most out of their trip and experience the best of our great neighborhood,” says general manager Paige Kelly-Yasenchak.

“The hotel has a prime location in Studio Park and is within walking distance to unlimited local activities including movies, restaurants, breweries, and music venues,” she says. The property, which officially opened in September, offers 155 guest rooms inspired by Grand Rapids’ roots in the logging industry. The property not only features the city’s largest rooftop bar (with coveted four-season availability), but also offers planners just over 2,300 square feet of meeting space for intimate and large corporate meetings and social events. “We’ve created these innovative spaces specifically to help foster creativity, and we were able to show some of our own creativity in naming these spaces. Each event space is named after a different style of beer glass as a subtle nod to Grand Rapids being voted ‘Beer City USA,’” says Kelly-Yasenchak. The Tulip Room can seat up to 65 guests and features floor-to-ceiling windows as well as state-of-the-art built-in A/V equipment, while the Teku Room includes a built-in

P H OTO S : G R E G C E O ; H OT E L E A R L O F C H A R L E VO I X

spots to meet, refresh and recharge.


Hotel Earl of Charlevoix

Celebrate safely with us in 2021 Enjoy 18 acres of property and multiple outdoor event spaces. Begin planning your next celebration today. Herman Miller boardroom table and stadium seating. canopygrandrapids.com

Hotel Earl of Charlevoix

www.missionpoint.com 906.847.3000 | info@missionpoint.com

Named after its original architect, the trendy new Hotel Earl of Charlevoix offers guests an inviting getaway just steps from the bustle of Northern Michigan’s downtown Charlevoix. Officially opened in late September after an extensive renovation and rebrand, the boutique hotel property offers a contemporary ambiance with plenty of vintage nods to the hotel’s original incarnation as Earl Young’s Weathervane Lodge. Through the renovation process, the design team was careful to preserve the property’s original architecture while incorporating new elements. Design details include live edge wood features, custom millwork, bold quartz countertops, statement décor and hand painted murals. “The hotel was designed to be a social hub for visitors and locals alike,” says co-owner Paul Silva. The property will soon feature a stunning rooftop deck, indoor pool and outdoor hot tub in addition to its 56 guest rooms, enhanced fitness center and lobby wine bar. Groups can also take advantage of the hotel’s sophisticated boardroom, which can accommodate up to 12 guests, or third-floor 1,500-square-foot Earl Suite, which boasts a full kitchen, fireplace and large balcony overlooking Michigan Avenue with views of Round Lake. hotelearl.com

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DESTINATION MUSKEGON

The Muskegon Lake Channel

The combination of local attractions and new venues make this Western Michigan city a desirable destination for planners and tourists alike. BY L AU R E N PA H M E I E R

WITH MOSTLY FAMILY-OWNED SHOPS AND RESTAURANTS, 26 miles of sandy beaches, and more than double the miles in bike trails, Muskegon sounds like it could be a city on the West Coast. But combine it with snowy winters and a small-town feel, and Muskegon is a Midwestern city full of character. While the city provides plenty of recreational things to do, meetings and events don’t lack in luster. Opening in spring 2021, a new convention center is just one highlight for planners looking to book in Western Michigan, among plenty of other exciting venues to explore.

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P H OTO : I S TO C K .CO M / S T E V E N D R E Y N O L D S

A WEST COAST FEELING WITH MIDWESTERN CHARM


Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

Your attendees safely meet here! Mt. Pleasant’s central location makes meeting here easy. Home to the Soaring Eagle Casino and Central Michigan University, this college town stands out amongst the rest for its small town feel with big city amenities. To assist you in planning, the Mt. Pleasant Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (MPACVB) provides professional guidance and services to make your next meeting one for the books! Meet here, in Mt. Pleasant where there’s just the right amenities, just for you. Plan your meeting or event at www.meetmtp.com.

MPACVB | JD Copus | jd@meetmtp.com | (888) 772-2018 FOR PROOF ONLY - PROOF 1 Ad will run: Michigan Meetings + Events, Fall/Winter2020 Ad Size: 1/2 horizontal 7”x4.875” This proof does not reflect the image quality of the final printed piece. Photos or images may appear fuzzy due to the low-res format of this file. This proof does not reflect the image quality of the final printed piece. Photos or images may appear fuzzy due to the low-res format of this file.

FOR PROOF ONLY - PROOF 1 Ad will run: Michigan Meetings + Events, Fall/Winter2020 Ad Size: 1/2 horizontal 7”x4.875”

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DESTINATION MUSKEGON

Stay On-Site Meeting and event spaces are on the rise in Muskegon, particularly with the new Lakeshore Convention Center (LCC) that will overlook Muskegon Lake. The staff at Visit Muskegon is excited for the new convention center’s impact on the city. As LCC can hold up to 3,000 attendees at a time throughout the building’s 23,050 square feet of collective meeting space, the venue enables Muskegon to host more large-scale events. “We’re excited to show existing groups that have come year after year some new space and allow those groups to grow their events. And we’re also really looking forward to bringing in some newer groups, and possibly some

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public shows to stimulate the economy downtown and throughout the county as well,” says Caitlin Hegedus, marketing and operations manager at Visit Muskegon. The venue will live up to its name by providing views of Muskegon Lake with 14-foot windows within the pre-function space. In addition, the usage of wood-inspired panels throughout the venue nods to Muskegon’s history in the lumber industry as well as the abundance of forests in the city, while the overall mid-century modern design points to Muskegon’s future. “Lakeshore Convention Center will build on the community’s current momentum. We expect it to make Muskegon a year-round

destination and boost shoulder season business and tourism for the entire community,” says Katie DeWeerd, director of sales for the Parkland Properties of Michigan. Connected to the Lakeshore Convention Center is the Delta Hotels by Marriott Muskegon Downtown Lakeshore Convention Center, providing an additional 10,000 square feet of meeting space for planners under the same roof. In addition, the connection provides 200 guest rooms for attendees to retreat to after a day of meetings, without having to venture into the cold Michigan winter. However, the Lakeshore Convention Center isn’t the only venue with on-site guest rooms. Right across the street from LCC is

P H O T O S : ( C L O C K W I S E ) PA R K L A N D P R O P E R T I E S O F M I C H I G A N ; V I S I T M U S K E G O N ; F R A U E N T H A L T H E AT E R ; A D A M A L E X A N D E R ; PA R K L A N D P R O P E R T I E S O F M I C H I G A N

The conference center at the Shoreline Inn overlooks the marina.


BY THE NUMBERS

173,566 POPULATION OF MUSKEGON 1859 FOUNDATION OF MUSKEGON 26 MILES OF BEACHES 65 MILES OF TRAILS 850 FT LUGE TRACK LENGTH 34 CITY OF MUSKEGON PARKS

(Clockwise) The luge track at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, the Frauenthal Theater, the shoreline of Lake Michigan, Delta Hotels by Marriott Muskegon Downtown Lakeshore Convention Center

the Shoreline Inn & Conference Center, a 140-room hotel with a more vintage, boutique feel than the Marriott. The inn’s restaurant, the Lake House Waterfront Grille, also houses a 5,000-square-foot conference center that overlooks the marina, capable of hosting up to 300 people. Located nearby to both LCC and the Delta is the Frauenthal Theater, another potential venue for planners. Built in 1930, the Frauenthal hosts anything from business meetings to weddings within its Spanish Renaissance interior. A little farther from downtown Muskegon is Bella Maria’s Ristorante & Event Center in Norton Shores, a former restaurant with event

space turned full-scale venue that overlooks a golf course. Whether planners book the seasonal outdoor event tent, the ballroom, or one of three smaller room options within the former restaurant, Bella Maria’s provides an abundance of Italian food options as well as gorgeous views of Oak Ridge Golf Club.

Discover Muskegon Amusements Many venues are located in or are nearby to downtown Muskegon, close to plenty of things to do after the workday is over. For people interested in learning about Muskegon’s history, the Hackley & Hume homes provide a channel to the 1890s, as the museums

are restored homes of Muskegon lumber barons from that era. Muskegon is also home to two World War II ships, the USS Silversides and the USS LST 393. History buffs can tour the USS Silversides submarine itself, while the USS LST 393 landing ship tank has an onboard museum across the street from Western Avenue. Another popular landmark is the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, where the luge is one of four publicly accessible tracks in the United States. Visitors receive training before venturing down the track and sliding at speeds of up to 30 mph. Other activities at the complex include ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and more, and the Complex even has a wheel luge track for summer sliding. Other summer activities in Muskegon include visiting Michigan’s Adventure for rollercoaster fun, as well as its counterpart, WildWater Adventure. When visitors have garnered an appetite from exploring, Muskegon has plenty of family-owned restaurants to choose from. The local award-winning restaurant Dr. Rolf’s Barbeque serves up brisket, ribs, chicken and more, and Nipote’s, an Italian restaurant housed in a shipping container, offers paninis, pasta and more. For breakfast and brunch, Toast ‘N Jams is a Visit Muskegon team favorite. When it comes to balancing new growth and maintaining the city’s charm, Muskegon has found the right formula. “We really have a good mixture of both recreation and development,” says Hegedus.

Get Connected VISIT MUSKEGON visitmuskegon.org LAKESHORE CONVENTION CENTER lakeshoreconventioncenter.com info@lakeshoreconventioncenter.com

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Navigating the

N EW NORMAL BY M E G A N G O S C H

IN THE WAKE OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC, LOCAL PLANNERS AND INDUSTRY LEADERS SHARE HOW THEY’RE FINDING THEIR WAY FORWARD THROUGH AN EVOLVING EVENT LANDSCAPE.

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C

hances are, you won’t know you’re living through history until it’s too late. It’s already happening. A chain reaction has been set in motion and the ground has begun to slide beneath your feet. This past year has been a whirlwind to say the least. As a global pandemic sent the world reeling, planners were left grasping for footholds as the event industry was brought to

a standstill and many of the most fundamental elements of live meetings and events were cast in a new light. Of course, the pause didn’t last long. Planners quickly got to work, drawing from years of experience as master problem solvers to pivot like never before, while those who had already dabbled in virtual event formats put their skills to the test. Those early spring days were focused on the immediate future and plans for events already underway, but as weeks and months have passed, one thing’s become clear: the ripple effects of COVID-19 won’t fade anytime soon. As planners begin to settle in to a “new normal,” we’ve checked in with local pros and industry leaders to learn how they’ve navigated an everchanging event landscape and how they’re approaching the year ahead.

SETTLING IN

After an initial shock to the system with the onset of COVID-19, many planners have spent the last several months getting a new lay of the land—navigating a slew of ever-changing executive orders, safety protocols and health and safety guidelines—while sprinting to become overnight experts in all things micro, hybrid and virtual. For Bonnie Peck, relationship manager and venue concierge for Forte Belanger, a Troy-based special event design and catering firm, those first few weeks were focused on support for first responders. The Forte team set to work providing food for frontline workers and crucial DTE Energy employees. After stepping up to help their

local community, Forte “immediately launched into the virtual world,” Peck says. Previously, Forte had produced a more even split between corporate and social events, but over the course of the year Peck’s seen that ratio jump to nearly 80 percent social (mostly small, in-person, outdoor weddings) and 20 percent corporate work (mostly virtual). “We’ve been the backyard wedding kings and queens lately, but our virtual events are picking up speed with 13 virtual events already under our belt. Not everyone has the manpower to take that on, but we were lucky to have the resources to pivot and begin offering clients everything from drive-up events to livestreaming and interactive auctions.”

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LEADING BY EXAMPLE For Kim Corcoran, CMP, president of Destination Michigan and executive director of Meetings Michigan, navigating this new normal has included a major push for industry advocacy. “Right now, so many planners are only doing virtual, and that’s going to be detrimental down the line. Virtual could certainly be the best fit for some events, but fully moving away from in-person [events] guarantees a much slower recovery for our industry, and it’s possible our hotels and CVBs will have to close their doors,” she says. “We’ve got to show people what it looks like to meet safely in person.” Over the past six months, Corcoran’s produced a slew of successful outdoor, socially distanced events held at open air pavilion venues like Fox Hills Golf & Banquet Center and the Royal Park Hotel, including an appointment-based version of the organization’s annual Michigan Meetings Expo tradeshow. And with the success of these events, Corcoran and industry partners are beginning to see results. “The venues we’re hosting at are signing on new events after people have seen ours. Suddenly there’s a realization of ‘this is doable and all of the procedures are already in place.’ There are so many venues that have worked tirelessly to put safety measures in place and put guests at ease,” she says. “We’re trying to be that light, that beacon that shows planners we can do this.” In the months ahead, Corcoran will continue to prioritize hybrid when possible, with potential plans to use multiple meeting rooms and individual guest rooms for sessions and one-on-one appointments. “It’s not that we’re not doing virtual events as well,” she says. “Just like everyone else, I’ve become an overnight expert in virtual platforms, and you have to provide options for those who aren’t comfortable meeting in person just yet. But people are craving in-person connection and our industry partners need us.”

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Carol Galle, CMP, VEMM, president and CEO of Special D Events, has worked with her team to move all of the company’s 2020 events to a virtual format and is watching 2021 closely to determine next steps. “Since we manage events nationwide, it’s been a challenge to keep track of the restrictions in place across the country,” she says. Her team has established weekly state-by-state reviews to keep up with all of the changes they may need to factor in and keep top of mind as they move forward with future events. To keep everyone in the loop “[we] update a master spreadsheet and share it on our website for anyone to use.” And while some have been switching gears to pivot and meet the demands of the day, others have found themselves with a head start but a new set of challenges. “Pre-pandemic, our team was already 100 percent remote and producing events in virtual formats so when COVID-19 hit, we weren’t working to catch up in quite the same way,” says Will Curran, founder and chief event Einstein for Endless Events. As an established leader in the virtual and hybrid event production space, Curran and his team have become a beacon for planners learning the virtual ropes. “A lot of people in the industry are hurting so we’re trying to do as much as we can as quickly as we can to help planners get started. We received an astronomical number of leads in April, just explosive growth, and while we couldn’t take on everyone as a client, we were able to offer some initial tips to get them moving.”

PROMISING PERKS

While everyone can agree the onset of COVID-19 has been a devastating blow to so many industries around the world, planners have been able to find a few silver linings in its wake. Through the process of pivoting Cvent CONNECT 2020, an annual in-person premier event technology conference to a digital affair, director of meetings and events Rachel Andrews and her team found increased attendee accessibility and reach to be major benefits in the switch. “A virtual event allowed more people than ever before to attend CONNECT at a critical time where planners were hungry for guidance,” says Andrews. The conference, which was held August 25-26, brought together 43,000 attendees—nearly 10 times the average in-person attendance in years past—eliminated time, cost and space constraints and allowed whole teams to tune in. “New visitors and people who might have never known Cvent were able to see what CONNECT is all about. There’s no doubt that increased exposure from our virtual event will lead to greater in-person attendance in the future,” she says. Morgan Doan, CSEP, PWC, principal and creative director for MORGAN EVENTS and chair of the 2020 International Live Events Association (ILEA) Awards Celebration agrees, noting that this year’s virtual version of the association’s awards not only expanded the event’s attendee reach by removing any barriers in physical location, but also combined two distinct awards programs (ILEA’s Esprit Awards Celebration and the Spirit of Excellence Awards) as a cohesive show. Rather than two separate awards programs with their own select attendees, we opened our doors to everyone in ILEA and the live events community, bringing a much larger group together for this one big night of celebration.” A virtual platform “also helped control the pace of the show,” says Kelsey Secules, CMP, senior manager of events for ILEA. “[When] you can eliminate the time it takes


an awardee to get up from their seat, walk to the stage, and leave the stage, and you’re able to control the length of acceptance speeches, you really can keep things moving.” Other major perks have included new partner and content possibilities, data that can drive ROI and new opportunities to learn and grow. Andrews notes the ability to secure top-notch speakers who may not have been available had Cvent CONNECT been in person, including CEOs from industry giants like Marriott, Hilton, Southwest and American Airlines. “[With] our ability to record sessions anywhere, anytime, we were able to secure an incredible keynote lineup featuring the CEOs of leading global organizations—which only drove added interest to the event.” With attendees logging on digitally, Andrews and her team were also able to gather realtime insights to measure the success and effectiveness of the event’s programming through composite attendee engagement scores, click and page interactive metrics, real-time chats, user feedback, and more. “Those data points give us insight into buyer interest and help us better personalize the customer experience … helping us to narrow down key takeaways, lessons, and areas of improvement.” For Galle, who immediately recognized the value of virtual meetings, a pivot to digital solutions was a chance to help her team learn how to best serve their corporate and nonprofit clients. “The business purpose to hold the events we’re producing still exists, it just requires a new delivery mechanism. True mastery is only achieved through both experience and education, so we’ve invested in things like Event Leadership Institute Virtual Event and Meeting Management (VEMM) training and certification program for all the planners on our staff, and even my leadership team.”

WARP SPE E D

A massive overnight shift to primarily virtual and hybrid meetings and events has not only added pressure to planners trying to identify and master new event tech in a hurry, it’s sped up planning timelines as a whole. “It’s fast and furious,” says Peck. “Our turnaround is in the neighborhood of 30 days right now. Pre-pandemic, we were booking corporate events at least a year out, and now we’re looking at a virtual tour with meals for 400 people and six weeks to prepare.” For Doan and Secules, the shift from in-person to virtual shrunk the team’s typical planning cycle of six months or more to less than three. In switching Cvent CONNECT to a virtual event, Andrews and her team had three to four months to build out the company’s brand-new virtual attendee technology, launch a detailed pre-production and production schedule, reconfigure the event’s agenda and rigorously test and refine the process and program. “[The change] made our planning timeline more dynamic, but also more intense. We had to completely adjust our ‘traditional’ event planner roles to support these virtual needs since hybrid and virtual events require a significantly higher amount of pre-production than what you’d expect for in-person events,” she says. Cvent’s marketing timelines were compressed as well. “Despite announcing the pivot to virtual almost four months out, we still saw over 60 percent of the registrations come in in just the last two weeks, so we really didn’t need as much time to market as we would have for an in-person event.” “With a lot of my clients I’m noticing the planning timelines have really been squeezed and I’m concerned about that as a long-term trend,” says Curran. “It’s possible to spin up a virtual event real quick, but what you’re really doing is cutting out room for creativity. The shorter you shrink that timeline, the more cookie-cutter and less impactful your event’s going to be.” Galle, who’s finding a lead time of eight to 12 weeks has become the norm for the virtual

“It’s fast and furious. Our turnaround is in the neighborhood of 30 days right now. Prepandemic, we were booking corporate events at least a year out, and now we’re looking at a virtual tour with meals for 400 people and six weeks to prepare.” BONNIE PECK FORTE BELANGER EVENTS

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event production is concerned as well. “Can we put together a live event with a short lead time? Yes. Should we? Probably not,” she says. “An eight-week lead time allows the host to push content out to the audience, but it doesn’t leave enough time to seek attendee input or to be intentional about that content. To do a comprehensive job of setting event goals and objectives, vetting suppliers, marketing the event and managing all the logistics, you need at least 14 to 16 weeks. Just because you can do it with a very short lead time, doesn’t mean you should.”

For Events North founder Allison Beers, the production of her first midpandemic hybrid event may have been one of her most rewarding yet. Beers and her team produced the 2020 MISHRM Conference & Exhibition, an annual event to connect the Michigan Council of the Society for Human Resources’ HR professional members, from October 14-16. Structured in a hybrid format with 100 in-person attendees and more than 500 tuning in from home, the conference was the largest event held at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel since the onset of COVID-19. “We knew before COVID-19 hit, that what we do as event planners is unrivaled,” she says. “The impact live events can have is truly amazing, but to get to see people engaging and excited to meet again after such a trying year was indescribable.” With nearly 60 exhibitors, six live keynote presentations, more than 30 breakout sessions and access to one-on-one virtual networking sessions, attendees had plenty of avenues to connect, engage and find inspiration throughout the conference. After months of research, Beers and her team selected virtual event platform Hopin for the event and with all of Events North’s efforts, the content curated throughout the conference will be available to attendees for months to come. Through the process, Beers was pleasantly surprised to discover the true potential virtual platforms now offer. “We were happy to discover so many different platforms, each with specific capabilities that could work well with different clients and their future events,” she says. “After feeling like we’re working against so many restrictions and limitations, it was so exciting to see we’re not as boxed in as we thought.”

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With the novel aspects of pandemic life slowly becoming an engrained part of the everyday grind, planners are facing a familiar challenge. “Now that the immaturity of COVID-19 is coming to a close, the free passes on livestream glitches or subpar webinars are up,” says Curran. “Back in March and April there was this sense of camaraderie between hosts and attendees to show your human side, make mistakes and acknowledge that we’re all figuring this out one day at a time together. Today, not so much.” The demand for polished programs and engaging events—a pressure planners know all too well—is back in full force. “There’s kind of this mentality of we’ve all had time to figure this out, we’ve all sat through a notgreat virtual event and knowing these aren’t going away, attendees are looking for more,” he says. Just months into the pandemic, “Zoom fatigue” had already become a day-to-day reality for planners and attendees alike. And with webinars and virtual happy hours starting to feel played out, planners are beginning to prioritize platforms and program changes that can elevate and engage virtual and hybrid audiences. Planners focusing on virtual and hybrid events are funneling more energy and effort into quality content creation. “So much of the

P H OTO : M I S H R M CO N F E R E N C E & E X H I B I T I O N

F I N D I N G A WAY F O R WA R D

E L E VAT E AND ENGAGE


end user virtual experience is grounded in those under-the-radar factors—whether that’s sourcing studio spaces and videographers to support engaging pre-recorded programs or live sessions, editing camera angles and virtual presentation cues, or developing compelling content to keep attendees engaged between presentations,” says Andrews. “As planners, we are now TV producers and directors too.” For Peck and the Forte team, safely executed in-person perks have helped deliver an unexpected “wow” factor to surprise and delight attendees. “Whether it’s a fully virtual event, in-person or somewhere in between, we’re really leaning in to see how we can get creative with our services, respect the restrictions in place and make sure everyone’s safe,” says Peck. In coordination with Forte’s virtual events, Peck and her team will send delivery staff to attendee homes to present the catered meals chosen for the event. The literal white glove service can be timed for delivery in advance of the event or clients can choose to have hundreds of hot meals delivered to guests simultaneously just before. “It makes an impact to be getting ready to log on online, open your door, and be greeted by a professional in uniform and white gloves offering a ‘Good evening, sir or ma’am’ and presenting this innovative meal,” she says. Peck and the Forte team have also offered drive-by employee appreciation events, setting a designated meeting point guests can drive to where they’ll be greeted by their company’s president or CEO and gifted takeaways like happy hour kits or bottles of wine as a live three-piece band plays in the background. For a drive-by event in partnership with the Michigan Opera Theatre, opera singers serenaded guests as they drove up and collected their meal, then drove home to log on for a virtual gala. Forte also recently coordinated a virtual fundraiser for the Autism Alliance of Michigan. Sponsors who purchased tickets at designated price points received a personal at-home chef and Peck personally set a gala-

inspired setting in the co-chair’s home to set the tone for those watching at home. “It’s getting back to those custom, specialized, personal moments we were all executing before COVID-19 and challenging ourselves to get creative and think outside this new box we’ve been put in,” says Peck.

AROUND THE BEND

As is the case in most historic, landmark shifts, the impact of COVID-19 is sure to be notable and far-reaching. While industry experts are predicting a long-standing focus on digital events and a reinvigorated commitment to sustainable and eco-friendly event practices down the line, planners have begun to form their own predictions for the immediate future. Based on his work with clients, Curran is anticipating an uptick in hybrid events. “I’d say hybrid is the new event—as in, we don’t even need to call them ‘hybrid’ events because ‘event’ will be synonymous with the hybrid platform, and everyone will assume there’s going to be some sort of virtual element involved.” Earlier in 2020, Curran’s clients were hoping to plan for in-person events with a virtual component in case they needed to go digital. “In the year ahead I’m hoping we’ll see groups doing the opposite with a virtual-first mindset, forming full digital plans and an inperson element in mind in case it’s possible.” For Peck and her team, the hope is to have more of a semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy. “Our team’s hoping to be back to ‘normal’ by April or May of 2021,” says Peck. “I know virtual may be the path forward and the best fit for some organizations, but the clients I’m working with want to make their attendees feel seen and valued and honored and I just don’t see live events completely off the table when that’s the end goal. If nothing else, live events may become more niche, but I don’t foresee an entirely digital future anytime soon.”

Get Connected CVENT cvent.com | 866.318.4358​​​​​​ DESTINATION MICHIGAN destinationmi.com | 734.646.0791 ENDLESS EVENTS helloendless.com | 855.366.8363 EVENTS NORTH eventsnorth.com | 231.883.2708 FORTE BELANGER fortebelanger.com | 248.564.3703 ILEA | ileahub.com | 571.685.8010 MEETINGS MICHIGAN meetingsmichigan.com | 734.646.0791 SPECIAL D EVENTS specialdevents.com | 248.336.8600ne

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REGIONAL NEWS

Margaux

AWARDS»

AC Lounge

F&B NEWS»

Indoor Dining Resumes at Margaux Margaux, the contemporary French bistro at the JW Marriott Grand Rapids, has reopened for indoor dining after following all safety guidelines implemented by local and state health officials. Located on the first floor of the downtown property, Margaux is once again serving lunch, brunch and dinner with new menu options in a revamped space. New menu items include short rib à la Bourguîgnonne, a classic steak frites Café de Paris, and a Scottish salmon wrapped in flaky pastry in a white wine sauce, while updated interiors boast a modern yet comfortable Parisian aesthetic, velvet and tufted upholstery, exposed gray brick, dramatic draping and a sleek marble bar. Ilovethejw.com

Pop-Up Transforms AC Lounge The AC Lounge at the AC Hotel Grand Rapids Downtown has been reimagined as a tropical hot spot. Officially opened in September, La Ventanita, a pop-up featuring Spanish- and Latin American-inspired bites like crispy ham croquetas and a frita cubana with papas criollas (a Cuban hamburger with Colombian-style fried potatoes), brings tropical vibes to Grand Rapids’ Hotel District. Guests can also enjoy a drink menu full of fun twists on the classics, including a piña colada milk punch and a smoked Manhattan. marriott.com/grrar

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USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards has named the Inn at Black Star Farms the nation’s Best Wine Country Hotel 2020. A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. The family-owned, 10-room inn is located on 160 rural acres in Leelanau County, Northwest Michigan’s notable wine region. The Kentucky-inspired estate is located along a hillside of vineyards with sweeping pastoral views, and features picturesque rolling farmland, sandy beaches, parks and quaint villages. Guests of the Inn enjoy VIP access to the winery’s tasting room, a nightly hospitality hour, luxurious guest rooms with in-room wine, gourmet breakfasts, onsite trails and more. The Inn also hosts weddings, special events and corporate retreats and offers on-site catering. Standing out front of accommodations in notable wine regions like California and Oregon, “the nomination in itself was an extreme honor, and one that shines a spotlight on a tremendous team that we are so fortunate to have at our Inn,” says Sherri Campbell Fenton, the Inn’s managing owner. “It’s very exciting to see our unique experiences and incredible wines making such a tremendous, lasting impact on so many.” blackstarfarms.com/inn

P H OTO S : M A R G AU X ; AC H OT E L G R A N D R A P I D S D OW N TOW N ; J O H N R O B E R T W I L L I A M S ; ( O P P O S I T E ) D O U B L E T R E E B Y H I LT O N B AY C I T Y - R I V E R F R O N T

Michigan Inn Named Nation’s Best Wine Country Hotel


DoubleTree by Hilton Bay City - Riverfront

RESORT & HOTEL NEWS»

DoubleTree by Hilton Bay City - Riverfront Completes Renovation The DoubleTree by Hilton Bay City Riverfront has completed the renovation of its hotel and conference center. The renovation included a transformation of the hotel’s conference rooms, meeting spaces and common areas with welcoming decor, new lighting, fresh wall coverings, new carpeting, plush bedding and more. Guest bathrooms were also refreshed with newly-installed showers, bathtubs and bathroom accessories. Guest room doors are now equipped with the latest tech to allow guests a safe, no-contact entry using Hilton’s Digital Key system. “We are excited to have our guests experience the new upgrades and renovation,” says Jamie Ralph, the hotel’s director of sales. The property, which includes 150 guest rooms, also features nearly 15,000 square feet of meeting and event space, and can accommodate up to 550 guests. “In addition to our cleaning procedures, we have implemented Hilton’s EventReady with CleanStay programs to welcome our guests when they are ready,” Ralph says.

Centrally located within the greater TriCity area of Midland, Bay City and Saginaw, the hotel is within walking distance of Bay City’s charming boutiques, pubs and eateries and situated to provide easy access to MBS International Airport. baycityriverfront. doubletree.com

Hilton Garden Inn Opens in Flint The Hilton Garden Inn Flint Downtown has opened in the former Genesee County Savings Bank. The historic building, located in downtown Flint, was vacant for decades before a transformation of the building began in 2018. The transformation of the building was one of many major local projects including the Capitol Theatre, Marketplace Apartments, Dryden Building and Ferris Wheel. Built as Flint’s second skyscraper, the 100-year-old building features Italian Renaissance Revival and Art Deco designs. It offers just over 100 guest rooms. The hotel includes an on-site, full-service restaurant and bar, fitness center, business center, and a meeting and banquet center offering more than 3,000 square feet of meeting and event space spread across five meeting rooms.

The hotel also offers a rooftop lounge with views overlooking Buckham Alley and the University of Michigan – Flint campus. hilton.com/en/ hotels/fntfdgi-hilton-garden-inn-flint-downtown

Courtyard by Marriott Lansing Downtown to Open Opening this March, the newest hotel in downtown Lansing will be perfectly situated to welcome guests interested in soaking up all Lansing has to offer. Featuring 120 guest rooms and two suites, the Courtyard by Marriott Lansing Downtown (which will be the first hotel to open in downtown Lansing since the mid1980s) offers guests a new home base close to Michigan’s State Capitol building and Stadium District, and is just a couple of miles from the Michigan State University campus. Planners can take full advantage of the hotel’s two meeting rooms. With a total of 1,689 square feet of meeting space that can be divided by airwall, the hotel will be able to accommodate nearly 200 guests for a reception- or theater-style event, 140 guests for a banquet-style event and just over 70 guests for a classroom-style event. marriott.com/hotels/ travel/lancl-courtyard-lansing-downtown

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REGIONAL NEWS

RESORT & HOTEL NEWS»

The team at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, northern Michigan’s largest meeting and event space, has launched a safe meetings campaign, incorporating the specifications of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders, the directives and advice of federal, state and local health authorities, and its own additional rules and protocols. The campaign promotes rigorous measures for meeting safely, including steps the resort has taken to keep guests healthy such as strictly enforced face mask and physical distancing policies, extensive sanitation procedures, thermal self-check temperature stations, plexiglass barriers and more. Featuring nearly 600 guest rooms and 86,500 square feet of meeting space, the resort’s ample space inside and out also allows for resort guests to meet while accounting for physical distancing recommendations. At the end of August, the resort hosted the North American Space Summit, bringing nearly 200 people from across the country together to talk about the future of the space industry while utilizing the resort’s health and safety protocols without incident. “Our event is the first successful in-person, hybrid model meeting for the Aerospace and Defense Industry since March in the United States. Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic,

PEOPLE NEWS»

Mission Point Names New Executive Chef Mission Point has appointed Adrian Diday to executive chef. In his new role Diday will elevate the culinary experience at the Mackinac Island resort’s eateries, including Round Island Bar & Grill, Bistro on the Greens,

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we continued planning our event with full faith in the staff at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. The success of it showed with our participants who answered a survey after say-

ing it was the best conference they’ve ever been to,” says Gavin Brown, executive director of Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association. grandtraverseresort.com

Boxwood Coffeeshop & Cafe, and Chianti. With Diday leading the strong property team, Mission Point is set to expand its farmto-ferry ethos, sourcing increasingly more ingredients from local farms and purveyors in the Straits of Mackinac region and across Michigan. Previously, Diday filled multi-faceted roles at world-class restaurants throughout the country and overseas, such as Drakes in Surrey in the United Kingdom; Restaurant Daniel in

New York; The Saltry in Arkansas; Coeur D’Alene Casino in Idaho and Stanley Hotel in Colorado. He was also part of the team at the famed Inn at Little Washington during its recent achievement of Michelin stars, and brings more than 15 years of culinary experience to his work, amplifying regional ingredients and flavors into memorable meals. Diday has also worked as a guest chef for the New York Yankees Legends Series, President Obama’s Inaugural Ball, and the James Beard

P H O T O S : G R A N D T R AV E R S E R E S O R T

Grand Traverse Resort Launches Safe Meetings Campaign


House, and was nominated as a StarChefs Rising Star. “Chef Adrian Diday speaks volumes to what it means to provide exceptional guest service,” says Liz Ware, Mission Point’s vice president of marketing. “He has swiftly elevated our farmto-ferry approach to ensure our guests enjoy a true taste of the region when visiting the island. His immense love for food and appreciation for each member of his team is what sets him apart from the rest.” missionpoint.com

Experience Grand Rapids Appoints VP of Sales and Services Experience Grand Rapids has appointed Mary Manier, CTA, CTP, CTIS to the role of vice president of sales and services. Most recently Manier was director of sales and has promoted Grand Rapids/Kent County as a meetings and travel destination for nearly 40 years with the destination marketing group. “No one knows our destination better than Mary,” says Doug Small, president and CEO, Experience Grand Rapids. “She knows how to translate that knowledge into a compelling story for meeting planners. Her expertise, positive attitude, professional experience and unparalleled local networks make her the right person to lead our sales and services team as we work to restore Grand Rapids’ place as a leading Midwest meeting and convention destination.” In 2019 Manier was named to the inaugural class of Connect Association’s 15 over 50, which salutes leaders who have moved the industry forward in the midst of the shutdowns caused by COVID-19. She also has led Experience Grand Rapids’ internal sales and services team and local meetings industry suppliers as they assist meeting planners with rescheduling and cancellation of their meetings. “These are challenging times, but we’re confident that in-person meetings will remain a vital component in the way our country does business in the future,” says Manier. “When the market is ready, Grand Rapids will be ready, too.” experiencegr.com

June 2, 2021 | MotorCity Casino Hotel, Detroit

Michigan Meetings Expo • Come see hotels, resorts and unique venues from throughout the state • Education, idea sharing and networking • Complimentary for meeting planners

Register now at www.destinationMI.com Opportunities to sponsor/exhibit: Kim@destinationMI.com

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SNAPSHOTS MSAE FALL GOLF OUTING

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MSAE Fall Golf Outing

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The Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE) hosted its first inperson event since the pandemic began at The Medalist Golf Club in Marshall. MSAE’s goal was to host a fun networking opportunity that followed COVID guidelines, and helped members gain confidence attending in-person events again. Like many other COVID-era gatherings, cancellation policies were waived, and social distancing and mask-wearing within 6 feet were encouraged.   Sponsors were assigned golf carts to minimize contact with golf course staff and volunteers, while attendees’ golf carts were pre-loaded with name badges, gifts from sponsors, and more in order to bypass registration. Originally planned to be a May event, the Fall Golf Outing still recruited 82 golfers. Rain threw another obstacle into the mix, but the professionals took it in stride and had a few laughs along the way.

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1. Front to back: Randi Talmage, Mary Mauro, Chris Schroeder, David Martell. 2. Hannah Pigott, DeVos Place. 3. Deb Kopkau won the putting contest. 4. Clay Summers in front of the Experience Grand Rapids tent. 5. The Ngage team, left to right: Jacquelen Timm, Andrea Starmer, Tobi Lyon, Ken Root. 6. The Creative Photo Contest winners, left to right: Jay Gladstone, Denise McGinn, Mac Place, Julie Pingston. 7. Each golfer’s assigned cart was pre-loaded wiith registration materials. 8. Brian Persky, Clay Summers, Laura Hill, Erin Abel. –Photos by MSAE

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| FALL 2020 / WINTER 2021

SUBMIT YOUR EVENT PHOTOS To have your meeting or event photos featured here, contact the editor at lauren.pahmeier@tigeroak.com.


State Theatre New Jersey


A GUIDING FORCE

Industry veteran Larry Alexander reflects on a lifetime of memory making. B Y M E G A N G O S C H

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f you’d have told a young Larry Alexander, president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau (DMCVB), that he’d spend his career making memories, he wouldn’t have believed you. Alexander was a pre-med student at University of Houston when he learned his

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mother was seriously ill. “It became obvious. I couldn’t wait 13 years to launch a career and help my family. I knew I needed a switch. I just didn’t know what to do,” says Alexander. He met with the university’s dean of counseling, who spent a year testing Alexander to help him determine a new career fit.

“He gave me every conceivable test there was. When we finally got to hospitality, I never looked back,” he says. “He said, ‘30 years from now you want to look back and say you enjoyed it.’ And I can honestly say, after nearly 50 years in the industry, I have.” Since then, he’s worked tirelessly to turn out impressive results. He became Westin Hotels & Resorts’ first African American general manager by the age of 29, and in his 22 years with the DMCVB, he’s helped guide the region through some of its toughest times to build buzz, raise the city’s profile and advocate for the industry. From the establishment of the Detroit Sports Commision and the landing of international events like Super Bowl XL and the NCAA Men’s Final Four, to the stewardship and development of the TCF Center (which saw increased revenue over 500 percent under his leadership) and key bids won for major events and conventions, Alexander has aimed high and delivered through the years. With the production of award-winning events and the successful push of DMCVB’s “Detroit, America’s Great Comeback City” revitalization-themed campaign (which earned worldwide recognition and helped boost regional tourism) Alexander hasn’t shied away from a creative challenge either. “There’s nothing mundane about this job. It’s that creative side that gives us the opportunity to do something people haven’t seen before,” says Alexander. “Our product has always been our people, and the creativity they bring to the table is what makes the memories people remember for the rest of their lives. It’s not always easy, but that’s where the magic happens. That’s what this work is all about.” No matter the task at hand, Alexander has approached his work knowing what matters most. “I know this industry is a 24/7 job, but in a fast-paced world where we’re communicating more by fingers and thumbs than face-to-face, we’ve got to remember it’s about the people we’re trying to connect and the people who helped get us there,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate to work with some incredibly talented people and I’m grateful to every one of them for being a part of that work.” As Alexander prepares for retirement, he most looks forward to a bit of travel and some uninterrupted time with his family. “It’s all been a truly rewarding, enjoyable journey. I can honestly say that. And I’m looking forward to this next adventure as much as the last.”

I L L U S T R AT I O N : T R A C I Z E L L M A N N

PEOPLE PROFILE LARRY ALEXANDER


MICHIGAN’S PREMIER RESORT FOR MEETINGS & EVENTS.

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Over 250 Acres of Possibilities.

Extraordinary experiences expertly planned — that’s what you expect from The Henry Ford. Today, as we face unprecedented challenges together, you have the assurance of our unwavering planners and 250 acres of indoor and outdoor venues provide creative options for unforgettable socially distanced celebrations. Book your next event at: • • • •

Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation Greenfield Village Lovett Hall Ford Rouge Factory Tour

See why The Henry Ford is the most awarded venue in Michigan. thf.org/privateevents

Take it forward.®

commitment to everyone’s health and safety. Our expert event

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Michigan Meetings + Events Fall 2020 Winter 2021  

After a year filled with uncertainty and countless projects and proposals put on hold, growth in any sector of the hospitality industry is a...

Michigan Meetings + Events Fall 2020 Winter 2021  

After a year filled with uncertainty and countless projects and proposals put on hold, growth in any sector of the hospitality industry is a...

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