Q&A with Joe Landers // Hilton WowMaker // Manager of Sales Promotion // Shelter Insurance Companies, Columbia, Mo.

What do you see as key driving trends in corporate meetings for 2017?
Over the course of a year, I plan roughly 23 field sales update meetings, training sessions and motivational encounters, as well as managing our incentive trips at various stages of completion. Today's key drivers for our meetings revolve around security of a location, stability of our on-site partners and fresh new experiences for our attendees. While in years past rate was a key driver, the market factors presently at play are making rate a less flexible attribute of the program.

Your recent Bavarian-themed event sounds like one for the ages. Please describe!
Taking place in June 2015, this was our annual Conference of Champions incentive event, honoring our top 150 sales agents and their spouses. With the goal of providing our attendees with a fairytale experience, we chose Bavaria. The region’s beautiful mountains and history were key elements of the program, which included historical tours of Herrenchiemsee Palace, Neuschwanstein Castle and Nymphenburg Palace, plus a city tour of Salzburg, Austria.

The theme for our awards gala, held at the Munich Hilton Park, was a Bavarian Royal Ball. The hotel covered the ballroom walls with hand-painted tapestries, creating the feeling of being right inside of King Ludwig's palace. With the food and beverage staff all dressed in livery uniforms from the period, our attendees experienced the Sound of Music from a fantastic entertainment group from Salzburg and were serenaded by the Tolzer Boys Choir. It was truly a wonderful evening.

Our farewell event took place at Munich’s historic Lowenbraukeller. The evening was filled with delicious German foods, traditional entertainment and good German beer.

How you do rate the growing importance of "experience" in meetings, and how does Hilton, through its WowMakers program, help bring visionary experiences to life?
It seems our world is becoming a bit smaller year after year. Our attendees are well traveled, and many make work-life balance a priority in their lives through travel. Accordingly, simply taking an attendee to a great location may not be enough. We need to bring that location to life with experience-based events that relate to its history, beauty and more. That is why Hilton WowMakers not only provides a way to interact with a tremendous hospitality partner, but a way for fellow planners to share their experiences and learn from each other to truly create a “wow” event for their attendees.