On December 3rd, 2015, Marriott welcomed 500 planners from its top meetings and events client companies to the Gaylord Texan for a weekend of networking, learning, and discovering how Marriott properties can be the perfect canvas upon which to craft the perfect corporate event.
 

The Objective

The objective from the client for this specific event was to create a space for the attendees to network after the main dinner was complete. They also wanted to use the décor and space as a catalyst to introduce the newest members of the Marriott family, the Gaylord properties and the Autograph Collection, which are both known for their eclectic array of even spaces in different sizes and personalities that fit the local culture of the cities they are positioned in. Along with that same theme, being at a Gaylord property, Marriott was keen to showcase the Gaylord Texan as a location to host incredibly unexpected events. There was a perception among planners that the Dallas market was growing stale and lagging in innovation, and both the hotel and Marriott wanted to use this event as a way to shift that perception to the new era of events in Texas. The space needed to be intimate, atypical, and clearly have the flair and finesse that is expected of the Marriott meetings experience.

 

The Stakes

In addition to the regular stakes present at any event we’re producing for a client, this also happened to be a client that we have a very deep relationship with. Being in-house at over a dozen Marriott-managed properties nationwide, our reputation as a national supplier was on the line. We had previously produced several events for CPC and its Association-specific counterpart at several of our other offices, so we were confident that Marriott liked our approach and our partnership. However, unlike an event at our other offices that would be about maintaining a partnership, the stakes for our Texas office were even higher.

 

Everything’s Bigger in Texas

The phrase actually does ring true for a lot of things, and this event was definitely one of them. As our newest office location, at the time of this event, our Texas office lacked many of the services that are present at all of our offices, such as a robust creative department, deep supplier relations and existing partnerships with hoteliers. However, somethings just seems to line up perfectly. The Gaylord Texan was looking to receive bids for their hotel partnership, and were using the pitch process for the CPC event as their deciding factor. If we could wow them with the creativity that has proven effective in our other offices, while infusing local Texas culture, we have the opportunity to increase the revenue potential for our Texas office exponentially, far beyond one event.

 

The Dilemma

We sat down and poured over every detail of the clients RFP and what they were looking for the event to accomplish. In addition to the objectives mentioned above, the client wanted this event to have a "speakeasy" vibe. For a client that wants the event to break the rules and showcase the future of events, a speakeasy is one of the most hackneyed themes you can do. Attendees immediately have a perception of what it will be and how it should look. We knew we needed to elevate this experience to a new place and needed the perfect underdog venue to make it happen.

 

The Concept

We found this amazing hidden storage and mechanical room underneath one of the restaurants in the Atrium. It had exposed ceilings with electrical cables, concrete walls, and looked like somewhere you weren’t supposed to be. With its restaurant setting, we came up with the idea of the "Private Stash – The story of a Chef, a Mad Man and a Drunk" where worldly creatives would go to share their most treasured items with their other worldly friends in an exclusive unknown location. We turned the speakeasy into a pop-up hipster experience, capitalizing on FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) to storytelling. We developed décor and food service pieces that complemented the space. Found objects and antique lighting are used on "rustic speakeasy" parties all the time, but when paired with a space that feels equally derelict, the items take on a life of their own and implore the attendees to wonder how they got there. We also carpeted the space and filled it with eclectic furniture that invited the attendees to get comfortable and chat about other Marriott gems with the same local charm.

 

The Details

Because this was such an intimate experience, we made sure to capitalize on the intimate details that the average attendee may gloss over, but the savvy meeting planner at this event would revel at discovering. We included subtle nods to a classic 1920s speakeasy through champagne coups being used as vessels for passed hors d’oeuvres, as well as in the wallpaper pattern on the faux walls that we used to partition the space off from the mechanical components in the room.  We were also sure to use battery operated fixtures whenever possible to reduce the amount of cables. In a room this size, having clean lines is even more important. We were also able to cross-utilize components as both entertainment as décor. A vinyl record DJ provided both an entertainment component through the music he was playing, but also an atmospheric interactive element as guests looked through vinyl collections to request songs. This helped stir up nostalgia and encourage networking as the client requested.

 

The Result

The result was an after-party that was incredibly popular. We had pushed seating out to a terrace space behind the room as a backup in case the event had a higher turnout than expected. And boy, are we glad we did as this event was incredibly attended! We found attendees staying the entire time through reception and dinner to get to the after-party. We created an exclusive event that was designed for everyone in an otherwise forgotten space. AND this event has been nominated for a Texas Star Award by the International Live Events Association. Cheers to that!