by Dana Freker Doody
Creating wow experiences for all stakeholders at an event or trade show begins with the seed of an idea, and trusting partners to grow those ideas can result in success beyond imagination. That’s what happened at this year’s VenueConnect, which brings together member of the International Association of Venue Managers.
IAVM’s opening reception was that kind of wow experience, with fashion-forward food and drink offerings coupled with some surprise experiences like a Zamboni ride, a virtual reality tour and a few games. Held at Bridgestone Arena, home of the formidable fan-favorite NHL Nashville Predators, the reception felt like a night on the town at a high-end bar crawl with your best friends. Selfies with the Predators mascot included. The seed of the event was a conversation between IAVM’s Christy Jacobs, Director of Sales and Marketing, and Leslie Villone at Delaware North, a leader in hospitality and food service management with a strong presence at sports venues nationwide.
“We trusted them to create a great experience,” says Jacobs, and Villone from Delaware North echoes that same sentiment. “There is trust in a partnership that leads to openness and flexibility. That’s how the Opening Reception for the entire attendee base of VenueConnect was born.”
Early in the year Delaware North realized the convention location in Nashville was an ideal opportunity to sponsor and advance their sales and marketing goals.
“If it’s in one of our cities, it’s a natural step,” Villone says. “We can show off on our home turf and know it will be great.”
Discussions began with IAVM and rather than a private event for customers only, the reception for all attendees was born. The upside for Delaware North was drawing a bigger audience and being a vital part of the association’s like-minded people coming together and showing off their product.
With IAVM making changes to bring several sectors of the venue world together at one annual convention, a sponsor-driven opening reception for all attendees allowed the association to support prior smaller meetups so attendees in each sector could find “their tribe” before moving on to the Bridgestone Arena.
“I encouraged (Delaware North) to tell me their ideas,” says Jacobs at IAVM. “Anything that can enhance the attendee experience is a go.”
The sponsor wanted to invite everyone, and took the lead on the reception coming together quickly.
To pull the event together, Villone relied on her in-city team at Bridgestone. The Delaware North chefs and managers got creative in the form of lobster rolls, tacos with fresh flavor combinations, divine small bakery desserts and some innovative takes on stadium food. The team reached out to their food and beverage partners to be part of the event showcase and quite a few jumped at the chance, with grateful attendees sampling locally hand-crafted liquors, bellying up to a Tito’s bar and basking in swag from Jack Daniels, who created a gaming and virtual reality activation of their own within the larger event.
“Such great feedback from everyone,” Jacobs says, “including other exhibitors,” showing the partnership with Delaware North was a benefit to the entire association community.
And for Delaware North, at a time when many brands are off doing their own thing, the networking and exposure among the wider IAVM audience fell right in line with their business development goals.