Monday, February 13, 2012

Recipe for Engagement

Meredith Rollins, left, and Mona Simon (in toque)
As editors, we’ve often written about the benefits of interactive experiences at meetings — of how a shared activity can strengthen relationships more effectively than just bringing attendees together in a meeting room or around a conference table.

Last week we experienced it ourselves, when Convene’s editorial and sales teams met with members of PCMA's executive, marketing, partner relations, and business innovation staffs for a planning retreat at Grove Isle Hotel & Spa in Miami.

One sultry evening, Chef Ehren Beers led us in an “Interactive Chef’s Challenge;" Mona Simon, director of partner relations and advertising, divided us into four teams, mixing it up in terms of our daily job functions. Luckily for us, Beers made food preparation practically foolproof: ingredients for our three-course dinner were pre-chopped and pre-measured, and Beers coached us on methods.

 Editor Chris Durso and ad exec Mary Lynn Novelli
It wasn’t structured as a competition, but our group managed to make it into one, talking friendly trash about other teams’ techniques, as we tossed together a chicken and mango salad, sautéed fish, stirred lemon and pine nuts into quinoa, and flambéed – or attempted to flambé – berries for dessert.

The hands-on dinner came at the end of a long day of strategy and discussion, as we filled page after flip-chart page of ideas. And it worked as advertised, switching on our playful sides, and creating a relaxing, if rowdy, atmosphere.

The resort looks over beautiful Biscayne Bay, and we moved from dinner to sitting around one of the hotel’s well-appointed fire-pits, overlooking the water, sipping wine, and talking into the night.

Software programmers invented the phrase “eating your own dog food,” as a metaphor for using your own systems, and it’s an apt, if inelegant, description of what we were doing.  And, with apologies to Chef Beers, our dog food tasted great.

Photos by Advertising Executive Mary Lou Sarmiento

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