Delegates to the inaugural Small Market Meetings conference came to Shreveport, La., from 32 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, a farflung representation for the first year of what will be an annual conference.
Terri Henson, civic center director for the City of Wrangell, Alaska, was among those who traveled farthest to attend. Only Kim Oshiro, a sales representative for Aston Hotels and Resorts in Hawaii, traveled farther, and then by only a few hundred miles.
Henson had been in search of an effective place to market the Nolan Center, a small meeting venue in Wrangell, a historic town in Alaska’s Inland Passage. She had attended other meeting industry tradeshows, but felt lost among larger towns and venues.
“When we saw that this conference was for small markets we felt it might be a better fit,” she said. “I felt it would be more of an area where Wrangell would shine, and I was right. The planners there were looking for smaller venues, something a little different,” she said.
Henson also enjoyed the social events, which industry representatives were welcomed to attend with meeting planners.
“I really liked the fact the planners and suppliers were able to get together like we did. We all had a good time,” she said. “I’ve been to a couple of other conferences where suppliers weren’t allowed to attend all of the functions with the planners.”
Getting the white-glove treatment
Churches aim to inspire, but Miranda R. Small’s lifelong membership in the Baptist church has done so in an unexpected way.
The white-glove usher service that Small introduced a year ago at the Shreveport Convention Center is rooted in training she received as an usher in church, according to the catering and etiquette manager for the SMG-managed facility.
“I actually learned all of this in church,” said Small, who has continued to learn more about church protocol as a special events director for her church, Praise Temple Baptist Cathedral.
The 150 diners at meal functions during the Small Market Meeting Conference were beneficiaries of Small’s service innovation, in which a banquet captain wearing white gloves helps direct wait staff so diners are served efficiently and uniformly. The service is part of Small’s larger goal, “to ensure that you receive the level of service you are supposed to enjoy as a guest.”
Since childhood, Small has been interested in etiquette and manners, and she has continued to learn through work with her church and through time spent working as a model.
A year ago, SMG decided to capitalize on her knowledge by promoting Small to etiquette manager. She teaches etiquette classes to the center’s catering staff once a month.
The white-glove service looks special, a cross between seeing a conductor lead an orchestra and a policeman direct traffic. A white-gloved captain with hands in the air serves as a marker for servers, making them visually aware of which tables are being served and using various hand movements to signal where the service will move next.
In addition to adding an elite air to banquet functions, the white gloves keep service on track. No longer does a table of hungry diners have to wait for one person who has been overlooked by wait staff to get their meal.
“In my personal and professional experience, I know that service can sometimes get off track,” said Small. “You can miss a guest at a table because you don’t have a point person.” The white-glove service “keeps our team on point, it allows the flow to go smoother and it looks so nice.”
“We are hoping this will become contagious and other properties will want to take a hold of it,” said Small.