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A New Spin on Old Ideas

Hillary Smith was tired of seeing the same-old, same-old at the meetings industry conferences she attends. So Smith and Koncept Events shook things up last fall by putting a new whirl on the annual SPIN [Senior Planners Industry Network] conference (SPINCon) in November at the Marriott Resort Fort Lauderdale Harbor Beach.

Smith, a partner in Koncept, was well acquainted with SPIN, whose members are meeting planners with 10 or more years of experience. When she heard the SPIN conference was coming to Koncept’s home base of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, she offered to assist. “Because of budget, they were about to plan a typical conference,” she said. “I said, ‘No, no, no! That’s not who you are.’ These planners are not swimming in the same stream; they like to push the envelope.”

Smith didn’t want the 200 planners at SPINCon to feel as she often does at meetings industry gatherings. “At most events put on for meeting planners, no one puts the love, the thought and the care into it, so the planners aren’t seeing anything new. We didn’t want it to be the same for SPIN; we wanted to give these planners something to talk about.”

And boy, did they. Koncept and its suppliers donated hundreds of staff hours and thousands in materials to completely theme SPIN’s sixth annual conference. Koncept put its touch on every aspect, every event, “right down to the napkins at lunch,” said Catherine Jensen, SPIN’s vice president of operations. “I am still hearing the buzz.”

The conference theme — Brain, Body, Being and Business — served as inspiration as each of four meeting rooms was styled to reflect one of the words through color, fragrance, music, seating and decor. To see each room and read about Koncept’s thought processes, visit

Pulling off such an elaborate event isn’t something every organization can afford, yet some of Koncept’s ideas weren’t all that costly, and others would be doable with the help of a cooperative hotel and supportive suppliers. “Planners get really excited; then they say, ‘It’s great, but we don’t’ have any money.’ But you can still incorporate some of the little things,” said Smith. Here are some ideas.

Use speaker quotes to reinforce a message.

Koncepts studied speakers’ presentations and turned presenters’ pithiest quotes into artwork for tabletops. “I saw women pointing at the quotes and a lot of planners taking pictures of the quotes,” said Smith.

Get on a roll with golf balls.

In one session, planners were urged to unwind by slipping off their shoes and rolling their feet over golf balls that were supplied. It was an inexpensive way to provide a foot massage. Not as many planners participated as Smith had hoped, perhaps because the idea wasn’t explained clearly enough, she said.

Choose a sense or two.

At SPINCon 2016, each meeting room was a multisensory experience thanks to varied lighting, textures, music and scents. Instead of employing all the senses, a planner could focus on one or two, switching up music styles or lighting from room to room.

Make one space do double duty.

Using one space in two ways is a smart cost-saving measure, Smith pointed out. For example, instead of typical break tables, morning coffee and snacks could be set up in a “coffeehouse” area with couches, comfy chairs, coffee tables and perhaps an acoustic guitarist. In the evening, the same space could become a bar, shifting into a new gear with livelier music and libations.

Shake up seating.

Adding unorthodox seating can lift attendees’ spirits. Jensen noted planners’ reactions to eight inflatable chairs in a meeting room at a SPIN conference two years ago. “They were fighting over them,” she said. Often a hotel or a meeting venue has sofas, ottomans, rocking chairs or other out-of-the-ordinary seating that can be moved from common areas into a meeting space. If the budget is available, special seating can be rented.

For more information about SPIN or Koncept Events, visit and