Benefit of an expert touch

To reward its top performers with a trip to Japan, US-based life insurance company finds working with destination experts to be the best route.

Meiji Shrine experience
Meiji Shrine experience

Event brief
The Transamerica Direct 2016 Client Conference was a three-city incentive programme for the top clients of the US-based Transamerica Life Insurance Company taking in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.

During their stay in Tokyo, the group took part in The Walkshop, an English-language guided walk through the dense forest that surrounds Meiji Shrine. More than merely providing an explanation of the site’s history and significance, Walkshop participants are encouraged to focus on the three concepts of knowing, being and doing.

Drawing on East Asian culture to examine these important concepts, and how they interact, promotes efficient and effective action that can be applied in the work place or private life.

Challenges
The challenges occured in two stages – in the initial planning and after the event had commenced.

Senior management of Transamerica Direct had already selected Japan as the destination, so it was up to Amy Ingalls, director of the company’s Meeting Planning & Events office, to devise a programme that would engage a group of seasoned travellers and provide them with more than they could get from simply walking around the shrine with a brochure.

On site, weather was an issue as Tokyo is notoriously hot and humid in the summer with temperatures peaking in August. The heat can be energy-sapping and, in extreme cases, lead to people being taken unwell.

The final complication involved participants’ desire to snap as many selfies as possible. Some wandered off to take photos during the event, interrupting the flow of the event.

Solutions
Given that the party was largely made up of experienced travellers, Ingalls believes she made the right choice by engaging a DMC with local skills and knowledge, and then following their advice for a Walkshop event.
Weather issues were somewhat alleviated by warning the participants well in advance. With hindsight, Ingalls said future events should have staff stationed along the route ready to hand out cold water.

Banning selfies outright is impractical – and will not go down well with participants – so Ingalls resorted to explaining the schedule clearly to participants and included a set amount of time at the outset and end for them to get snap happy.

Key Takeaways
“I would choose (Japan) again as it is one of the cleanest, safest countries that I have ever visited, while the locals are all very polite and welcoming to tourists,” Ingalls remarked.

She was also pleased to have left the programme in the hands of a “fantastic” DMC, which knew the ideal excursion to both educate and entertain.
“I worked with James Kent at The J Team DMC and they (the team) were fantastic and very detailed,” she said. “They know the country very well and have a deep understanding of incentive programmes and the attendees.”
She gave the thumbs up to how The Walkshop provided “interaction and knowledge” to participants.

“The Walkshop was great for this age group; the average age was approximately 48,” she added. “The participants asked a lot of questions and enjoyed the interaction with Adam (Fulford, who devised the experience). But it is possible that a younger age group might not enjoy this format as much.”

Event: Transamerica Direct 2016 Client Conference
Organiser: The J Team DMC and The Walkshop
Venue: Meiji Shrine, Tokyo
Date: August 6, 2016
Number of participants: 30

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