Summer had yet to make an appearance in Seattle when Smart Meetings hosted its Smart Mart at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. The ambiance in the Fairmont’s Spanish Foyer amply made up for the lack of sunshine outside by providing a musically upbeat, florally vibrant, and tropical-hued welcome reception for the event planners and destination sponsors who flew in from locales around the nation to attend this one-day event.
As waiters circulated the lobby with foamy watermelon coolers topped with springs of mint, planners mingled with suppliers and attendees buzzed about the mini food stands bursting with bounty from local suppliers like Trophy Cupcakes. A stilt-walker welcomed guests with a nod and occasional handshake, while attendees sampled mouth-watering teriyaki chicken satay and caprese salad from the catering kitchen at the Fairmont. Kieran Worrell, the Fairmont’s conference services manager, was a quirky sight in her bee-keeper’s hood as she educated attendees about the hotel’s honeybee population that is housed on the roof of the building.
Following the half-hour welcome reception, guests moved downstairs to The Metropole room to be officially welcomed by Smart Meeting publisher, Marin Bright. Bright and her support staff love attending and coordinating Smart Mart events and they are encouraged by the positive responses they hear year after year from event attendees. Over the past four years, Smart Mart events like this one in Seattle have resulted in millions of dollars in bookings that have originated from the one- and three-day events.
After viewing destination videos from event sponsors, Keppler Speakers invited Leonard Brody to speak to the day’s attendees about how the Web and social media have made human interaction and behavior virtually unrecognizable. Brody posited that where we will be in 365 days is hard to forecast, especially when looking back to where we have come from as recently as 730 days ago. Could anyone imagine the growth of sites like Pinterest and continued presence of Twitter and Facebook in our personal and professional lives? When historians look at the 200-year span between the Industrial Revolution to the time of the 20th-century world wars, they note that the period was a time of amazing human advancement. Brody points out that the “pixilated revolution,” which began around 1996 in the Internet’s nascent years, has resulted in human advancement that eclipses (in a mere 16 years) that previous span from approximately 1745 to 1945.
We are a sharing culture and Brody points to what he sees as two versions of ourselves: the online one and the present one that engages with people in real time. As the Internet continues to infiltrate our lives and the lives of our youth, we are becoming more trusting of what we share on the Internet. People buy shoes, book trips, and date online. This is not a good or bad phenomenon, it is merely a multi-faceted, dynamic way to look at how you conduct yourself in person and online. Your “present” self will remember the people you meet and feelings associated with attending the Smart Mart event and your virtual self will read blogs like this one and engage on Twitter and Facebook with fellow attendees.
At the close of the educational session, guests moved back upstairs to the Spanish Ballroom to enjoy three hours of one-on-one, pre-planned appointments. This portion of the day is the crux of why, year after year, Smart Mart events draw a wider audience and appeal to so many planners and destination suppliers.
Rows of tables filled the ballroom as attendees sat down to view destination videos and chat with destination representatives. The energy in the room was palpable and people were clearly making some great connections via in-person engagement. The Smart Meetings program had a convenient note portion with pictures of the destination and contact person so planners could jot down ideas and quotes that would facilitate future planning.
The day of activity was capped by a “Secret Garden” networking dinner where attendees shared tips and notes over more delectable food from the Fairmont Hotel. Spinach salad, a cheese buffet, fried asparagus, and an abundance of fresh seafood satiated guests while they sipped delicious Northwest wines and beer. A peacock stilt-water clucked and strutted while Ian Dobson performed and Luna Deni sat in a quiet corner “reading lips”, fortune-teller style for guests. Fun Frames photo booth offered attendees a chance to don funny glasses and costumes and go home with a fun photo memento.
At Fire Eyes, it was our pleasure to attend and document this engaging event for the second year in a row. We are available for event photography, as well as social media and blogging support surrounding all corporate and special events. We hope to see you at next year’s Smart Meeting event!