My first trip to Disney World took place when I was 36 years old. My ex-wife, along with her parents, celebrated my daughter’s fourth birthday with a family vacation. It was a brutally hot day, and as it’s prone to do in Florida, storms threatened. Finally, the sky’s opened up and we joined the masses in a mad dash for cover in one of the many gift boutiques scattered throughout the park. What occurred next was, quite simply with no hint of hyperbole, the greatest orchestration and marriage of customer service and merchandise marketing that I have ever witnessed. This particular shop was one of the circular kiosks – not much bigger than a Photo Hut (for the millennials reading this, Google it!). Seemingly, too cramped to have excess stock anywhere in the vicinity, a miracle of fish/loaf proportions occurred when $25 Mickey ponchos appeared in a huge box. The rate at which people purchased these ponchos was alarmingly quick, and for a moment it seemed the box had no bottom. Suddenly, the Disney employee, excuse me “Cast Member”, exclaimed in a loud voice “All out of ponchos!” As Goofy is my witness, at that exact moment, the skies cleared and the rain stopped! Turning to my father-in-law, with a look of shock on my face I said, “My Lord, Disney controls the weather!” He replied, “Quiet, they are probably listening!”, and distanced himself from me in a calm, but clear message to the folks watching us from their hidden base!
Obviously, Disney does not have a Dr. Evil type machine that controls the weather in order to boost rain gear sales. What they do have is a wealth of experience, and unequaled professionalism, in creating and controlling the customer experience. What Disney has learned is it’s not about the rides, or the games or the characters. It’s about the EXPERIENCE you create around all those things. In short, Disney is the greatest event planner on the planet, and though they may be the unattainable vendor for your employee appreciation event, their professionalism and creativity in creating the experience is not.
I’ve said many times, if your main focus is some tables and chairs, and maybe some food, to gather your employees for a meeting, then seek out a rental company. If you truly are looking to create a memorable experience that will build on your company culture, you want the Disney equivalent for your event planner. And you don’t need a magic mirror to tell you why.
Blending Activities Into An Experience
Disney has perfected the art of blending their rides and attractions into their media empire. Sections of the park are dedicated to specific movies and characters. Each ride is themed after said character, and empties out into a wonderful gift shop chock full of character merchandise. Granted, this is done in the interest of capitalism, but it is also done to perfectly blend activities into an experience. The tilt-a-whirl ride at the local carnival is the same ride they have at Disney. The difference is that the carnival does not adorn their ride with Winnie the Pooh, who happens to be dancing at the exit of the line, which is a gift shop featuring Pooh bears. Parents gleefully purchase merchandise for their children because they are caught up in the experience. A great event will not be just a bunch of rides and games strategically placed out. You may not want to sell your employees Pooh bears, but you want to sell them something far more important – culture! A professional event planner should asses your goals, talk to you about your culture and then craft an experience that perfectly supports those goals. Each activity in your event supports the one before it, and the one after it. You want an experience that your employees remember, and use as a catalyst for continual culture building activities, until the next large event.
Attention to Detail
As remarkable as the appearance of the ponchos was during that storm, I also remember the constant stream of information that was provided on the status of the park. Announcements about rides, where to go, how to stay safe and what preparations the park was taking. No detail was overlooked and it was all communicated clearly. It wasn’t by accident – years of experience has taught Disney to be prepared, and what actions to take in the best interests of their guests. When you host an appreciation event for your team, you do not want to be that person who has to have the Plan B. You want to know that a professional has got your back. They have plans B to Z should something go wrong. They know how to communicate important, timely information to your guests. They know how to keep the event running smoothly, with one eye open for any possible issue that may arise. Professionals are prepared, because they have experienced the good and the bad. It’s equally important that any event you host to show your employees appreciation, is appreciated by you in terms of ease, quality and care.
You do not need the Disney budget to create an exceptional appreciation event. All you need is a commitment to building your culture, and the right partner to grab the poncho when it starts to rain.