Creating Memorable, Meaningful Moments Requires A Plan To ‘Wow’

We all know the feeling when a particular moment hits us just the right way – a thoughtful compliment, a moment of insight, or an event that makes us feel our best self.

While these moments on the surface seem to just happen, there is proactive and endless planning to create that sense of ‘wow’ to show others that we care and how much they matter to us. Whether acknowledging a co-worker or a VIP to be acknowledged during a big event, creating meaningful recognition takes creativity and a carefully designed plan.

Creating Wow-derful Moments

Let’s consider how to reach those VIPs who play key roles in big events. Minneapolis is gaining stature as the center of the national sports. The Super Bowl and the NCAA’s Final Four have come to Minnesota because the community knows how to put on big events right. But hosting these events has required lots of behind-the-scenes intentional planning to create the moments of wow.

Let me walk you through how being thoughtful about little things helps big things happen.

Build a Plan Based on Clear Goals – with Enough Time To Succeed

Failure is frequently due to lack of thoughtful planning and enough time to work the plan.

Not so in the case of the Final Four that took place in March 2019. Overall planning commenced several years before and the committee charged with recognizing VIPs started its work in March 2018, a full ahead of the event.

To begin Minneapolis Local Organizing Committee (MLOC) provided us with direction to focus our work. First there were the four guiding principles to ensure our plan created impact and embedded ‘wow’ in the center of all we did. The guiding principles called for:

  • Sincere and meaningful welcome to guests
  • Creating unforgettable impressions on gift recipients
  • Integrating Minneapolis culture into the mementos
  • Prioritizing diverse suppliers and sustainability

Next there were the recognition playbooks documented by the previous three host cities. These playbooks provided an understanding of what had been done in other cities, what was customary and how budget was allocated.  As our committee studied the principles and playbooks we discovered a disconnect.

The safe playbooks of previous host cities were undeniably lovely gifts but conveyed little about the host city’s culture and did not create unforgettable impressions. Before we could begin our real work we needed alignment. We approached the MLOC to discuss this disconnect between the guiding principles and customary recognition strategies. The big question, was: Is the MLOC open to a departure from the past, applying the guiding principles, and taking a risk?

Immediately, we learned creativity would be allowed! The MLOC prioritized their guiding principles with a focus on local businesses and unique, special Minneapolis gifts (that people can’t even buy) vs. gifts used by past host cities of  standard licensed Final Four merchandise or name brand electronics that anybody can buy.

We brainstormed about the cultural facets of Minneapolis and how to bring them to life. This allowed for the team to get to know each other, to learn our strengths, and for us to get our ideas built out and see what it would take to turn ideas into actions.

We sifted through the all of the products we had ideated, evaluating them for their abilities to scale up and down to create value for multiple recipients, to leverage local and diverse suppliers able to support our Final Four criteria, and to authentically and meaningfully represent the event.

Partner sponsor gift: one-of-a-kind tapestry throw, featuring a whimsical cityscape design and customized information for each recipient company.

Working With Partners
We worked closely with the MLOC and NCAA. Being mindful and respectful of what motivated and what was important for all stakeholders. Communication was key! Within the process we had many meetings with the MLOC and the NCAA to ensure they were onboard as our plan developed. It was important to build a timeline and crucial that we stayed on task to meet deadlines.

Communication and alignment with the partners was a key facet to allow our work to go forward with a sense of purpose, hit the mark, and deliver something above-and-beyond the efforts of other cities.

With Good and Bad

Like any large-scale project, implementation challenges can surface that need to be accounted for in the planning process. Ensuring ample time is built in for such things as:

  • an approval process that can be long and not always clear among the stakeholders;
  • unexpected product challenges; and
  • delivery delays.

Making Something ‘Wow-derful’

How to make something of this magnitude come off without a hitch is rooted in common sense principles of early planning, collaboration, attention to details, and risk-taking to color outside the lines. For the Final Four, we welcomed VIP guests, thanked VIP event sponsors, and recognized key volunteers with 468 individual gifts. Throughout the entire process, we didn’t lose sight that our work supported and enhanced the bigger picture of entertaining and exciting basketball enthusiasts.

Ambassador sponsor gift: one-of-a-kind (signed and numbered limited edition), handcrafted, hand-carved bowl featuring a hand-painted whimsical cityscape and recipient company’s building on the outside and the stadium scene on the inside.

Take a peak at how NCAA VIPs were welcomed to Minnesota over their entire stay.

It was thoughtful and planful work. Here are highlights of the keys to success:

  • Hear all ideas.
  • Identify filters through which all ideas are assessed.
  • Create buy-in and collaborate with those who are responsible for outcomes.
  • Anticipate hitches with a three-deep back-up plan. Case in point: obtaining “clean” approved versions of songs by Minnesota artists to put on the vinyl album. Actually, this is a good example of how an idea evolves since we didn’t start with an album but ended up filling one up.
  • Avoid being stuck on any single idea by considering the bigger picture and higher purpose instead of your ego.
  • Create ideas that hold intrigue, meaning, and relevance for the audience.
  • Step out of your comfort zone by taking a bit of risk to be distinctive, but avoid causing sleepless nights for organizers.
  • Use huge doses of intention and strategy throughout the process.

And Best of All – Wow Can Be Delivered!

It is the moments that were created, the welcome that was extended and the wow-derful feeling that VIPs felt that showed Minneapolis was a city that cared and would welcome a bit of March Madness back.

Need help making the most of special moments. Let’s start a conversation…..

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