A Meeting of the Minds
Hilton is reinvigorating the agenda for business meetings with
creative, healthy, mood-boosting activities—not to mention puppies.
Created in Collaboration with Hilton
It’s not easy being a meeting planner these days. Along with the
details involved in booking rooms, selecting a menu, and
sure the video equipment works on cue, you face the larger
of ensuring that attendees are (and remain) engaged,
and productive. The bottom line: You’ve got to wow them.
Hilton’s popular Meet with Purpose program grew out of this
insight and is now in almost 300 hotels. Based on three core principles—mindful meeting, mindful eating, and mindful being—it gives
planners a creative and flexible o;ering designed to resonate with
attendees on an individual, even emotional level. The goal is making
attendees feel something, through a combination of healthy food,
energizing exercises, social impact activities, and puppies. Yes, actual puppies. But more on that later.
To understand how the program works, we spoke to Frank
Passanante, Hilton senior vice president of group sales and industry
relations, and to its vice president of
culinary Americas, Marc Ehrler (aka
Chef Marc), who also happens to be a
French master chef.
FastCo. Works: How did you know there
was a need for Meet with Purpose?
Frank Passanante: Our customers—the
meeting planners—were expressing an
incredible thirst for more customized
and creative o;erings. They’re feeling
challenged to plan not just meetings,
but memorable and surprising experiences. Then we looked at the research.
We learned that four out of 10 people
get drowsy or doze o; during meetings, and three out of four report feeling lethargic and less productive after
heavy lunches. More than half are not
satisfied with their ability to stick with
healthy eating habits. So the events are
taking a personal toll.
Finally, we looked at general trends,
such as the ever-growing number of
people committed to health and wellness, and the renewed focus on
sustainability and social responsibility at the corporate level.
FCW: How did this translate into specific elements? How do you
prevent people from feeling groggy after lunch?
Passanante: There’s a variety of things. For starters, our Meet with
Purpose menus o;er a number of healthy and locally sourced meal
options. One of my favorites is the “Cut and Create” salad bar—you
snip your own lettuce o; of living plants.
But it’s not just about food. The overall goal is to keep people
invigorated, physically and mentally. So planners can also choose
instructor-led group fitness activities like stretching and meditation.
An event could also include a volunteer opportunity, like packing up
meals for the homeless or putting together backpacks for children
who need school supplies.
FCW: What do you say to a meeting
planner who thinks, “Our meeting
agenda is so full—I’m not sure we have
time for exercising or volunteering.”
Passanante: Well, I’ll answer from my
own experience. Earlier in the year, we
had a meeting with a dozen of our high-
level customers. And we chose to do one
of our Meet with Purpose events, “Yoga
and Yogurt.” So you had myself and oth-
ers doing yoga in the morning poolside
with our top customers. And, you know,
it was a healthy way to start the day. But
even more than that—and just as import-
ant for business—it was also an unbeliev-
able bonding experience. Some of these
customers, when I see them, we still kid
about, “If we can do yoga together, we
can accomplish anything together.”
Experiences like that are what the
program is all about. We call them
“wow” moments. A Puppies and Ice Cream event at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas