attend a conference, give them a reason to
Think Outside the Box
want to go,” said veteran event planner Stacy
Stern of The Special Events Group in Boca
Raton, Fla. “If you choose a site on a beach,
people tend to relax and get into it because
they want to be there.”
Creative messaging that promotes the
many natural and outdoor experiences that
go hand-in-hand with a beach setting is one
way to entice potential attendees.
There are countless ways to get outside the
boardroom and utilize the beach in new and
exciting ways during a meeting agenda.
Scott O’Hanlon, director of marketing,
advertising and communications at The
Waterfront Beach Resort, a Hilton Hotel,
in Huntington Beach, said one of the most
unique programs at the property is a “bare-
“Instead of a breakout in the foyer, at-
tendees get some time to wiggle their toes in
the sand,” he said. “It’s all about stretching,
getting outside and giving guests a change of
scenery. We tray-pass hors d’oeuvres under
a canopy so no one gets too hot.”
Tubs of water are placed around for
attendees to dip their feet into, and when
it’s time to go back inside, The Waterfront’s
Barefoot Butlers are on hand to make sure
everyone is de-sanded and de-salted.
“They get attendees back into their shoes
totally fresh and clean and ready to continue
the program,” he said.
Meanwhile, one Fortune 200 company’s
COO requested that the final meeting of a
two-day program at Florida’s Ritz-Carlton,
Sarasota be moved from the ballroom to the
“He prefers a relaxed, casual atmosphere
and didn’t want to spend all of his
time indoors,” said Victoria
DeSilvio, principal of
the Victoria DeSilvio
Group of Boca Raton,
Fla., the firm that
Events, to execute
They came up
with “A Fireside
Everyone sat around
a fire pit on the beach,
toasting s’mores, sipping
cordials, watching the sun set—
while verbally downloading information from the prior two days.
“This type of event allowed everyone to
exhale,” DeSilvio said. “Because the COO
was able to chill out, the whole group fol-
lowed suit and was able to decompress.”
While not all management is comfortable
bringing it that far “out of the proverbial
box,” most welcome teambuilding and other
activities to take place outside. Other times,
you find that rare client who wants to take it
all to the next level.
“We had one client who did their whole
program [business and entertainment] on the
beach,” said C. Aaron Sayer, director
of creative services at Hello
Florida! Fort Lauderdale.
The program, a
sales conference that
ees from all across
the country for a
to be exciting, chal-
lenging and quite
different from any
agenda they had worked
“We basically built a ballroom on the beach,” Sayer said.
At the Harbour Beach Marriott in Fort
Lauderdale, Fla., Sayer’s team erected a tent
complete with full flooring, air conditioning,
staging and audiovisual. The side of the tent
facing the ocean was done in a clear material, enabling the entire 300-person group to
see the water. Ramps, entrances, exits and
all other details necessary to replicate an effective, fully functioning meeting space were
constructed right on the beach. Restroom
trailers for the guests’ convenience were
parked on-site as well.
“We wanted attendees to have a real
‘toes in the sand’ type of experience, so
everything happened out there,” Sayer said.
“We did a welcome reception and a gala.
We used generators [for power], brought in
lighting and entertainment. The infrastruc-
ture was extremely expensive, but we were
able to minimize some costs using beach
A second tent was put up to house the
“We did a plated dinner one night,
chef-attended stations another,” he said.
“We served seafood and a giant paella and
did a clam bake.”
The event took three to four days to build
and the same amount of time to tear down.
“It was such a big deal because this program
closed out the company’s current year and
delivered next year’s message,” Sayer said. “It
was designed to get everyone pumped.”
CLAM BAKE, NEW ENGLAND
Alfresco EATS AND DRINKS
What’s trending in the beach culinary world?
“Simple grilled food. Upscale cookouts,” said Adelee Cabrera, regional director of Starr Catering
Group/Starr Events in Miami.
“People want to know where their food comes from and how it’s raised and
handled,” said Jean McGuiness, owner of Jean McGuiness Food Service in
East Quogue, N. Y.
“Locally sourced foods, seafood ‘dumps’ (seafood is literally dumped onto
paper-lined tables), satay, two-bite finger foods and Pan-Asian cuisine,” said
Scott O’Hanlon, director of sales and marketing at The Waterfront Beach
Resort in Huntington Beach, Calif.
“Popsicles with alcohol,” said Michele Wilde, director of conferences and
events at The Breakers Palm Beach in Florida.
“We have a food truck that serves Cuban sandwiches,” said Grace Duncan, director of sales
at Nautilus, a Sixty Hotel, in Miami Beach, Fla.
“Groups can rent it out hourly.”
Hot on the Beach Drink Scene: Mocktails, (
refreshing non-alcoholic drinks); sweet and savory, such
as strawberry basil lemonade; mojitos and all its
variations; rose wine; and fresh-muddled anything.
—Shari Lynn Rothstein-Kramer
STARR CATERING GROUP, MIAMI
STARR CATERING GROUP, MIAMI