Innovative Meetings

Testing Marriott’s Super Fun New Planning Tool

Convene tests out Marriott’s new event-planning tool — and finds that big-box hotel chains don’t have to mean cookie-cutter meetings.

Marriott International turned the tables during a press trip at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis this past May, giving participants the opportunity to test out the company’s new Meetings Imagined platform. Convene had the chance to play planner for two days, discovering firsthand how Marriott is making meeting planning more customizable and intuitive for the planners who bring more than 40,000 events to its 500 properties annually.

Launched earlier this year, Meetings Imagined seeks to turn the traditional way of planning a meeting or event at a Marriott property into a more creative, freeform process. To start, planners choose one of seven purposes their program falls under: celebrate, decide, educate, ideate, network, produce, and promote. Each category has a constantly growing collection of road-tested ideas for décor, food-and-beverage, setups, technology tools, and experiences; planners can browse visuals of all of them, using the site like they would

After the rundown, our group was assigned to design two kinds of events planned for the following day for about 125 local entrepreneurs. First up was an hour-long presentation from Yolanda Williams, president and CEO of Atlanta-based Kenectit, on how to crowd-fund startups; second, a networking reception for the same guests, complete with cocktails and a buffet-style dinner. Four bloggers well-versed in multiple modes of the visual arts guided us: Tamara Matthews-Stephenson of Nest by Tamara, Courtney Eliseo of Design Work Life, Jaclyn Johnson of Some Notes on Napkins, and Justin Livingston of Scout 16.

With additional help from the Atlanta Marriott Marquis’ events team, our group considered every detail — what layout would work best for the educational session; what furniture options would offer the most comfortable setting; and what kind of food and décor would create a casual conversation-starting mood for the reception.

The next evening, the events went off without a hitch. As Williams spoke about how entrepreneurs could use crowdfunding to kick-start their business ideas, the crowd itself — as well as the TweetPro Twitter Wall we placed behind Williams — lit up with comments and conversation. Then the group made its way up to the 10th-floor Skyline Lounge for our sunlit, farm-to-table-style reception, complete with a TapSnap digital photo booth, cocktails created by our expert bloggers, a trough-turned-salad-bar station, and  a liquid-nitrogen dessert station.

“During the networking event, I was impressed by all the elements designed to spark conversation, and during the educational session, people were instantly pulled in when they saw they could choose the type of seating,” said Jennifer Hsieh, Marriott’s vice president of insight, strategy, and innovation, who helped develop Meetings Imagined. “You could see how the change in environment based on the meeting purpose affected how the attendees experienced the events.”

Travel Brilliantly

When Marriott International launched its Travel Brilliantly campaign last year, the goal was to bring its guests closer to what inspires them to travel through a new logo, advertising, and website ( Check out the site for updates on the brand’s many new experiences and innovations, from mobile check-in on the Marriott Mobile App — which just expanded to include all of its 500 hotels — to a new healthy vending machine, which was the grand-prize winner of Marriott’s Co-Creation Contest last year, and will be installed in selected hotels later this year.

“This campaign represents a bold transformation for the brand,” said Marriott’s Jennifer Hsieh. “And it reflects the lifestyle of the next generation of travelers, who seamlessly blend work and play in a mobile and global world.”

Jennifer N. Dienst

Contributing Editor Jennifer N. Dienst is a freelance writer based in Charleston, South Carolina.