Christine Rates Event at Canyon Ranch Hotel

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Christine and friends

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a networking event at the Canyon Ranch Hotel and Spa in Miami Beach.

Below is my complete review of the hotel's food and service, the event itself and if it lived up to expectations. As it turns out, the event was not without a little drama.

The event was promoted and organized by BPMedia Partners and other supporting sponsors included AXA Financial Advisors, Fabulous Miami, and Miami Cardiovascular Wellness Center, and liquor sponsors Prairie Vodka and Cone Sur Wine to name a few. It's wonderful to see sponsors come together for common purpose. It's good for the economy.

The theme in the initial email caught my attention, "Staying Healthy in Business" and promised an "exclusive motivational speech" by Karen Koffler, MD, the hotel's Medical Director. As a former personal trainer and strong believer in health prevention and fitness to be successful in business and life, I was looking forward to the speaker, visiting this award-winning hotel for the first time and sampling their wines and appetizers.

Finding the hotel was a little tricky. The main entrance has no lighting or clear signage at night. I passed it the first time and had to make a u-turn. At night it looks like the entrance for delivery and commercial trucks--dark with no prominent signage. Not a favorable first impression.

With oceanfront location, once I stepped out of my vehicle in the valet parking rotunda, atypical gusty winds welcomed my arrival in Marilyn-Munroe-blow-up -your- skirt force. Well thankfully the event is indoors I thought. I was wrong. This should be interesting. A little wind never hurt anyone.

A welcoming feature was the complimentary valet parking. (Smart move. This attracts more attendees and valet attendants are more likely to get better tips). It turns out the event was outdoors along a narrow portico. But that didn't stop attendees from showing up. A healthy crowd representing many types of businesses from doctors, to flower importers, to wholesale retailers added to the mix.

For the main event, sadly, there were no speakers. At least I didn't see or hear any while sitting strategically next to the "staging area" with sponsor backdrop, bright lights and cameras where one could safely presume speakers would present. It was a photo stop for attendees and sponsors. All in all, the event was just another social cocktail hour but with some perks. On a positive note, I did have the opportunity to sample specialty cocktails and hors d'oeuvres crafted by chef Elizabeth Barlow.

A Purple Pillow cocktail

A pretty in purple cocktail floated by and was served by a waitress. She said it was a "purple pillow". In sipping the drink, it tasted like a perfume. I felt I should use this attractively packaged liquid for a body splash than to quench my liquor taste buds. The parfume-like ingredient was organic lavender vodka. Other ingredients were lime juice and berry fruit. Next time, may I suggest leaving out the lavender vodka. I stuck to the wines the rest of the evening. An assorted fruit and organic cheese platter was the first appetizer debut. I'm beginning to notice the difference with organic cheeses and really enjoy the heightened flavors. Then several rounds of savory hors d'oeuvres followed. My favorites, and there were several, included warm duck and proscuitto skewers and chocolate zucchini tarts for dessert. Another favorite contained goat cheese. What was that appetizer? Overall grade for appetizers: solid A !

Now what could top the food? Disappointed in the speaker's absence, I started leaving when I made an inquiry at the registration table (which wasn't there when I arrived sharply at 7pm) about the doctor's presentation. Blank faces confirmed my suspicion but the girls asked if I took advantage of the mini treatment stations set up in their courtyard. Where is the courtyard? Just a few feet east of the portico, was a courtyard hidden by bushes and no lights. But after walking up two steps of stairs and following the pink tile road, faintly illuminated by floor lanterns, before me were a head massage, neck massage and hand massage treatment station! How wonderful! Even better--the place was empty! Apparently few if any attendees knew about it as I later asked around when returning to the main event. I wonder if the Canyon Ranch has ever hosted an outdoor event?

So I indulged in all three treatments (lasting five seemingly fifty minutes) and I must say it was exquisite. I vowed to return to the Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa to treat myself to a full day of pampering. Or even better, maybe I'll be lucky to win the Spa Day raffle prize. Well it turns on for the dramatic ending--there's a lesson in marketing raffles. It's best to be present and stand close to the stage or the announcers!

As I casually ambled back to the main crowd, still in a cloud nine stupor from my newly relaxed muscles, I noticed a couple of friends. I asked if they knew about the mini treatments. Sure enough they didn't. As they could not "see" the courtyard they were not enticed and preferred to sample more wine. Then we were introduced to other attendees by the Queen of social networking, Fabiola Castro from Fabulous Miami.

Christine Michaels & Fabiola Castro

Faintly I heard a voice over a microphone competing with the roar of the whirling winds and the crowd. Could it be the featured speaker? As I politely and deftly weaved through the dense crowd to hear the speaker, they were about to pick winners for the raffle. The first prize was dinner for two. The emcee called my friend's name. I rushed to the emcee and said she was here but no one can hear him beyond the first layer of people standing nearby. Bryan, the emcee, stated she had to be present to win. Suddenly Valeska bursted through the crowd. She was trying to follow me after all to the front. We all applauded. Whew--close call. As everyone was congratulating her and the female hostess was loquaciously giving a plug for the hotel's restaurant and amenities, Bryan was plucking the next business card from the bowl. And standing a few feet away, I clearly saw him pick mine!! I turned to the guys standing next to me with giddiness, "that's my card!"

Wow, I don't think I ever won a business card raffle. Then when studying my business card, Bryan turned to the female hostesses, whispered in their ears and put my card back in the bowl. I COULDN'T BELIEVE IT! What just happened? Why???? I stood frozen and shocked. What should I do? Bryan quickly picked the next card, read it and handed it to the female presenter. A president of a bank won the Spa Day. The raffle was rigged! But why would the emcee blatantly put back a card when many people were watching? Was it about money? A president is more likely to spend more than a blogger?

After the third winner was announced and the presenters thanked everyone, I calmly approached Bryan and introduced myself. I learned he was Bryan Pena from BP Media, the promoter. When I explained what I witnessed, he and the female presenters denied it! Unbelievable! "An entire group of us saw the whole thing!" I exclaimed. "How can you deny it?" When Bryan asked me the name of my business I stated I write a blog, My Fabulous Florida. Then he admitted to picking my business card but thought I was a sponsor, Fabulous Miami (a social networking club) which would be against the rules. So I explained my business is not affiliated with Fabulous Miami.

Hmm, maybe it was easy to confuse the two (My Fabulous Florida vs. Fabulous Miami) although we have different names, and completely distinct branding--colors, images, etc. What do you think? Harmless or careless mistake? (Leave your comment below).

Bryan apologized for the misunderstanding and promised to get me the Spa Day gift. This was two weeks ago. I still await the outcome though I'm counting on Bryan to "make it happen" per his company's slogan. The beginning of the year is busy time for me, tis the high season in Florida, so I could sure use a Spa Day!

As a marketing professional with years of experience in planning, promoting and organizing small to large events, here are LESSONS LEARNED:

1- If you plan an outdoor, evening event at the Canyon Ranch, be sure to ask for sufficient lighting. The mini treatment stations were hidden in a "ghost-town section" of the hotel courtyard.

2- No matter where you plan an event, never trust anyone with 100% of the details. If it's your event, stay on top of the gameplan and be sure to dot i's and cross t's and ALWAYS have a backup plan for inclement weather. The large crowd midway through the event eventually blocked the strong oceanfront winds.

3- Don't hesitate to ask a number of representatives about agenda items that were promised in a promotional email or advertisement. Believe me, not everyone will know all the details. You took the time to attend for specific reasons, make sure they deliver.

4- WARNING: I've noticed that BP Media will give your email address to other vendors and sponsors of their events without your permission. This is a marketing taboo. So if you don't want a deluge of unsolicited emails, be sure to send BP Media an email with explicit instructions not to share your email address.

Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to tour and assess the award-wining hotel or even the lobby. Perhaps if I ever receive the Spa Day raffle prize, I'll have that chance. But high praise to the hotel staff especially the young waiter, Mike, who was very attentive to participants and remembered our beverage and food preferences!

UPDATE 2-21-10-- Today in reviewing my week's long accrued mail, I noticed an envelope from the Canyon Ranch Hotel. The managing director offered me the certificate for the Spa Day. What a lovely surprise! While I never contacted the hotel directly, somehow my blog was discovered.

Time to schedule flight to Miami for a little massage, yoga, and pampering! I'm looking forward to that special day and will be sure to blog about the entire experience!

Be sure to leave your comments below!
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  1. I say it was both a harmless but also careless mistake if the promoter is not familiar with his sponsors. He should definitely get you the Spa Day gift even if it comes out of his pocket. Thanks for the candid posting!We hope you return for full coverage story.

  2. I have to agree with Dr. G. It was an innocent mistake but they should still get you the Day Spa Gift. Besides, you're a blogger! This will hurt or help the hotel as you dutifully blog about all FL restaurants and experiences. Waiting for more!

  3. Well, I think it was innocent mistake but still a mistake. But at least you received the mani/pedi and were willing to accept it. Sounds like either hotel or BP needs to hire you--a real marketing pro! Promotional ads are just one small part.


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