Galvanizing the salesforce is a top priority for vision technology manufacturer Zeiss, so it’s pivotal that the brand’s National Sales Meeting (NSM) not only serve as a celebration of those teams, but as a pep rally of sorts that fires them up for the new fiscal year. Achieving both objectives while keeping the experience fresh year after year is a challenge that many an event marketer can relate to. So we asked Matt Woelbern, head of marketing, go-to-market at Zeiss Vision Care US, how the brand (and agency partner Trademark Events) continues to deliver a meaningful event through the lens of its latest NSM in Florida, dubbed “Miami Zeiss.”
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A THEME WITH LEGS
Every year, Woelbern and the events team are tasked with conjuring an NSM event theme that is not only motivational, but abstract enough to be woven into various aspects of the meeting. The Miami Zeiss theme, obviously derived from the NSM’s location and the company’s name, was both inspirational and playful enough to fit the bill.
A comical opening video introducing the Miami Zeiss theme, which then seamlessly carried into opening remarks on stage, set the tone for the entire event. The scripted footage included the brand’s president portraying the lead character from “Miami Vice” and vehicles racing through the “Miami streets” (but actually pre-recorded off-site). The brand even spliced in conversational pauses to make it seem like executives were rushing in from their Lamborghini adventures across Miami to meet colleagues on the stage—dressed in the same ensembles from the recording.
“A theme is usually a choice between something related to the [host] city in some way, or something that’s a corporate ‘rah-rah’ theme. We do both,” says Woelbern. “So the case with Miami… it was just a perfect theme. It worked really well in terms of, kind of flashy, still aggressive but you can spin it in a non-negative way. And we can always make our competitors the bad guys, right?”
A CENTRALIZED LOCATION
Before Zeiss became a remote workplace, the National Sales Meeting was held in San Diego, where its headquarters were located. But the event wasn’t held in the bustling center of the city. Rather, it was in a hotel-centric location with a noticeable lack of bars and restaurants within walking distance—something the audience craved. Zeiss has since worked to host the meeting in an urban, centralized location that offers plenty of options.
“In the heart of hearts of the salespeople, they really like to have some freedom; they like to go somewhere,” Woelbern says. “In Miami, we built on that learning. We tried to keep things as convenient and cost-effective as possible. We were in a great location at a JW [Marriott]. The places were mostly walkable. There was lots of stuff to walk to. And then the one place that wasn’t walkable, but was absolutely worth going to, was the Little Havana area where we had our closing party, which we had a shuttle service [for].”
A ‘BUSINESS-TO-SALES’ MENTALITY
External corporate events may require buttoning up, but for companies like Zeiss, the NSM is an internal event that allows the brand to let down its hair and incorporate experiential elements that might be seen as too risky for an outsider affair. Zeiss takes a “business-to-sales” mentality while planning the event, allowing room for more fun, playful experiences and content.
“There are all kinds of Zeiss brand guidelines that we have to follow in general, but there’s no rules about an internal meeting,” says Woelbern. “So it frees us up… The whole point of the meeting is to inspire and excite people for the coming year because they’ve worked hard.”
THE RIGHT BLEND OF SCALE AND INTIMACY
The closing celebration of the Miami NSM was hosted in the Little Havana section of Miami, where Zeiss rented out a restaurant/music venue that served authentic Cuban food. There were salsa dancers, vintage Cuban cars, space for attendees themselves to dance, drinks flowing and an afterparty held in a secret back room that was transformed into a “Miami Vice” nightclub.
Despite all of the entertainment available, Woelbern says it was essential to balance scale and intimacy during the celebration to ensure attendees felt like they had room to move, but weren’t put off by a cavernous venue with too much space.
“You want to be in a city where people feel like they can explore, but when you have a party like that, if you don’t balance it right, people will leave very quickly because they’ll want to go and do their thing,” he says. “By being in a smaller, contained venue in Miami, it felt really full. That’s a lesson learned is that you need enough space, but you don’t want too much space. Because when it feels empty, people want to leave sooner.”
MORE LEISURE TIME
Zeiss’ National Sales Meeting has historically been a Sunday evening to Thursday morning affair, but for the latest meeting, the brand gave attendees the option to check out on Friday, Saturday or Sunday while utilizing the event’s negotiated hotel room cost. As long as they showed up for work on Monday, their stay didn’t take up any vacation days.
Woelbern says more leisure time will be built into the final day of the next NSM (slated to be held in Savannah, GA), just before the closing session, to give attendees time to enjoy the resort and participate in non-work-related activities. The brand plans to enlist professional tennis, pickleball and golf pros to offer lessons to those interested, and will also provide trolley and walking tours of Old Town Savannah.