After almost two years away, Tiffany Cohen, CMP, CITP, has rejoined Opus Agency as senior vice president of incentive and global sourcing for the Oregon-based events company. Bringing to bear her recent role as chief of staff, events, for the Linux Foundation and her previous decade with Opus, Cohen will now focus on the company’s growing incentive-travel business.
As she steps into her new role, we asked the meetings-industry veteran to share some highlights and insights from her career.
Q: What’s the most memorable conference you’ve ever attended from the perspective of conference design, and what made it stand out?
In terms of events I’ve attended (not produced myself), I’ll have to climb into the "way-back machine" and return to when Meetings Professionals International hosted a conference in Salt Lake City around 2010. At that time, innovation in events was not what it is today.
That said, the closing night event still resonates with me. It was one of the best receptions I’ve attended. I still talk about it and find ways to pull inspiration from it for my own events.
The reception was for a couple of thousand people at the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre. As you stepped off your bus at the venue, you received a map of the grounds and a colored wristband. Entering the grounds, you saw a vast lawn with picnic blankets divided into sections by color (red, blue, green, etc.)
Each blanket accommodated four people, so you had to rally some friends and find a blanket corresponding to your wristband.
There were picnic baskets with wine, water, and hors d’ouveres, and your map directed you to a hot-food station for your color section. After eating and watching some light entertainment, a headliner performed (Smashmouth... it was 2010, after all). At the end of the event, MPI donated leftover blankets to homeless shelters along with the remaining food.
The overall vibe was so lovely. People get tired of always eating standing up or making a meal from food on toothpicks or small plates. Making a reception casual and comfortable left attendees feeling refreshed and connected.
Q: What changes are you seeing in incentive-travel qualifiers’ reward expectations?
We’re seeing two ends of the spectrum with incentives. On one side, attendees are thirsty to visit destinations they haven’t been to previously. This trend opens the door to emerging, unique, and unexplored destinations.
On the other end of the spectrum, we’re seeing companies select destinations closer to home. With costs rising globally, companies want to limit the amount (and expense) of travel, so they don’t have to reduce the program in other areas, such as gifting and local experiences.
We’re also starting to see that many clients are looking to move away from the traditional awards dinner, opening the door to finding new and unique ways to recognize qualifiers throughout the program. We love this because there are so many fun and unexpected ways to package this experience.
Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I studied television and film production in college, and my very first job was working at MTV. I also spent time at Nickelodeon and on a few independent TV shows before moving to the stability of a corporate job. I love that the skills needed to be a producer in that field are the same as in event management. It’s all about momentarily transporting your attendees (or viewers) and bringing joy into their lives.