Holding a “dream” meeting may be as simple as helping dreams come true for people who need it the most. The Coca-Cola Company believes the “real thing” is the act of giving back and demonstrated that in a big way earlier this year. While considering locations for its annual McDonald’s Account Group Meeting (the team of Coke professionals who manage the company’s business dealings with McDonald’s), city and venue options were wide open.
“There were literally places around the globe that were being considered for this program,” explains Dave Quillin, event production manager at the company’s world headquarters in Atlanta. “Wherever we conduct our day-to-day business is always an option for us when we hold our meetings. Knowing we wanted to include community service as a key component of the program, we looked at New Orleans and considered its history and heritage, and the great need they have for any kind of assistance following Hurricane Katrina. We knew right away this was an opportunity to come in and make a difference and leave behind a legacy.”
The multi-day conference was designed to include two significant community service initiatives. The first included allocating a block of time when Coke folks would clean, scrape, paint, replace fencing, refurbish a baseball diamond, and make other minor repairs in an effort to resurrect storm-battered Wesley Barrow Stadium in Pontchartrain Park. The second community-service initiative aided the St. Augustine Catholic High School Marching 100, an awarding-winning marching band that had become more like the Marching 53 when families were displaced and had to leave the storm-blasted region. Band instruments, uniforms, practice facilities — even sheet music — were destroyed by Katrina. For the St. Augustine Marching 100, Aug. 29, 2005, truly was the day the music died. But a generous donation from Coca-Cola helped to replace band instruments. A video chronicling the Marching 100’s plight also was produced and funded by Coca-Cola, and shown during the company’s meeting. Video dupes were then turned over to band leaders to be used as a selling tool as school officials sought donations from other corporate entities.
Coca-Cola and one of its local bottlers managed to align community service, a needy high school band, and an ailing strategic partner — all in the interest of helping a city still struggling to recover from disaster.
The program also was the first major piece of corporate business for the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans after reopening post-Katrina, allowing Coke to help out a valued business partner. “It’s just one of those great situation when everyone benefits,” Quillin says. “Including community service when you’re planning a meeting just makes the whole experience so memorable.”
Information compiled by Pete Foley, director of creative services at Access Meetings & Events. Read more about Dream Meetings in the latest edition of Plan Your Meetings magazine. Sign up for your free subscription here.