It’s a golden incentive travel rule: on an incentive program, roll out the red carpet to give everyone the VIP treatment.
If it’s celebrity-worthy experiences we’re aiming for, then it makes sense to learn from one of the most star-studded events of the year: the Academy Awards. Here are several standout lessons from this year’s drama-packed evening.
Expect the unexpected as we return to in-person events
Like pretty much every Oscars recap making the rounds, we’re starting off with that moment featuring Will Smith and Chris Rock. Find more details about the incident here if your news feeds somehow haven’t already tipped you off as to what went down onstage.
Setting the actors aside, our takeaway is this: we’re still in a moment where tensions can run high and connecting feels different after such a long hiatus of in-person events. It’s expected to feel on edge when navigating it all.
Still, the same basic principles remain. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, common courtesy, and to feel safe at anything they attend — especially something as special and celebratory as an incentive trip.
Spend a few moments thinking through (or even planning for) the kinds of unexpected moments that the heightened emotions all of us are experiencing right now might create — to avoid having your program go viral for all the wrong reasons!
Craft your attendee list with care
Guest list drama also threatened to overshadow this year’s Awards buzz, with fans puzzled as to why West Side Story actress Rachel Zegler didn’t make the list of Best Actress nominees and then seemingly wasn’t invited to the ceremony.
Even though Zegler eventually made it onstage as a presenter, it still didn’t stop a bit of snark from making it into her script, ensuring the story would stick around and make it into post-Oscars coverage.
While your incentive likely won’t be making Hollywood gossip blogs, save yourself some strife by vetting your attendee list(s) and checking them — two, three, even four times — to be sure you’ve thought of everyone and everything. Nothing tanks what should be a triumph of an event faster than a disgruntled qualifier, guest, or senior leader who’s been overlooked.
Continuing to break from convention
Turning heads with his haute couture was Timothée Chalamet, who arrived on the Oscars red carpet in an embroidered Louis Vuitton lace jacket — and no shirt underneath. We’ll leave the sartorial commentary to others, but this is a good example of how many of us — especially younger generations — continue to play with norms and conventions.
When planning incentive programs, lean into this desire for unconventionality and design programs that embrace individual perspectives and preferences: from dress codes, to daily activities, to the destination itself. People are looking to break the rules — so let them (As long as you’re not violating the standard no shoes/no shirt/no service health & safety codes…)
A high-class hybrid event
Many event profs cite professional sports as key examples of hybrid events we’ve loved tuning into for decades. The Academy Awards obviously fit this criteria, too.
This year’s ceremony served up a controversially “refreshed” broadcast, with several awards not aired live. While opinions were mixed on the changes, this offers a final important incentives lesson.
When thinking about your travel itinerary — or any part of the incentive, from the reward announcement up through post-trip communications — think carefully about what should remain a “must have” and what can be cut (or moved behind-the-scenes, without needing to be broadcast). Change is good when it’s responsive to stakeholder feedback, but don’t chase impossible goals, dreams, or views for little to no return!