When the PCMA Convene business-development team began planning an intimate dinner for clients during the newly renamed Destinations International (formerly DMAI) 2017 Annual Convention on July 12, providing an authentic Montreal experience was top of mind. (I was thrilled to represent the Convene editorial team at the dinner, but didn’t participate in its preparation.)
Mona Cotton, PCMA’s vice president of partner relations and business development administration, worked with Tourisme Montreal to select a venue that would give our guests — destination-marketing executives from around the world — a taste of Montreal’s rich history. Built in 1688 and the first inn in North America to receive a liquor license some 70 years later, L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel, with its warm, centuries-old stone interior walls, fit the bill.
Next on the list: gifts for the 50 guests. One of Convene‘s directors of business development, Wendy Krizmanic, thought that having a local artist create something personalized would be a great way to “highlight Montreal’s creative, artistic vibe and be a unique memento for them to take home,” she said. Tourisme Montreal put her in touch with local artist Aline Flore Francois. Krizmanic explained to Francois that she thought scenes of Old Montreal, painted on greeting-card-sized heavy paper stock, would be a good option.
Krizmanic expected Francois to paint perhaps five different versions of the scenes, and copy each scene 10 times for all of the guests. Instead, “the artist took it upon herself to make each painting unique,” Krizmanic said. Once guests arrived at L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel’s Truteau Hall, they could choose from 50 different pieces of art spread out on a table, and speak to Francois, who was signing each piece.
The paintings created quite a buzz during the dinner, and gave the destination-marketing execs ideas about incorporating local artists at events in their own cities. “This is just so meaningful,” Anja Loestscher, director of the Geneva Convention & Visitors Bureau, told me several times that night.
Given that Montreal is a creative hub, it wasn’t surprising that the paintings weren’t the only artistic and custom touch at our dinner. The local florist Cotton worked with for the centerpieces, Atelier Carmel, asked her for details about the dinner. Learning that the dinner was a way to thank advertisers for their support of a print magazine, she asked Cotton to send her several Convene covers. The florist then cut out shapes from the covers and fashioned them into paper flowers and leaves. Inserted in the flower centerpieces, they helped to visually tell Convene‘s story.