Grand Wayne Convention Center Ramps Up Guest Experience

By Leigh Harper, November 16, 2016

Meeting experiences are becoming grander at Grand Wayne Convention Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, thanks to Guest Experience Manager Marissa Best, who stepped into her newly created role in May.

The idea for the position was born when convention center staff and board members were reviewing post-event surveys and contemplating where to go next.

“Great service is the expectation these days; it’s not a differentiator,” says Bart Shaw, executive director of the convention center. The Grand Wayne team wants to set the bar higher and facilitate great experiences, not just service.

So how is Best helping the team make that leap? First, she meets with planners in advance to listen to their goals and learn about their group. Once she understands what they hope to accomplish and learns preferences, she aims to customize their meeting as much as possible, enhancing their experience with tailor-made touches.

“The beauty of this position is we’re not trying to dictate what a guest experience should be,” Best says. “We don’t want to assume we know what you want, and we don’t want to make [all visits] cookie-cutter.”

A recent enhancement Best coordinated for the North American Scrabble Players Association received rave reviews and even an unsolicited thank-you note from one of the participants. She arranged for the installation of a 6 ft.-by-6 ft. Scrabble board on the convention center floor. Participants not only played games on it but also used the board for demonstrations and incorporated it into their signage. Another recent experiential home run was hiring a musician to entertain guests for the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association using a guitar made partially from the group’s commemorative license plate.

Best wants to improve visitors’ experiences outside the convention center’s walls as well. She has made an effort to connect with local business owners and inform them of groups that are in town, forging a partnership and regular communication to benefit all parties.

“We like that this [role] gives us another resource to connect our visitors to the Fort Wayne community,” says Shaw. “At the end of the day, we are here for the community and hope visitors will come back.”

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