The Perfect Incentive Trip

 

Returned yesterday from our Europe Incentive trip—one of the best Europe incentive trips yet! Perfect location (Vienna), perfect weather (the warmest I’ve ever experienced in Europe), perfect agenda (nice balance of free time and planned activities), perfect company (25 achievers, who got to bring guests this year for the first time!).

Sterling and I arrived on Tuesday and forced ourselves to stay awake until evening so we could minimize the jet lag. We went to dinner that evening with Dave, our vice president of Global Operations, and his wife, Jennifer. It’s ironic that in our first photo from the trip, the one thing that captures my eye is the Burger King sign in the background; you can find fast food restaurants everywhere!

Wednesday, our demonstrators and their guests arrived throughout the day, and it was a great chance to see friends from previous European events and meet new friends too. We had a “hospitality desk,” which was a small room where demonstrators could check in, spin a wheel for a prize, and spend a few minutes before heading out for the day.

At least that was the intent.  

It turned out that as demonstrators dropped by, they started visiting with each other and just didn’t want to leave. The room filled up quickly, and became a wonderful (albeit slightly crowded upon occasion) place for us to enjoy each others’ company. Note to self: Next year, we need a bigger gathering place!

It was so fun, though, to see how much everyone enjoyed being together! And I certainly enjoyed the time I spent with our demonstrators!

Wednesday night we had our welcome dinner, and I was reminded of something I’d noticed before—Europeans love to dress up. Another note to self: Don’t forget to dress up for the European event next year! We had listed “resort casual” as the dress for the welcome dinner, and many demonstrators leaned toward the fancier end of the spectrum.  It was great to see how many demonstrators took advantage of the opportunity to make this a special event by dressing up.

Thursday morning, we all went to the Schonbrunn Palace, a former Imperial 1,441-room residence that is one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna. We toured the palace and gardens on our own, and then all met together, donned baker hats and aprons, and made our personal apple strudel creations, which was a wonderful hands-on experience.

The dough was premade, as was the apple filling, but we got to be a little creative with our pastry making. At the end of the event, everyone was called up, received a certificate of achievement, and got to show off their strudel. Some looked great, others not so much, but the entire experience was so fun, and we all shared a sense of pride and accomplishment in what we’d done.

Thursday afternoon and evening was free, as was most of Friday and Saturday. During free time, demonstrators did some sightseeing, sat around and relaxed, and chatted with each other. Sterling and I took advantage of a few Vienna tours/attractions that were offered; it was especially fun for us when we met demonstrators along the way.

We visited museums, walked around the city, and simply enjoyed the rich culture of this amazing place. We spent several hours at the Spanish Riding School, watching their morning exercise. Sterling was in heaven—he loves horses. And even though I’m not nearly the horse lover he is, I found it fascinating as well. Check out the elegant surroundings (chandeliers, etc., with the dirt floor!).

We also found a local restaurant, Overlaa, that served the creamiest, most delicious gelato. We found our way there several times; after all, once we discovered it, we felt obligated to share our discovery with others on the trip!

In addition to the free time, we had several organized get-togethers—a breakfast buffet every morning was one place you knew you’d have a chance to visit with demonstrators, the Saturday morning swap that was scheduled for an hour and lasted at least two because (once again) everyone enjoyed being together, and our Saturday evening goodies and goodbyes. That was designed as a come-and-go event, but people mostly came. I think I was one of the first to leave because I was so tired!

The most breathtaking activity, though, had to be the Friday Night Gala. Dress was semi-formal, which set the mood for the evening. We met in the hotel lobby and rode horse-drawn carriages through the streets of Vienna to the Museum of Fine Arts. Amazing! Then we walked into this magnificent facility, with incredible décor and architecture. The museum was closed, so it was an exclusive evening, just for us.

We had a fabulous dinner, with a page announcing every new course, accompanied with a tap of his cane. We had a museum mini-tour (way too much to see in such a short time), and then dessert.

But the crowning moment of the evening was an intimate performance by the Vienna Boys Choir. It was truly a memorable event—a world-renowned choir performing in an incredible venue just for us. Wow! Words can’t describe the emotion of the moment, and several demonstrators commented to me on what a memorable experience it was.

Sunday it was over, and demonstrators headed home, hopefully as happy with this year’s incentive trip as I was!

 

 

Our flight home didn’t leave until Monday, so we took advantage of our extra day and headed to Salzburg, which included a wonderfully relaxing three-hour train ride (one way), a brief visit to Sound of Music land (didn’t have time to take the tour, but so enjoyed seeing it), a visit to the Salzburg Cathedral (one of the lightest, most welcoming cathedrals I’ve seen), lunch at the  Hohensalzburg Fortress (fantastic views of the entire valley), and a tram ride to the top of a mountain.  

None of the photos I took at Salzburg, or throughout the incentive trip, do the experience justice. The scenery and buildings and atmosphere everywhere amazing. I didn’t get as many pictures of demonstrators (sorry!), but at least I got some. Hopefully, for those who went, these pictures will spark fond memories of an extraordinary event. And for those of you who weren’t with us, you were missed!