President Obama's Trip to Jamaica II: 8 Lessons for Meeting Planners

President Obama visits Jamaica - Shaking hands with Governor General of JamaicaPresident Obama went to Jamaica last week to hold a series of meetings including bilateral talks with Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, and discussions with the leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), representing 15 countries in the Caribbean region in preparation for the Summit of the Americas in Panama. On the agenda were discussions about energy, security and reasserting the U.S. leadership role in the Caribbean.

Event planners organizing corporate or high profiles events can learn important lessons from President Obama's visit and the preparations for it.

Lessons for Event Planners

  1. Get the meeting venues in order.
    In preparation for President Obama's visit, sites were inspected and given a thorough clean up and, in some cases a facelift. Event planners need to be just as thorough when staging their events - particularly at foreign destinations.
  2. Rehearse and run through all important aspects of the meeting.
    All key aspects of Obama's visit were rehearsed from his arrival at Norman Manley International Airport and travel routes to the drills in which soldiers participated.
  3. When planning high profile events for dignitaries or celebrities, keep the arrival procedures simple and secure.
    Within 5 minutes of President Obama's arrival in Jamaica he boarded a helicopter and was whisked to Up Park Camp, the military location that is the headquarters of the Jamaica Defense Force. From there, he was quickly and safely transported to the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.
  4. When security is key, buy-out a venue.
    All 300 rooms of the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel were used for President Obama and his delegation.

    (Some event organizers secure locations by buying out the floor on which the celebrities or public officials are staying as well as the floors above and below it.)
  5. President Obama Singing and Dancing to Bob MarleyWork a visit to local cultural sites or attractions into the agenda.
    Even though his time in Jamaica was brief, The Gleaner reported on President Obama's impromptu visit to the Bob Marley Museum. The tour guide revealed that the President danced and sang when Exodus, his favourite Bob Marley song, played. He revealed the fact that he had been listening to Bob Marley's music aboard Air Force One enroute to Jamaica.

    The president also visited National Heroes Park where he laid a wreath at the War Memorial.
  6. Seek Opportunities to Connect with Millennials and Other Young Leaders,
    They are the future of all organizations. At a time when many Associations are finding it challenging to attract younger members, this is important to remember. President Obama hosted a Town Hall with young Jamaican leaders at the University of the West Indies and launched the Young Leaders of the Americas (YLIA) initiative.


  1. Amplify your message by the use of technology and social media.
    President Obama's Town Hall at the University of the West Indies (UWI) was live streamed on YouTube and the White House website. The U.S. State Department shared videos of President Obama's arrival, and key meetings on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The videos went viral.
  2. Look for opportunities to involve local celebrities in your meetings and events.
    Tessanne Chin, winner of season 5 The Voice, was one of the entertainers and Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce were invited to the Town Hall. President Obama took the opportunity to pose with Usain Bolt in his signature lightning bolt "to the world" pose.


    Photo Credits: Jamaica Information Service (JIS), Pete Souza(Official White House Photo)

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