We’ve all attended routine business meetings that turn out to be informative, but forgettable. I’ve had the good fortune of following some interesting industries and companies over the years. Occasionally, what I’d expected to be a routine corporate conversation has turned out to be unconventional and entertaining enough to leave a lasting impression. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Whales Tales: Years ago, I went on a “cruise to nowhere” for investment professionals, sponsored by one of the major cruise lines. I was assigned to a dinner table and found myself sitting next to the ship’s captain. To stimulate some conversation that went beyond standard business repartee, I asked the captain what his favorite memory was as a commanding officer. He captivated everyone at our table with a story about an Alaskan cruise during which several crewmen, on late-night watch, spotted a school of whales swimming alongside the ship. Despite the late hour, the captain decided to announce the sighting on the ship’s PA system. Most passengers drowsily left their staterooms and headed to the main deck, where they were thrilled to see the whales. There no passenger complaints about being awaken.
2. Wine Tasting: In the late-90’s, I led a group of investors on a series of company site visits on the Las Vegas Strip on a hot spring day. After several informative but tiring meetings, we arrived at our final stop at the Rio Hotel & Casino (then owned by a public company of the same name, but later acquired by Caesars Entertainment (NYSE:CZR)). Unbeknownst to us, the Rio’s president had decided to dispense with his usual corporate presentation and instead invited a guest speaker, the hotel’s head sommelier. The Rio’s head wine steward proceeded to guide our group through a very engaging wine-tasting session. The opportunity to sample some great wines with colleagues was a great ending to an otherwise routine day of meetings.
3. Wet Jets: I was once asked to attend a due diligence meeting in Texas to prepare for a stock offering of a recreational boat and sports equipment manufacturer. After attending several meetings in conference rooms and going on factory tours, we visited a rural plant that made personal watercraft. The plant manager led us outside the lakeside factory. where several craft were being test-driven. This was back in the days when we wore suits to all client meetings. It was a hot, sticky summer day and we all felt overdressed. At the invitation of our host, each of us took off our shoes, rolled up our pant legs and tried our hand at navigating the single-passenger water scooters around the lake. Fortunately, we all managed to return to the dock with our clothes dry.