Speaker Highlights from Engage!23 The Boca Raton


Each Engage! we gather thought leaders from around the world to weigh in on topics of interest to our attendees. That means experts in design and planning, entrepreneurship, and even some life lessons that go beyond business come up from time to time. Engage!23 The Boca Raton was no exception. With incredible speakers from inside our wedding and event industry and out, our attendees walked away with notebooks full and hopefully minds blown!

…And minds were blown not only by the speakers but the stage too! The Royal Palm Ballroom boasted a chic, country club-inspired design (in our signature pink and green for the week) with an extra special wow moment – an LED wall as our backdrop screen! Thanks to our incredible partner Encore Creative, our main stage LED wall really set the scene for each day. Videos looped, presentations popped, and wow just wow. The colors certainly lit up the room in all their LED glory!

Each day TPD Design House placed custom agendas at every seat. For day one, as a nod to The Boca Raton’s storied history and “new golden era,” TPD Design House designed a vintage television-inspired agenda that channeled the property’s transformation from historic to iconic. Day two included a golf bag-inspired agenda. It’s a hole-in-one, get it?! This interactive design fore-shadowed the afternoon lunch that was to come. (With a tribe to a famous movie that was filmed here! Can you guess which one?!)

Speaker Highlights

Back to our amazing speakers. One of the unique elements of this event was the participation of four awe-inspiring keynote speakers. These are typically experts outside the event community, speaking on subjects they’ve written best-selling books about or are most notable in their field for. This summit included a visit from fan-favorite Cindy Novotny (founder Master Connection Associates), Laura Gassner Otting (author of Wonderhell), Milton Pedraza (CEO of the Luxury Institute, and closing keynote speaker, and Will Guidara (author of Unreasonable Hospitality). 

WSJ Best Selling Author of Wonderhell, Laura Gassner Otting, took to the Engage! stage for the very first time. Laura spoke about why success often doesn’t feel like it should and how it brings an increased hunger, a faster pace, and bigger goals accompanied by a roller coaster of uncertainty, self-doubt, anxiety, and stress. Be careful what you wish for, right?! Don’t stress, she also talked about how to manage that all and do it well.

On day two, to lighten the mood after hours of incredible information, we had a fun interactive cocktail game. Hosted by the Cocktail Academy with Hugh Howser, Eddie Zaratsian, and Marcy Blum, among others playing, we laughed, played, and drank standout signature cocktails.

When it was back to business, the stage welcomed expert panels with Rishi Patel, Corbin Gurkin, Josh Friedman, Carrie Goldberg, Amrit Dhillon-Bains, Vanessa Kreckel, and Pablo Oliveira. We heard from culinary experts Carla Ruben and Jeff Fowler, and enjoyed more casual chats with Jose Rolon and Ed Libby, Mark Ingram and Bryan Rafanelli, and so many more. With over 50+ speakers at this event, there was just so much to learn (with a lot of laughter in between too)!

A Few High Notes from the Main Stage

While we can’t share all our takeaways, here are a few tips from some of our esteemed speakers!

Marcy Blum: Everyone on staff should know everything! Guests assume your people know the answers to all questions, so you must. 

Guerdy Abraira: Be honest about what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. It will serve you in the end!

Cindy Novotny: Hire for attitude and train for skill. Tackle the priorities and make the tough calls before noon. Take control. Don’t ignore your whole life in the process!

Hugh Howser: Put the bottom line at the top of the email. Be clear and cover yourself. 

Milton Pedraza: Protect, enhance, and promote the best interest of your clients and they will reciprocate.

Lea Stafford: “You can make a plan but you can’t plan the outcome, so remain open to the adventure” – a quote Lea lives by and shared. Find beauty in the imperfect and incomplete. Time is an expiring asset, protect it.

Carla Ruben and Jeff Fowler: Hospitality begins at the back of the house.

Laura Gassner Otting: Your highest and best use is to spend all of your time doing what only you can do. That inside voice is not a limitation, but an invitation. 

Breakout Sessions

On the last day of Engage! we break our 500+ attendees down into smaller groups to listen to speakers touch on topics uniquely designed for them. These breakout sessions are a time for industries to learn from one another, ask questions, and dive deeper into problem-solving or evolving for the year to come. But before that, we ended with one more keynote speaker on our main stage. Will Guidara (author of Unreasonable Hospitality), shared his journey, highlighting Eleven Madison Park’s transformation from a struggling two-star brasserie to the world’s number one restaurant in just 11 years. Guidara’s talk inspired attendees with insights on radical reinvention, emphasizing true partnerships between the back and front of houses, and fostering memorable, over-the-top, bespoke hospitality. He explained how any business and entrepreneur can embrace a hospitality mindset, transforming ordinary transactions into extraordinary experiences across the board.

Thank you to more than 50 speakers who graced our stages and shared their hearts, minds, and businesses with our group. We are better today having listened to each and every one of you!