A Different View on Free Entertainment. | Bruce Turkel

This weekend I spoke at a conference for The Keyes Company on a Carnival cruise ship. Although my wife and I spent a lot of time in our cabin watching CNN to see what Obama, Biden, McCain, Palin and Saturday Night Live would do in the campaign’s final days, we still roamed the ship, ate too much and gazed out at the sea.

One evening we were in the piano bar where a very talented guy named Bill was entertaining the crowd. A conference attendee, Hap, asked Bill if he could sit in at the piano and invited me to join him on harmonica.

We kicked off with “Stormy Monday.” And even though Hap is a very good piano player we weren’t nearly as accomplished as the professional we just replaced. But something interesting happened…

The folks around the bar started hooting and hollering and that brought lots more people into the room. Before long the bar was full and everyone was singing along to our bungled versions of popular songs.

Somewhere during the chorus of Billy Joel’s “New York Sate of Mind” it hit me: in today’s world where everyone is publishing their own books, creating their own blogs, and twittering away, it makes sense to provide an interactive opportunity for vacationers.

The people in the bar were having a great time and Hap and I had a great time. And Bill? He had a great time too, watching his tip bucket overflow while he stood off to the side and sipped a beer.

What’s in it for you? You can create happy customers by giving them enjoyable interactive opportunities. Whether it’s playing music, cooking, creating art or working in the flower garden, you can give your guests a way to get involved in what they enjoy doing. Allow them to interact with, and learn from, your professionals and they’ll create memories of the wonderful times they had at your property.

By the way, Carnival figured out another way to profit from our impromptu playing. Their photographers came in the room, documented the fun and sold the pictures back to the guests the next day!

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