Ask this question of anyone I have worked with in the last decade about me and they will all most likely give you the same answer. "Hospitality". Hospitality goes far beyond making sure someone is greeted when they walk in your door, or making sure the snacks are good, or making sure all the staff is following the rules of "5 & 10" and "open palms" (fellow planners and hotel folks know what I'm talking about...shout out to all my pals!). It isn't always something that you can touch or see. Hospitality is...now brace yourself, we're diving deep here...a way of life.
In a future blog I will dive into what I like to call "Purpose-filled Planning" which will cover in detail the real reason of why we do what we do as conference and meeting planners and what our driving force should always be. For now, though, I just want to share this short story...
At a conference last summer, I was walking a presenter to her break-out room. While we were walking through the conference center she stopped halfway down the hall and said, "What is going on here?" I worried and to be completely honest, very concerned about why she was asking such a question began to explain the conference, the happenings of the day, the purpose, and our mission. Behind my hospitable tone and smile was a mind filled with regret that I ever accepted her presentation submission thinking, "If you don't know what is going on here, what the heck are you doing here?" I clearly had these thoughts too soon. She stopped me about half way through my explanation and said, "No. That's not what I meant. I mean, something is happening here. Something special. I don't know what it is. Something is different." Her sentences were short and hesitant, but she had a curious joy in her eyes. I knew that we had reached success. I already knew we had good programming, a great facility, etc. More than that, we built a conference centered around hospitality and the guest experience. You couldn't touch it, you couldn't see it, but it radiated through the conference center. At the end of the conference she came back to me and said, "We are in. I'm bringing my entire network to attend this conference next year." BOOM.
Make someone feel welcomed, taken care of, and valued, and you've got them at their hearts. Simple, right? You would think so, but that's not always the case. The challenge to myself and to everyone out there, in the industry or not, is to live everyday with a hospitable heart. The resulting successes from this will amaze you.