Atlanta is a top-rated hospitality market due to its airport and convention centers. We sat down with Jeff Whitney, president of Event Transportation/Atlanta, to learn more about the hospitality industry and how it relates to our Meeting & Event Management Certificate program. Jeff serves as one of the course instructors bringing more than 30 years of relevant experience to the classroom.
Discuss some of the job trends in the industry.
Some of the biggest current trends I am factoring into my awareness/planning are:
1) Multi-Generational Gatherings — As never before, planners are experiencing target audiences (employee, customers/users, vendors/suppliers, etc.) that are comprised of multi-generations. This requires a great deal more insights into the differing ways in which people communicate, engage and learn.
2) Social Media/Technology — This component is especially critical to engaging and communicating with our newer generations. Snail mail, knowledge based speakers squawking on stage, face-to-face meetings and “one size fits all” menus and accommodations, can no longer be the “standard” when planning a meeting with specific goals that involve the multi-generational audience.
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and a great many more formats and applications continue to evolve and be released to a hungry audience of techno consumers. In order to survive and grow, social media and their related technologies must be included in the planning and engagement process.
3) Meeting Architecture — This relatively new approach to meeting and event planning requires in-depth research to better understand your audience, and then building into their experience all the “bells and whistles” that engage their senses in an effort to increase their attention and retention of the experience and educational content being delivered. Color, sound, smells, touch and taste can all play an important role in your success.
Some simple examples:
- Build in breaks that allow for networking and down time — maybe even a short massage
- Re-imagine the room set by using soft group seating and crescent rounds in place of traditional classroom and theater-style sets
- Incorporate a virtual presentation through Skype or enhancing participation for non-attending targeted audiences by staging an online tradeshow that they can access remotely; or
- using interactive adult learning styles to increase one-on-one interaction and providing a broader number of topics in which to create discussion and innovation.
4) Short Lead Times for Meetings and Events — Whether it’s the economy, impact of the ever growing/changing Internet capabilities, and/or the varying level of industry experience and skills held by meeting professionals today (impacted by major layoffs/reassignments and down-sizing due to the economic recession), most meetings/events that can be hosted within 1-2 hotels are providing very short lead times to plan, budget and operate (citywide meetings that require large numbers of rooms and hotels still require some lead time to block the needed spaces).
The ability to negotiate rates, space and availability is often negatively impacted due to the requirement for the quick turnaround. The buyer/seller market has also changed from a “buyers” to “sellers” market—hotels room rates are steadily increasing, and “meeting values analysis” used by the hotels to determine desirability of hosting a specific meeting based on it purchasing history are back in play.