Monday, December 14, 2009

Some Thoughts About Conference Planning

I just returned from the second annual Green Lodging and Hospitality Conference. It was held at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, Fla., from December 9 to 11. I reported on the event for Green Lodging News. My hat goes off to anyone who tried to hold a conference or trade show this year. The economy was a bear. Each event I attended this year had attendance lower than expected. How do you convince hoteliers to spend money on travel and registration when their own businesses are hurting? It is a challenge.

Even in tough economic conditions, however, one cannot always blame just the economy for poor event attendance. There are other reasons events fail to reach expectations. Examples include: too little investment in marketing or public relations; too few staff or volunteers doing too many things; poor calendar management--waiting too long before planning the details of the event (lining up speakers, posting the agenda online, etc.); charging too much; doing a better job at attracting vendors than attracting potential buyers; ignoring or not recognizing partnership opportunities; and inviting guest speakers who are not the best fit for the target audience.

In case you are planning to organize an event in 2010 or 2011, here are a few bits of advice: To get listed in all of the event calendars--places prospective attendees go to when planning their schedules--one must plan at least a year or more in advance. I highly recommend working with a professional marketing/public relations professional with experience in the industry in which you are working. Don't take on too much yourself. Work with a professional meeting planner. Get to know the experts in your field--the best speakers. Go to other events to find them. At the Thursday luncheon at the Green Lodging and Hospitality Conference, the speaker spoke more about green homes than green hotels--disappointing. She also referred to the American Hotel & Lodging Association as the "AS&LA." Yikes. (The majority of the speakers at the conference were excellent.)

The economy of the last year should have taught everyone that in order to get customers to spend money, you have got to provide the type of value they just cannot refuse. That approach applies to conferences and trade shows as well. What do you think?

1 comment:

Green Travel Hub said...

I agree that the attendance was a lot lower than I expected. I enjoyed the speakers that I heard, but I agree about the thursday lunch speaker.

I think it's a challenge for anyone to put on a truly successful conference and/or meeting. The Green Lodging conference could have better utilized the use of social networking like having a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to get the word out about the conference and give the ability for participants to share their thoughts about the topics during the conference.