I recently attended a Northstar Meetings Group Planners Conference focused on small unique venues. It was a virtual meeting with 2 speakers and 10 one on one appointments with hotel vendors. One on one speed dating appointments can be exhausting in real life so I was not looking forward to the already exhausting nature of a virtual meeting while doing one on one meetings. I was pleasantly surprised. This meeting was organized. The technology was easy to use. The speakers were engaging and gave relevant data. The vendors were informative. The program timing was good. I actually had fun.
The length was just the right amount of time that it felt worth my time without being a time suck away from the regular work day.
One of the main reasons I wanted to participate in this particular digital workshop was because it was focused on small and unique venues. I believe that over the next 18 months we will see most meetings be 100 people or less in size and in markets that have unique venues, outdoor space or remote experiences. I believe meetings will be more regional and less focused on walkability to bars/dining and more focused on "the bubble" and keeping people together at one property that is more like a big playground.
I felt participating would make me more of a secret weapon for my clients. From a content and vendor stand point, I got a lot out of it.
Here is what I gained from my time on the Virtual Planner Forum:
They used a virtual platform called: REMO . I liked this platform because it seemed to suit the one on one speed dating format well. It was easy to navigate without much instruction and the pictures were clear.
If I didn't have a one on one appointment I could navigate myself over to one of the sponsor lounges and talk with other people that didn't have appointments. This felt very much like the "hallway" experience we have at live conferences where you bump into someone in the elevator, foyer or hallway and chit chat for a couple moments about life, work or both.
I liked the format. They had 2 speakers, 5 one on one appointments, a 15 minute break, another speaker then ended with appointments. My favorite speaker was Dan Berger former CEO of Social Tables. He was fun, interesting and talked about hot topics.
From the speakers, below is what I learned:
Trends and Predictions: .
2022 Hotel investment will climb. The trend is value--not too much luxury, but not cheap, very midscale and very versatile.
Hotel ownership used to be a status symbol. Now owners are diving into the details of design, P/L's, and overall concepting.
More people are investing in limited stay brands and hotel models.
Revenue Managers are focusing more on smaller groups. (see above, "I told you so')
82% of groups in North American hosting future meetings are 100 people or less. (another, I told you so:)
Inclusive Meetings: is your conference planning committee balanced? is the content balanced? Does your meeting address the needs of the full group?
Having hand sanitation stations is not enough. Know your stats, public health data, covid data, have a medical professional of your own on staff and be ready for everything. (I've used ECI in the past for my meetings. They are dedicated to your group-specifically-and can get you temp checks, covid tests, med professionals on site and help design the safety of your meeting.)
How are people protecting virtual events from data breaches?
Encourage audience participation in virtual events. (side note: recently I did a virtual meeting with dueling pianos where attendees submitted song requests via chat box. It was only 3 hours and we had fun and kept everyone engaged in that short period of time. It was important to have action that kept everyone interested)
Start your virtual meeting with a couple of fun facts--make them personal.
People are spending 6.3 hours per day on digital media. If you are doing a virtual meeting you have to think of creative ways to keep people captive.
From the One on One appointments, highlights from my visits with hotel vendors:
Huntsville Alabama: Astronaut camp is a fun meeting theme and offsite event. 1900 person concert hall. Space & Rocket theater. A great drive market for groups coming from Mississippi, Tennessee, Atlanta and other parts of Alabama.
CABO: Don't forget to use that VAT incentive. It can be a savings of 21% of your bill. So many new hotels in Cabo and easy flight from most major hubs on the west coast. It's much safer than the media portrays it and the quality of the hotels are top notch.
Margaritaville Hotel Hollywood Florida: I was pleasantly surprised at this presentation. I'll admit I have an "opinion" of what a Margaritaville hotel looks and feels like. Man was I wrong. This hotel is managed by Davidson. They have a nice selection of hotels in their portfolio and a great reputation as operators. This hotel is only 7 miles south of FLL airport. It just opened in 2015. There is a ton to do on property including a water taxi to the beach. A part of their meeting space even has floor to ceiling windows overlooking the ocean. I feel dumb for overlooking this property in the past and will gladly include it in my searches in the future. It's a great alternative to properties in Miami/South Beach and a newer alternative to some properties in Ft Lauderdale area.
If you haven't attended a Northstar Digital Meeting, do it now. You won't regret it. In fact, I am registered for another Northstar Digital Forum focusing on the Caribbean coming up in a couple weeks. It doesn't have to be Northstar either. There are plenty of great digital education out there right now. Just pick one and try it. Right now, knowledge is power and knowing who is open, who is operating and how they are servicing our groups is important. It's even more important to fill our brains with this knowledge so we can make informed buying decisions as meetings come back. These days there are many other factors that go into meeting decision making than just space/rates/dates. Attending these one on one meetings will make you more knowledgeable for your clients and your meeting stakeholders, I promise.
If you have any questions on markets doing meetings, attending a virtual one on one appointment style meeting or just want to chat hospitality, reach out anytime. I am here for you. firstname.lastname@example.org