12 Tips For Better Meetings: Hospitality Experts From the Marriott Convention & Resort Network Weigh In
Just like meeting planners, hoteliers have a lot riding on satisfying attending groups. Hosting meetings is a specialty among hotels in the Marriott Convention & Resort Network, a selection of 60 hotels and resorts with from the JW Marriott, Autograph Collection, Renaissance, Marriott, and Gaylord brands. These tips from hoteliers at 12 of the network properties around the country suggest ways to engage, enlighten, and energize attendees—and planners!—for better meeting results. —by Susan Campbell
1. Draw Attendees to Exhibit Areas with Appetizing Treats and Aromas
Food stations in the exhibit areas are great for attracting and keeping attendees focused (and exhibitors will appreciate theadded foot traffic!). Simple items such as popcorn, roasted nuts or even an Asian dumpling display will not only fill the room with pleasant aromas, but also get attendees to gravitate towards that area or room.
Gina Bertucci, Director of Catering – New York Marriott Marquis
2. Switch Up Seating for Meetings and Meals
Set up high cocktail tables in the back of the room to allow attendees to stand up without having to leave the meeting. Incorporate large communal tables, square tables, raised tables and traditional rounds to allow attendees to choose the setting that they are most comfortable with during meals. It also provides a nice visual to the space without spending extra money.
Erik Hallberg, Director of Sales – Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel, Schaumburg, IL
3. Spice Up Your Exhibit Hall
Create an innovative and interactive exhibit hall that attendees will never forget. Set up a juice bar with fresh squeezed juices and/or smoothies, have a raffle and play Bingo, or implement “pop up” bars throughout the area serving various themed-cocktails to make it an overall fun experience.
Heather Layser, Senior Event Manager – Baltimore Marriott Waterfront
4. Site Selection – Don’t Overlook Emerging Markets
Look beyond the traditional locations and try a new/emerging market for your next meeting or event. These destinations can offer a few benefits such as value-added rates, authentic food and beverage experiences and personalized service. Attendees today are looking to learn and have new experiences from their travel destinations. Many also like to give back to the communities they visit either through outreach activities or even just the substantial economic impact.
Judy Booth, Director of Sales & Marketing – Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center
5. Work with the CVBs
Convention & Visitor Bureaus are a good resource when selecting a site for an event or meeting. They can offer an array of information including recommendations on transportation, restaurants, private event options and attractions to help meeting planners throughout the planning process.
Jay Marsella, Director of Sales & Marketing – Marriott Marquis Houston
6. Take Advantage of Existing Hotel Assets; Add More Fun For Attendees
Cut cost on set up by utilizing lighting and A/V equipment provided by the hotel and use those funds enhancing the attendee experience with fun amenities, F&B offerings and cool attractions.
Vincent Dreffs, Director of Catering – Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Nashville, TN
7. Get Social and Engage Attendees
Share your social media engagement plan with the property to help engage with attendees pre-, during, and post-event. Work with the venue and have them tag your event in social media updates, create a hyperlink to drive traffic back to your profiles and expand your reach and visibility. Also, have them monitor social media related to your event while in-house to welcome attendees, answer questions, and join relevant conversations to provide great service and further enhance their experience.
Frank Manchen, Director of Sales & Marketing – San Francisco Marriott Marquis
8. Creative and Collaborative Meeting Setups
Develop more creative and collaborative meeting setups to foster fun and interactive sessions. Offer attendees the option to sit on couches, beanbags or balance ball chairs instead of traditional conference chairs or have markers or colored pencils on the tables instead of pens.
Anne Dunlavy, Director of Sales & Marketing – JW Marriott Indianapolis
9. Liaise with Event Manager and Culinary Team
Work closely with the event manager and the culinary team to select your menus versus picking samples online. These menus give a general idea of what the hotel offers; however, by liaising with the in-house team, you can discuss the possibilities of a customized menu or learn about additional offerings that aren’t on the website.
Sir Néctor R. Collazo, Director of Event Planning – JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes
10. Communication is Key
Communicating with the events team throughout the planning process is the key to a seamless and successful event. Be sure to provide the team with pertinent information (i.e. budget, objectives, priorities, flexibility on space and dates, etc.) from the beginning to ensure that all your expectations and needs are met or exceeded.
Cindi McMullen, Director of Sales & Marketing – Marriott Washington Wardman Park
Go Back to Basics for “Thank you” Notes
Go back to basics and send handwritten “thank you” notes to attendees after the event or meeting. Share a few key memories to remind them how well everything went. A follow-up email is always important, but a physical card is a tangible and nice gesture they can hold on to and possibly entice them to come back again!
Shane Allor, Director of Sales & Marketing – JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, Scottsdale, AZ
12. Mentorships for New Meeting Attendees
Pair up new attendees with veterans for mentorship opportunities to allow them to gain insight and learn the ins and outs of the conference/event. This is great way to help these first-time attendees get acclimated, so they can truly enjoy the conference/event and maximize their experience.
John Brewster, Director of Sales – Kansas City Marriott Downtown