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Three Conference Ideas to Steal From Hotels

By / Jan 10, 2019 (August0802/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Hotels are making it easier for guests to work, connect, and explore during their stays. Consider these three examples—and whether you might do something similar for your conference attendees.

Over that past few months, I’ve read about a number of hotel brands taking some creative approaches to helping their guests better work and connect with one another during their stays. Each offers takeaways for associations as they plan and execute their events. Here’s a closer look at each:

Virtual and Face-to-Face

First up is The Standard in New York City. Noticing that most guests were sitting in the boutique hotel’s lobbies looking at their phones and not speaking to one another, it created a virtual lobby app so that guests can chat with each other and even make plans to meet in real life in one of The Standard’s social spaces.

“We’ve created a platform that connects social networking to a physical space all for the purpose of putting your phone down and making a human connection,” said Standard International CEO Amar Lalvani to Fast Company.

Guests who want to participate can create an alias on the app—revealing as much or as little detail about their real identity as they feel comfortable doing—and then chat incognito with other guests. The Lobby app is exclusively available for hotel guests to use during their stay, and its content disappears upon checkout, leaving no digital trail.

While similar to conference apps that many organizations offer their attendees, this one has a playful quality that some associations may want to consider adopting. Plus, having all content deleted upon checkout is a good privacy feature.

Time for Work

Meanwhile, other hotels are helping their guests make connections and easily work onsite at the same time. A New York Times article earlier this week took a look at how properties are catering to business travelers and professionals by offering free coworking areas similar to WeWork or The Wing.

“These new workspaces are meant for productivity,” said Lorraine Sileo, senior vice president of research for the travel research company Phocuswright.

For example, Pivot62 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Vail, which opened in March, offers a coworking space that’s free for guests and nonguests. It has workstations, conference rooms, and a kitchen area with free coffee.

Associations would be wise to consider offering a coworking space somewhere within their conference venue. After all, there is going to be a point where attendees need to check in with the office, and giving them a space to easily do this is a great perk. And while they’re in that space, they’re likely to make connections with other attendees who are doing the same.

Host With the Most

The third idea comes from Marriott. In an interview with Forbes, Julius Robinson, senior vice president and global brand leader at Marriott International, discussed the brand’s new Inventive Host Program.

These hosts, according to Robinson, are hand-selected at the properties and trained to provide services to guests that are intuitive and creative. For instance, if you are holding a meeting at a Marriott property, the host would help you craft that meeting, help you get resources, and suggest other elements that would enhance your event.

“Consider them hosts of your stay—like you visiting someone’s home rather than a hotel,” Robinson said.

A concierge service like this is definitely something for associations to consider. If you can offer attendees personalized and curated experiences, they’ll likely return for a future event or conference.

What other ideas have you seen hotels introduce recently that you would consider implementing at an upcoming conference? Let us know in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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