Four Things To Help You Get The Most From Attending A Conference

Over the course of my lengthy hospitality career, I have attended and/or exhibited at more conferences than I can remember. Whether they were big or small, long or short, intense or relaxed, they all pretty much had one thing in common. A group of people, with common interests, coming together in one place to learn and to network.

Thinking back over all of the conferences I’ve attended got me thinking. Why were some better than others? Why did some seem to fly by, while others felt like I was on that proverbial slow boat to China? Certainly the quality of the speakers and program had something to do with it, but it’s really more than that. I’ve learned the hard way that getting the most out of a conference is really more up to me than anything else. The more I put into the conference or trade show, the more I get out of it.

With that in mind, here are four things you can do to help you get the most out of the next conference you attend.

  • Have an objective. Why are you attending the event? Is it to learn new methods? To get new business leads? To make a certain number of new contacts? To relax and work on your golf game? Whatever it may be, make sure your objective is clear in your head before you go. This will help you to focus on the real reason you’re there. Otherwise it can be way too easy to get distracted by the busyness of the conference. Before you know it, it’s over and you feel like you’ve just wasted a few days of your life.
  • Intentionally and consistently talk to strangers. For some people this is very easy, for others it’s pure torture, but it’s critical if you want to get the most out of the conference. I find I usually learn as much, or more, from the individuals I meet as from the general sessions and breakouts.
  • Arrive early, stay late and be outgoing at any and all networking opportunities. This one is especially important if you are an exhibitor at the conference. This is your opportunity to meet potential clients away from the “sales” atmosphere of a traditional trade show booth. People are usually more open and willing to talk when in a casual, social environment. When meeting new people, try to make it more than exchanging a business card. Take the time to qualify the potential value you each could bring to the other’s network.
  • Stay in touch. After returning from the conference, be sure to stay in contact with the people you met and want to add to your network. To develop a good network you must invest time in building the relationship. Whether it be through Facebook, Twitter, email or phone, take the time to get to know each other. Remember, the great thing about building a solid network is that you not only benefit from the knowledge and experience of that person, but also of those they are connected to.

What about you? What do you do to get the most from attending a conference or convention?

What Do Our Guests Think Of Us?

One of the first marketing lessons I learned, early in my hotel career, was that it costs roughly five times more to get a new customer than to keep one you already have. While the ratio may have changed over the years, I think the basic premise remains true today. If you really want to grow your business, you must do everything you can to keep your guests coming back.

An effective way to keep your guests coming back is to provide them with a level of service that exceeds their expectations. In order to be successful doing this, you must have a good understanding of the level of service they expect and how well you’re doing in delivering that service.

The best way to gauge what your guests think of your service is to simply ask. In today’s wired, online world, your guests are already talking about you and your service. The key is to make sure they’re telling you as well. For that to happen, you need to ask them often, and in different ways. At Ridgecrest and Glorieta we take three steps to get a handle on what our guests think of our product and service.

In-room Surveys

In all of our adult guest rooms, we provide a simple, one-page guest survey. The questions are basic and designed to give us immediate, actionable feedback. By that I mean if there is a problem, we can hopefully find out about it and correct the problem while the guest is still on campus. If that’s not possible, we still have a chance to fix the problem before the next guest checks in.

This type of survey is considered to be unsolicited guest feedback. The survey is in the room and the guest chooses whether to complete it. As a result, the data collected is not always an accurate picture of the true level of service being provided. Typically this survey is only completed by guests who were either very satisfied or very unsatisfied.

Online Surveys

The most accurate measure of guest service is what is termed solicited feedback. This feedback comes from asking the guest to give it to you. The easiest way to do this today is online. We have designed a comprehensive online survey this is emailed weekly to every guest (for whom we have an email address) who stayed with us the prior week.

The results of these surveys are compiled on a monthly basis and give us a good picture of the overall level of guest satisfaction with our product and service. We look at both the current month’s results and the three month rolling average, then see how the scores compare with the same period the previous year. This allows us to reinforce the areas where we identify positive trends and to address those areas that reflect a negative trend.

Event Planner Evaluations

While the in-room and online surveys are targeting individual guests or attendees, our event planner evaluation targets the group leader. In most cases these are the people who made the decision to bring their group to Ridgecrest or Glorieta and, as a result, their feedback is critical to our future success. The questions on this evaluation are focused on the needs of the meeting planner and how well we met those needs. From these evaluations we are better able to make decisions that allow us to improve the way we serve our meeting planners and hopefully make their job easier.

By utilizing all three of these methods for gathering guest feedback, we are able to get a well-rounded picture of whether we’re meeting the service expectations of our guests. The good news is that when we do this well, the guests will come back. When more of our guests come back the following year, the pressure and costs associated with finding new customers is reduced and we’ll see our business grow.

Why Do Those You Lead Say 'Yes'?

leadership.jpgIf you are a leader, you ask people to do things every day. Hopefully they say yes to your request and things get accomplished, but have you ever stopped to think why they did what you asked? If not, you should, because the answer to that question will go a long way in determining how successful a leader you are or will become.

Early in my management career I learned there are basically three reasons people will do what a leader asks them to do. The first one is pretty obvious: You’re the boss! This is known as position power. Because of the position you hold, your employees have to do what you ask.

While every leader uses position power, especially when coming into a new position or organization, over reliance on it can lead to an unmotivated or even resentful work force. Employees will begin to do just enough to comply and the bolder ones may even begin to look for ways to subtly undermine their leader – neither of which is good for the long-term health of the department or organization.

The second reason a person will do what a leader asks of is based on what could be described as a cost/benefit analysis. Although this may sound complicated, it really isn’t. Basically the employee considers the benefit of doing what you’ve asked versus the cost of not doing it. If doing what is asked benefits the employee, or if the cost of not complying is too steep, then he/she will do what is asked. However, if they don’t think they will benefit and/or they deem the cost of not complying acceptable, then they usually won’t. This typically happens when people feel their leader/organization does not care about them. As a result they begin making the majority of their work decisions based on what is best for them, not the organization.

The third reason a person says ‘yes’ to a leader is really the sweet spot of leadership and this is personal power. In other words, people are willing to do what you ask of them because of a personal relationship that has been established. Having this personal relationship does not necessarily mean being buddies with those you lead. What it does mean is that they respect you and trust that what you are asking of them is the right thing to do. Gen. George Patton and Coach John Wooden were both great leaders.  One was feared by his men and the other was loved by his players, but both were respected, trusted and followed.

While initial respect comes with the position, long term respect and trust must be earned over time. Are you the real deal? Does what you say line up with what you do? Do those you lead sense that it’s more than a job for you? Do they see you living out the mission? If the answer to these questions is yes, then your people are following you because they want to. If not, then they are probably following you because of your title or because it’s in their own self interest. Either way, it’s not a recipe for long-term leadership success.

So…why do the people you lead say ‘yes’?

My Favorite Guest Survey Question

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As many of you who have stayed at Ridgecrest or Glorieta before already know, we send out an electronic guest survey to all of our guests for whom we have an email address. This survey asks for feedback on the entire guest experience and we are constantly utilizing this constructive feedback to improve our service.

Of all the questions the survey asks, this is my favorite:

“Beyond the facilities and service, it encourages us to hear how the Lord worked in your life during your stay at our conference center. Do you have a comment, testimony or experience you would like to share with us?”

Every month, when I’m reviewing our service scores, I love to take a few minutes and read how God worked in the lives of our guests. Below is a sampling of the responses we received for the month of May. I found these to be a blessing. Hopefully you will as well.

  • I went to the prayer garden for the first time and really felt the presence of God there. I was able to open my heart, then to really “be still and know” He is God and was there.
  • Whenever I come to Ridgecrest I find God’s peace there. The surrounding mountains, the calm and the opportunity to hear from God without a whole lot of local traffic and people who have other priorities than Christ makes it a place I’ll come to again and again.
  • Being among friends with whom I worked in Africa was a highlight of this year. It refreshed my soul hear how God is working in difficult places around the world.
  • It is very spiritual there. You can see and feel the Holy Spirit working in the staff. The Rally 2 Ridgecrest event was a life-changing event for me.
  • My wife and I were extremely blessed by our stay. The atmosphere is conducive to prayer and meditation. The campus offers an environment that makes one feel that God is all around them. We simply loved our time spent there.
  • Personally, it was good to have a facility that took care of my needs and allowed time to reflect on my relationship with God and appreciate the beauty around us and the friendly inviting atmosphere. I have not experienced that anywhere else and I have been to lots of retreats over the years.

What about you? Do you have a Ridgecrest or Glorieta story you’d like to share with us? If so, click here!

Why Ridgecrest and Glorieta are perfect for Spiritual Retreats

SpiritualRetreats_120x120.jpg Even though I work for LifeWay I feel compelled to share with you why I believe Ridgecrest and Glorieta to be the perfect places for Spiritual Retreats.  I get the pleasure of seeing the weekly testimonies shared with us about how these retreats have changed peoples lives.  Here are just a few quotes.

“Being at Glorieta has inspired me every time I have stayed there.  God’s beauty in creation and in the friendly faces of the staff send me off a changed person!”

“Without the intrusion of television my family and I were able to really spend quality time together as a family with the lord.  Our family grew closer together during our stay.”

“The Lord is definitely in this place!  I am still on a spiritual high and have been home for a week.”

If you choose to visit Ridgecrest or Glorieta.  I hope you will take full advantage of the many recreation opportunities and area attractions available.  But more importantly, I hope that you include in your plans to visit, time for God to work in your life.  I have always enjoyed getting up early and walking to the lake, campus is so peaceful in the mornings.  Whatever you choose to do, I know you will come away blessed.

Getting away on a spiritual retreat will transform your life, if you let it. In Matthew 6:33-34 we are told “But seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.”

Using the LAURA method for Effective Communication

At the Conference Centers we strive to effectively communicate with all of our employees and guests.

“Did you hear what I said” is something that I think everyone has uttered at some point in their life when communicating with someone else.  Something that I have found effective for me is to think of my friend  LAURA.  Now, LAURA isn’t an actual person I know, it’s just the way I have found to remember that there are two people in all conversations.

Listen – Listen to what the other person is saying to you.

Ask – Ask questions to clarify what was said to you.

Understand – Be sure you understand what was said, take a few minutes to absorb if needed.

Respond – Respond appropriately to the other person.

Ask – Ask more questions to ensure you responded appropriately.  If you did not, repeat the process.

How do you effectively communicate?  I would love to hear any strategies you’ve found effective.

7 thoughts for Parent's who Travel for Work

 As a working Mom, I often am required to travel with my job which used to cause a great deal of stress for my family.  I thought I would share with you a couple of things I’ve learned to make it easier for them and me while I’m away on business.

  • Lose the Guilt
    I am a working Mom, and there is nothing wrong with that.  I can love my family and love my career.
  • Accept Reality
    Travel is a part of my job, it’s the career I chose, but my family is always my top priority.
  • Stop the Sadness
    It wasn’t helpful for anyone when I would call and say “I miss you”. It only made him think about the fact that I was gone which would make him sad.
  • My Family was First
    I could still do a great job and it was OK for me to step out of a meeting for a couple of minutes to call him before his bed time, or leave the exhibit hall to call and tell him to have a good day at school. He needs to hear from me at those times and I wasn’t missing anything by excusing myself for those few minutes.

The Inman Family.jpgSo, what we started to do was to plan together a week or two before any business trips to get ready.

  • Who, What, Why, Where…
    I found that these questions were important to him.  It mattered to him whether I would be driving or flying.
     
  • Make it Fun 
    We always do an art project prior to my trip.  We draw boxes on a sheet of paper for the number of days I will be away and decorate it with stickers of a plane or car, the state where I will be, the phone number of the hotel I’m staying in.  We would try to color the hotel chain logo with crayons and color pictures of what I might be doing each day.  This just made if fun for him and he felt very comfortable with the answers to all of his questions about the upcoming trip.  As he got older we would draw two pictures, one for what I would be doing and one for what he would be doing.  I would pack our “art” of what he was doing and we would hang our “art” of what I was doing on the refrigerator so he could see it.  I would also put some extra stickers and drawings in an envelope for each day I would be gone so he could add them to our masterpiece while I was gone as a way to check off each day of my trip.
     
  • Home at last
    I always try my best to schedule my flight home so I am there when my son gets home from school, it’s a little thing but it makes him happy to get off the bus and see me there instead of all the questions to my husband about my arrival time when I’m not there.

I would love to hear from you about how you handle traveling as a working parent.