For event planners and producers, putting together a professional conference is a dream. There’s a lot that goes into starting an event of this magnitude – everything from location, to speakers, to accommodations, to the schedule, the food, and more. That’s why it’s helpful to take notes from other successful conferences to see what you can learn from them. In this case, we’re taking tips from The Lodging Conference – one of the world’s biggest conferences for top hotel owners, executives, and hospitality professionals in the world. Founded in 1994 by well-known event producer Harry Javer, NY, the event attracts thousands of attendees at the annual conference and has consistently sold out each year. Take a look at some of their tried and true tips for putting on a top conference below.
Tip #1: Map it Out
You’re going to need to plan out every detail in advance (and don’t forget to think about a backup plan for things that can – and, let’s be honest, probably will – go wrong). Javer, the founder of The Lodging Conference, is no stranger to this. He built up his resume in event production putting on events for people like Al Gore, Tony Robbins, Donald Trump, George Foreman, Magic Johnson, and dozens more – so, safe to say, he’s used to planning out every little detail to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Tip #2: Figure Out What Value You Bring
What’s the value of attending your conference? What will people get out of it? People aren’t going to come if there’s nothing in it for them, so it’s important to establish your value early on. For The Lodging Conference (by Harry Javer, NY), there’s a few different aspects of this. First, the event has established itself as the top conference for some of the biggest industry leaders to attend, which means guests not only get to learn from these people, but also get the opportunity to network with them at the event. It’s not often that you can learn from and make connections with some of the top hotel owners, executives, and decision makers in your industry!
Of course, if you’re just starting out, it may be a little tougher for your event to command this sort of presence – but that doesn’t mean you don’t bring any value to attendees, either. Find something that you’re good at, and channel it into a way to help your guests learn or solve a problem.
Tip #3: Find a Venue
Location, location, location! You could have the best conference around, but if it’s somewhere that your target audience isn’t (or wouldn’t want to travel to), consider finding somewhere else. You want your guests to enjoy their time there, too! The Lodging Conference has this nailed down. In fact, a defining feature of the conference is that it’s held every year at a luxury resort in Phoenix, Arizona. It calls the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa home, and guests are able to enjoy all the amenities the resort has to offer. Just another perk of attending the conference!
Make sure you put a lot of thought into who you ask to speak at your event. The content is a very important – if not the most important – part of your conference, so choose wisely. Put yourself in your attendees’ shoes. Who would you find most interesting and valuable to hear from?
Some of the sessions at The Lodging Conference feature topics such as “A View from the C-Suite,” “Back to Basics: Your Net Operating Income,” Data-Driven: 2021 Forecast,” and more to help guests get insight into industry leaders’ perspectives and what’s currently happening in the space.
Harry Javer NY: Tip #5: Don’t Be Afraid of Things Going Wrong
As all event producers know, things can and will go wrong. It’s okay! Don’t be afraid to pivot, and try to take things in stride. No conference is ever going to be completely perfect, but as long as you can shake it off and adjust as needed, you’ll be fine. And, along those lines, change is good too. One example from The Lodging Conference: moving venues after 24 years. For the conference’s 25th year, the venue was held for the first time at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa. Since it was founded, it had always been held at the Arizona Biltmore (both in Phoenix, Arizona). However, the conference needed more room for meeting space, accommodations for guests, and amenities for the growing event. It just goes to show, change may be scary, but it’s often a sign that you’re doing something right!
In 2001, The Lodging Conference experienced a major problem as it was scheduled to begin on September11th. We all know what happened that fateful day, but the show went on – sort of. Javer quickly rescheduled the event for January of 2002. At first, many of the attendees cancelled as people were afraid to fly. But a few months later, the cancellations stopped and the January event went on with a larger crowd than the original September event anticipated. The conference grew in size every year thereafter until the 2009 financial meltdown. The 2019 event had over 2200 attendees making it one of the largest gatherings of hotel owners and executives in the world.