It is really refreshing to go to an industry event that
doesn’t suck. Most do. There are many reasons why, but I will start with this…..most
are no fun, uninformative and a waste of time (check out this post about a bad
one that I attended).
Most industry events go for style over substance, trying
to impress the attendees with their g-wiz décor, food that someone thinks is
great and bags of swag that end up in the garbage. Meeting and event planners
may have appeared to have a good time, but it is usually more a case of getting
to talk to their friends and booze. Most events miss the mark which is to learn
about a destination or property. Unfortunately, this is not the planners fault.
Let’s get to the flip side though; that is why I am
writing here today and why I hope someone is actually reading this.
Last night I attended an event held by Langham Hotels. I
have to admit, I was kind of dreading it, I really was, but I had met with Ron Dreyer,
my Langham rep here in Chicago about a year ago and he was a great guy so I
figured why not. I did like our meeting, I really enjoyed having lunch with him
and we had not had a chance to speak in a while.
The first thing that hit me upon arrival is that in the
Langham family, Ron is not unique. This is not a dig at Ron; it is the highest
form of compliment. You see, Langham seems to hire all “great guys” (or girls
as the case may be). I was not in the door 10 seconds and I had met two other
Langham reps in a casual, non-forced way. They introduced themselves and
inquired about me….. They did not start the conversation by telling me about their
property. A nice touch, but what was remarkable is that this is not something
they trained their reps to do; they hire people that are naturally like this. I
started to perk up a little.
The second thing that hit me was the location. North
Suburban Lake Forest. Not a likely choice, but OK, whatever, it wasn’t my nickel.
For those not from the Chicago area, this is kinda out of the way, but close enough
that I said “what the heck”. In LA it would be like holding the event in
Newport Beach or if you are from Boston it would be like having it in
Providence. Close enough and not too far.
Now, this may not seem like a big deal until you realize
that this was the second event of the day for them. They were going to the
planners, where they work. They hit west suburban Oak Brook s for lunch, the
north suburbs for evening and will be hitting Chicago today about the time that
this hits the internet. I really started to pay attention at this point; I was
already thinking that this could be a little different than other industry
The location itself was really unremarkable and again,
this is a compliment, not a dig. The event had good food at a very nice restaurant,
limited décor, plenty of drinks and the added bonus of valet parking. It was
exactly what an event of this type needs because the venue was not the
attraction, Langham Hotels was the attraction. They used a restaurant that has better
than good food and is nice enough to get people there.
Moving on into the evening, we enjoyed some nice conversation
that was followed by a great presentation about Langham and their properties.
Clear, concise and NOT out of a can. It was scheduled, rest assured, but not
delivered. The presentation was not rehearsed and included ad-libs by
individual hotel reps commenting and answering questions from the attendees
about their individual properties. During the presentation I actually found
myself sharing a laugh or two with my colleague and with other attendees. Wow,
now I was really starting to think that this might be something that raised the
Moving further into the evening, they had a couple of
nice give-aways and more conversation. As with all events, people tended to
gather into the groups of people that they know. Humans can act like herd
animals. I chatted with a couple of people that I know from SITE International,
others with their colleagues and industry friends. What was great was that the
Langham Reps made sure to keep moving. 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there so that
all of us in attendance got to meet all of their people. Upon learning that we
do not have any upcoming programs in their area, they did not bolt for the next
group, they started asking where we did have programs, did we see an uptick in
the economy, did I have any kids. Again, it was all about me, not them..
Cheers Langham, you got it right, you took the amazingly
ordinary and downright dreadful and made
it not only tolerable, but enjoyable. You may not get a program from me tomorrow,
or even next month, but it does not matter and you know it, in fact, you
embraced it. By embracing it, you have created another brand ambassador that
will talk about you in much the same way that you and your people listened
about me. I am now your sales department.
What does this mean? It means that although I don’t have
a program that fits your properties, you may get a call from someone that I talk
to. In fact, if someone says I am looking for a place near LA to hold a
conference, I am now educated enough to say “you should check out the Pasadena
So, what is the
moral of the story? The moral of the story is that Langham gets it. They get
that they have a remarkable product, all 4 and 5 star, more 5 than 4, they are
unpretentious about this fact which makes them approachable and are so sure of
it that they can spend more time learning about me than trying to convince me
that they are great. That is the true essence of sales.
I do not work for Langham, I have never even used a
Langham for a program, but rest assured, I will be thinking Langham the next
time a client has a program that falls in one of their cities. I will go forth
and spread the word and it was not by accident, Langham made this happen
through conscious choice.
The choice Langham made was easy. What is so astonishing
is that most companies in our industry have forgotten the basic choices
required to be extraordinary. Langham
has chosen to hire the right people, they have chosen to host their events
where it is convenient for me and they have chosen to listen to what I have to
say in an honest and genuine way rather than speak at me.
This should give other hotel companies in our industry
pause, because if you have not heard of Langham, you will. If Langham continues
to make wise choices, they will be knocking on your door.
A good time that educates me. Isn’t that what industry
events are supposed to be about?
Just a thought.