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 planner’s 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 the 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 events.
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 bar.
Moving further into the evening, they had a couple of nice giveaways 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 Langham”.
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?