Skift threw out the standard conference template during its Future of Lodging Forum and this is what it looked like.
“The pandemic has merged all boundaries of work and personal lives, in many cases permanently. And technology and life have adjusted to address this new reality of ours,” Rafat Ali, founder of Skift said about The Great Merging. This was the focus of Skift’s Future of Lodging Forum held May 11-12 in New York City, and just as our lives have been transformed, so have events, as this gathering exemplified.
And accordingly, Skift, a company focused on transformation, threw out the standard conference template for something more apropos, contemporary, and dynamic.
Punchy and Fluid
Since remote work is the new way of life, the conference was just two half-days. Attendees appreciated the new format as it allowed them time to digest the information shared while indulging in a half-a-day to enjoy as they desired. And for those on tighter schedules, it meant only one night away from home. The shorter format of just two half days resulted in a huge saving on food and beverage costs, as well.
The intimate setting, with just 250 attendees on site (and an additional 700 people online), also meant everyone had a chance to meet and interact with in-depth conversations.
Much like the popular format of TED Talks, each session lasted just 20 minutes and was a conversation, not a speech. “It’s no secret that attention spans are shorter than ever and that is why we keep our sessions brief,” said Ali. “We keep it punchy and fluid.”
The conference was held at etc.venues in midtown Manhattan, a conference space filled with natural light, bean-to-cup coffee, and fruit-infused water available all day. The first day ended with a reception serving heavy hors ‘d oeuvres created in an on-site kitchen by an on-site chef.
Coffee cups with printed conversation starter cues were a creative touch and included, “Product Innovation,” “Distribution and Billing,” and “Guest Experience.” A nearby sign read: “Take a cup, start a conversation. Pick a cup with the topic you’d like to discuss and network with like-minded attendees.”
All About the Content
“We are not a conference company although we use conferences to bring our work to life,” Ali explained. One theme brought to life was the success hotels are experiencing right now and what that means for event planners. The consensus was book as early as possible.
In one popular session Jennifer Hsieh, vice president of Homes & Villas by Marriott International, shared how the company is interested in hosting more meetings and retreats in its vacation rental homes. “These are non-traditional spaces for a team to come together and brainstorm and do collaborative work. They make people want to come together,” said Hsieh. She shared that she recently gathered her team of 12 for connection and brainstorming in one of the Homes & Villas by Marriott. “We had a chef and a yoga instructor, and it was a creative way to reconnect after these last few years when we have been so disconnected,” said Hsieh.
Further content highlights:
- Hoteliers with opposing views on long-term changes to hotel booking patterns
- Asian and European investor demands for new hotels to meet higher environmental standards
- New hotel brands take very different approaches to hotel-guest relationships
- Optimal strategies for short-term rental owners
- Hotel companies looking to boost business by connecting with local communities
- Flexible approaches to hospitality are attractive to travelers
- New ways social media helps to sell rooms
- Inconsistent property listings are a problem for short-term rentals
Skift’s next in-person event is the Skift Global Forum, the flagship global conference on the business of travel. Save the date: September 19-21, 2022 in New York.