Why Purposeful Meetings Matter

By Jennifer Silberman Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, Hilton Worldwide | September 20, 2015

In today's business world, much of our time is spent attending meetings and conferences. A 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers study examining meeting attendance and type found that more than 1.8 million meetings occurred in the United States over a year's time, with 225 million participants. The majority of these meetings were business/corporate (50 percent), followed by conventions (27 percent) and trade shows (12 percent).

In-person meetings are a critical part of any business strategy, providing networking opportunities, personal connections and focused time to solve important issues. However, meetings can also have an unnecessary negative impact on the environment and broader sustainability efforts.

According to MeetGreen, an organization that helps global organizations develop sustainable meeting practices, the average conference participant generates the equivalent of two trash bags of solid waste a day, or about 61 pounds. That figure is in stark contrast with 4.1 pounds of solid waste generated each day by a person at home.

The startling fact that people tend to be more wasteful at conferences and meetings than in their daily lives is not going unnoticed. Gone are the days when meeting planners were most concerned about the number of attendees at their events or meeting venue rates. As consumers and businesses alike become more aware of environmental impact, meeting professionals must champion efforts to support less waste, healthful habits and better experiences for attendees.

Leading meeting professionals recognize that even a modest event can consume significant natural resources, from energy and paper to food and water. They also recognize that using locally sourced food and other supplies can help reduce the impact on the environment – and expense.

Sustainability Initiatives No Longer Just a "Nice-to-Have"

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.