Let’s face it… For almost the last two years, the hospitality industry has been a hodge-podge of the Seven Dwarfs: The Unknown, The Known, The Stressful, The Assumption, The Misinformation, The Ever-changing and let’s not forget “Sneezy”! The brilliant news is, as an industry, we all came together to develop best practices, to commiserate, and to support one another despite our brand, location, or affiliation. This business is one where we all put people first and truly enjoy serving the public.
I, like most of you, am a true hospitality professional. Prior to transforming into the Queen of Everything for Audio Visual Management Solutions (AVMS), I began my tenure at a prominent resort in 1988 (I was only five years old at the time ☺). I joined the sales team at this five-star, five-diamond property in Arizona and haven’t looked back since. Believe me if I had known what I was getting into… who am I kidding… I would do it all over again! My various roles throughout the past 33 years have allowed me to not only expand my career, but at the same time, it has afforded me the opportunity to meet some of the best people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I am extremely fortunate to call guests, meeting planners, and co-workers (past and present) among some of my closest friends. So… when I tell you I know a little bit about our industry, I’m confident that I know what I’m talking about.
When faced with the pandemic, hotels, resorts, spas, restaurants, audiovisual and event services companies were the hardest hit. Doors were shut, seasoned team members had to be laid off, phrases like “new normal” and “social distancing” became everyday terms, masks became part of our uniforms, hand sanitizer stations were installed everywhere (even though they smelled like pure alcohol), titles didn’t matter because we all chipped-in where needed, and I’m not even going to mention the toilet paper crisis.
Don’t get me wrong, we, the hard-core hoteliers of the world, had been faced with adversity in the past and tackled it head-on. Whether it was the horrible events of 9/11 or the financial crisis, we were well-versed in having to tighten our belts, put our noses to the grindstone and do more with less. I think we can all agree that nothing prepared us for what was to come in 2020. No one knew what to expect and the information that we were being given was in a constant state of flux.
That brings us to the here-and-now. Where there still seems to be more questions than answers… “Are we going to be able to travel freely throughout the world?”, “Will we all be able to meet in person?”, “Will we shift backward again?”, “Will we have the team ready when things do come back?”, “Will our team even come back fearing that this could happen again to our industry?”
So, looking forward, armed with my Magic Eight Ball and tarot cards, I’m going to fill you in on some “insider” information… take it as you will. I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I’m just another hospitality professional speaking to a few other industry personnel and peers.
First, the great news! People have an innate need to meet and be with other people. We were not born to walk alone in this life. As a species, we want to interact, discuss, learn, debate, share and confide with other people face-to-face. The virtual world bought us a temporary solution but at the end of the day, we have this inherent need for personal connections that only in-person relationships can provide. As recently stated in an educational article pertaining to online learning vs. in-person classes, “face-to-face learning wins out in the end.” There is a connection that provides motivation, encouragement, and supervision when you are in a room with someone. Whether you are a teacher, a keynote presenter, or business professional delivering vital company information, people absorb and relate to your message better when it’s being delivered in an environment where dogs aren’t barking, children aren’t asking “what’s for lunch,” or other distractions exist in every corner.
There is also the social element of meeting in person. If you work directly with someone, there seems to be a better working relationship when the peers have had a chance to shake hands and be in the same room together. Again, it’s that personal connection that allows people to complete tasks together seamlessly when they have spent quality time together. How many times have you heard “It’s great to put a face with the voice?” when they were simply referring to a phone call. According to one study, only 1 in 5 people turn on their cameras during a virtual meeting and only 17% of workers prefer virtual meetings with their cameras on compared to other types of meetings.
That brings me to the future of meetings, events, and social engagements. Have we seen the sunsetting of the world of virtual communication? No, I don’t think so, at least for the foreseeable future. I believe we’ll see a transitional period of hybrid events. After this period, since everyone has gotten more comfortable with the different virtual platforms, we may continue to see some form of virtual tools being utilized when situations such as travel restrictions or conflicts in scheduling occur long into the future. The great news is that the technology continues to improve so more benefits will be added as far as interactivity is concerned as we progress through the years.
If you haven’t learned by now, when tackling hybrid events, you can’t just set up a webcam in the back of the room and have a dialog with the people on the video call and within the room. WiFi connections, audio delays, video syncing, etc. all play into a virtual/hybrid event’s success whether the attendees are in the room or dialing in remotely. The joy of having both is it’s easy to record so you can expand the ROI and reach of the meeting with on-demand viewing on your website or another platform.
Of course, having a proven audiovisual partner eliminates the guesswork on what’s needed for successful events whether live, streamed, or recorded (that’s my shameless plug, by the way). Seriously, as stated above, technology continues to evolve every day, and partnering with a strong, established expert that puts a hospitality-above-all approach into everything they do can help you stay informed about new products and smarter ways to accomplishing tasks. Let the experts make you, your team, and your hotel look good. Please reach out if I, or anyone at AVMS, can be of assistance.
About the author
Andee Oleno-Thomas is the current vice president of engagement (a.k.a. Queen of Everything) for AVMS. Her tenure started in the hospitality industry in February of 1988, as a sales receptionist at The Pointe Squaw Peak Resort. She quickly rose in the ranks through positions within sales and marketing, including sales assistant, director of sales assistant, yield specialist (revenue maximization), and corporate sales manager. She was then promoted into hotel operations as the general manager assistant. Shortly after, Andee began working as marketing manager, public relations manager, director of public relations and finally area director of public relations where she assisted four regional properties and Hilton Hotels Corporation with their communication, PR, and marketing needs. She was also called upon by Hilton Hotels to lead special communications projects including corporate media statements, the training of the executive team for media appearances, and the development of a crisis communication plan.
During her time at Hilton, Andee also had the opportunity to work directly with the on-site audiovisual team from Swank Audio Visuals for special events. When Swank was ready to expand, it became apparent that a marketing leader with hospitality experience would be imperative to the overall success and growth of the organization. Andee was tagged as the ideal candidate to become Swank’s director of marketing. In 2011, PSAV purchased Swank and Andee was promoted to Vice President of Marketing after several successful campaigns for the company, including augmented reality, promotional video cards and video proposal cards for the hotel acquisitions team.
In October of 2017, Andee was once again actively recruited and joined the AVMS team to assist in not only their marketing efforts but hotel acquisitions as well. She works hand-in-hand with EVP of relationships, Jim Jungsten.