Hospitality Professionals: Lessons from a High School Graduation

gradRecently, I had the pleasure of stepping away from my meeting and event planning world to enjoy my daughter’s high school graduation.

Graduation is defined as: “a person who successfully completed a course of study or training.” From my personal experience, it is a time of transition in our lives; an ending and a beginning at the same moment.

As I listened to the speakers during her ceremony and reflected on my high school graduation, I had a few thoughts:

  • On graduation day, we are full of hope and have big dreams for our future.
  • We have the energy and passion to pursue these goals.
  • We are confident that nothing will stand in our way and we will achieve our dreams.
  • We promise to stay positive and pick ourselves up when we fall short of our goals.
  • On graduation day, we embrace the responsibility that is given us during this transition.

Often times as we progress through life, we get caught up in being ‘busy’ and forget the hope, energy, confidence, promise and responsibility that we had on graduation day. As professionals in the hospitality industry, are we still full of hope and pursuing our dreams with energy and passion? Are we confident in what we are doing, keeping our promises and accepting the responsibilities given us? 

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ConferenceDirect Announces Team Director of the Year

2013DougBaarmanDoug Baarman Receives Award for top performance and leadership for fourth consecutive year

Doug Baarman, Senior Vice President of Sales was recognized for the fourth year in a row as ConferenceDirect’s Team Director of Year. He was honored at the ConferenceDirect Awards Dinner during its Annual Partner Meeting in Anaheim, California on Sunday, March 23, 2014.

Doug joined ConferenceDirect in July of 2007 with over 25 years of sales, marketing and event management experience within the hospitality industry. Prior to joining ConferenceDirect, Doug gained an insider’s perspective from working on both sides of the industry with experience from some of the largest hotel companies – Marriott International and Gaylord Hotels and from the buyer’s side – Liberty Mutual and National Trade Productions. During his career with Marriott International, he broke new ground as the leader of a Field Sales team focused on new business development, with an independent structure and an alternative compensation model. This was an industry first within a chain’s national sales system. Doug was also Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Marriott ExecuStay which was an acquisition that needed to be integrated with their other brands. At Gaylord Hotels, he helped establish the pre-opening team for the largest hotel ever built in the Washington, DC area. At National Trade Productions, Doug was responsible for exhibit sales for shows targeting the government and government contractor markets.

Doug is an active member of MPI and on the Customer Advisory Board for the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau. He is a graduate of Ferris State University where he received a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management.

Doug has owned this recognition for the past four years due to his determination, drive and focus on his team,” said Brian Stevens, President and Chief Executive Officer of ConferenceDirect.

Doug can be reached at (301) 605-7011 or via email at doug.baarman@conferencedirect.com.

Based in Los Angeles, California – ConferenceDirect is a full-service global meetings solution company whose portfolio of services includes: Site Selection & Contract Negotiation, Conference Management, Housing & Registration Services, Mobile App Technology and Strategic Meetings Management Programs. Our 325+ Associates manage over 8,700 meetings, conferences and events annually for more than 2,500 customers.  

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Why Did You Become an Independent Meeting Planner?

thumbs upThose that follow my posts know that I lead an incredible team of independent meeting planners based around the United States and Canada. Most of them made the move from employee of a corporation or organization, so this was their first experience in an independent work model. I recently asked them to respond to a simple question using only four words to answer: why did you become an independent meeting planner?

The following are a sample of the responses that I received:

  • Servicing customers I love
  • Family, freedom, unlimited success
  • More time with family
  • Get my life back
  • To achieve a dream
  • To design my future
  • Do what I love
  • Able to service others
  • Potential for great lifestyle
  • Autonomy and earning potential
  • Freedom, experience, leadership, money
  • The flexibility and lifestyle
  • No more office politics
  • Experience, opportunity and growth
  • Control of my future

It was interesting to review the results as most were able to articulate in just four words ‘why they became an independent meeting planner’. It was also refreshing to see that their reasons took into account their overall dream and their greater focus which is more than purely financial.

Please try this simple exercise. Using just four words, why did you choose your current role in the hospitality industry? 


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Listen, Learn and Grow as a Hospitality Industry Professional

golfballsA few friends (and fellow entrepreneurs) along with our families recently vacationed together. It turned out to be one of my most educational experiences in many years…and all I did was listen.

Prior to being around these successful individual business owners, I made the conscious decision that I was going to listen more than I talked in order to learn from them. It really paid off for me both personally and professionally. The following are two of the personal examples that I want to share with you:

  • Playing golf
    I am an average golfer at best. For those of you that are like me, you often end up getting lots of ‘advice’ while you are out on the course. After 18 holes of multiple tips and trying to implement them, you end up in worse shape than when you started. As we played our round of golf, I was not given direct advice but was able to listen and observe as they discussed their game and how they were going to approach each shot. These ‘tips’ have already helped me improve.
  • Running
    Both of my friends are excellent runners. Each day, we went for a run around the resort with several of our family members. One of them was coaching his daughter as we ran and I was able to learn some valuable tips regarding proper stride and the positioning of my arms helping me to conserve energy and increase my distance.

What made this a better learning experience for me? I chose to use my ears to grow and learn. We can use this same strategy as professionals to grow our businesses. My tip for all of you – get around people that you want to learn from…and listen.

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Hospitality Industry Professionals: Lessons from a High School Senior on Presentations

cheerIt was the high school cheer banquet and my daughter had completed her fourth and final year on the squad earning the honor of team captain. All of the seniors are able to speak and it was her turn to take the podium. She took us back to the beginning and told her story of trying out for the team as a freshman, making the team and the intimidating first day of practice only knowing a few of her teammates. The captains asked everyone to get into a circle and introduce themselves – by doing a cheer. As one of only four freshman on the team, my daughter took the hand of one of her fellow anxious underclassman and they jumped into the circle to do their cheer together. I could picture this scene vividly as she told her story.

It reminded me how valuable the use of storytelling could be when making our hospitality industry presentations. We need to paint the picture in a way that our potential customers ‘see’ themselves experiencing the product or service that we provide. Visualization is a powerful tool versus just talking about the features of your product or service. Share your story and show the end result that the customer will feel and experience when they use your product or service.

Four years later and holding hands with that very same teammate, my daughter closed her speech. They went into that circle together as timid freshman and came out as leaders. It was a powerful closing that again provided a visual to highlight the point of her story.

Even seasoned industry professionals can learn a few lessons about presentations from a high school senior.

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Hospitality Industry Professionals: Reach Your Beach

I left the corporate world in 2007 to pursue my dream of being an independent business owner in the hospitality industry. For me, it is the pursuit of my life-long dream which I refer to as my ‘reach the beach’ game plan. My goal has always been to live at the beach while I am still an active professional, not just retire at the beach.

As shared before, I continue to believe that many of us go through our professional lives wishing that we could be independent and pursue our dream. We hesitate because we fear the unknown and are concerned that if we do not know the steps necessary or who can help us on the journey, that we will fail. I believe you can achieve anything that you do with intention and pursue with a passion.

I started the Hospitality Lifestyles site (www.hospitalitylifestyles.com) because I wanted to bring the dream to life for others who have the same passion as me. I hope you have enjoyed the past articles posted on my blog and the white papers that I have written. My purpose is to share the lessons I have learned in hopes that I can help you move forward in the pursuit of your dream, reduce your start-up time and ensure your success.

What are you wishing you could pursue? Can I help you ‘reach your beach’?

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Hospitality Industry Professionals: What Is Your Value Proposition?

graphI recently read an article by Liz Sara, the Founder and Managing Director of Best Marketing and an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Dingman Center of Entrepreneurship. Her article addressed entrepreneurs and their need to find their value proposition. I am sharing a portion of her message below:

A value proposition really begins with understanding what problem or pain can be solved by the offering. Business buyers decide to purchase based on what value or benefit it will bring to their operation, to their employees, to their revenue. Buyers are looking for many different types of value. Typical types of value are:

  • Economic- save money or help.
  • Productivity- ability to get more done with the same employee base.
  • Time benefits- accomplish more in a specific time frame.
  • Social benefits- meet social or environmental goals.

 These all relate to understanding what matters to the buyer and then communicating that value.

Although her message was targeted to help entrepreneurs find their value proposition, I feel this is a message that all of us in the hospitality industry can put into action. The key is to understand the challenges our industry partners face and see if our product or service can be the solution. Secondly, you need to be able to clearly articulate your value proposition. We must never assume that our industry partners understand what we have to offer. When you help them make the connection between your product or service and their need, you have executed your value proposition and in turn will see the results you are hoping for.

What is your value proposition?

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How Can I Start My Own Business as a Hospitality Industry Professional?

iStock_000005635465XSmall-1The question I am asked most often by my hospitality industry friends; how can I start my own business in this industry?

I may not be able to answer this question for every potential business opportunity in our industry. But, I am passionate about what I do and am always willing to share my path to becoming an independent meeting planner and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. For this quick post, let me share with you some highlights of my career path and steps that I took that led me to become an independent meeting planner:

  • Worked for multiple organizations in the industry (hotels, trade show organizers, meeting management company) and was open to learning from those around me.
  • Volunteered to take on additional responsibilities especially for independent roles within the organization.
  • Proactively looked for and made myself available for entrepreneurial roles (sometimes referred to as intrapreneurial) within an organization- i.e. new initiatives, changing divisions, brands or moving to a new acquisition. 
  • Took the time outside of work hours to plan and prepare both mentally and financially to make the leap.
  • Surrounded myself with a support group that would support me before, during and after I took the leap.

Many of us go through our professional lives wishing that we could be independent. We hesitate because we fear the unknown and are concerned that if we do not know the steps necessary or who can help us on the journey, that we will fail. I believe you can achieve anything that you do with intention and pursue with a passion. It is much easier to talk yourself out of doing something (like starting your own business) than it is to take the simple steps needed to pursue your dream.

What is holding you back from pursuing your dream? Can I help you?

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Independent Event Planner – “Pearls of Wisdom” from Walt Disney

disneyI recently read an article by Henry Evans (if you do not follow his blog, you may want to check it out here.). He calls himself ‘The Hour A Day Entrepreneur’ and has great advice for small business owners. As an independent meeting planner in the hospitality industry, you are running your own business and I hope you search for information like this that will help you.

I want to share a portion of his article with you. Evans offered 3 big things that Disney has done at their California Adventure Park; have a theme, make sure it is always immaculate and treat your customers like gold. He then relates these three to us as small business owners. I am sharing one of his three lessons with you:

Walt Disney ‘Pearls of Wisdom’
By Henry Evans on September 24, 2013 

Just finished up our “school’s almost here, let’s
go to Disney before reality comes” trip. 

Tons of great things to share to help you grow your business
but I want to focus in…

Disney’s California Adventure.

One of the best things they’ve done there is to update and
re-vamp the California Adventure park.

So, here are 3 big things they’ve done and how they relate
to you as a business owner:

Treat your customers like “GOLD”.

Now, this goes without saying, right?

Well, did you hear the story on how Walt Disney fired
an entire group of performers because they weren’t

He also insisted that all customers be called “Guests”.


How do you treat your customers better than they’re
expecting to be treated?

And do you regularly measure how well you’re doing?


Local member Christine McDannell runs the Eco Chateau
Spa in Mission Valley (great to visit if you haven’t!) and
she actively responds to ALL Yelp reviews – both positive
and negative. And this has dramatically helped increase
her business. (by the way, if you have a physical location
then you really should manage your Yelp).

She really treats her customers like “Gold”.

So, in summary…

1. “Theme” – can you get a theme or something else
unique for your business? Make sure you stand out!

2. “Immaculate” – make sure you DO sweat the details
as a business owner. You’re the only one that will!

3. “Gold” is how you should treat your customers…

measure their satisfaction often and make sure you’re
active on the social review sites like Yelp if your business
is on there!

See more at: http://www.houradayentrepreneur.com
As an independent meeting planner, this simple tip (and the other great tips) from Henry Evans will help you improve the level of service that you deliver which will help you secure your current relationships and attract new customers. This will help you achieve your dream of growing your business.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like “How Long Would You Pursue a Goal Without Making Strides?”

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How Long Would You Pursue a Goal Without Making Strides?


goalFor many years, my family had an idea that eventually evolved into a goal of moving to a different house (one with a better layout for our needs). We finally took action last month and will be spending the holidays in our new home.

The delay my family experienced in taking action forces me to ask: how long would you pursue a goal without making any significant strides toward the end game?

As we move forward in 2014, many of you will be making resolutions and establishing goals for the New Year. Are the goals realistic? Are they attainable? Will these goals help to improve your life?

The following are simple steps to help you achieve your goals:

1. Focus on one at a time – start with the one most important to you.

2. Tell others your goal so that they can help keep you focused.

3. Put them in writing and post them where you can see them so you review them often and keep them fresh in your mind.

4. Visualize yourself achieving it.

5. Work on your goals daily.

6. Reward yourself when you hit your targets / keep yourself motivated.

7. Pick yourself back up when you fall short (it will happen).

8. Have faith in yourself (you can do this)!

The end of one year and the beginning of another is a great time to reflect on the past and prepare for the future. What are you doing today that will prepare you for success in 2014?

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