You’re Never Too Old to Learn!

 

Earlier PAII Conference Photo
with those fabulous Beekman Boys

It Pays to Associate with Others that Share Your Passion
I recently attended “America’s Innkeeping Conference and Trade Show” in St. Charles, MO! It takes a lot of planning, both personally and financially, but I made it! I’m a member of two professional innkeeper associations, the Professional Association of Innkeepers International, PAII, and AIHP, the Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals. Each association offers opportunities for professional development including webinars, magazine articles, newsletters, member forums, etc. Who needs it? I do!! I believe we all need to continue to grow and develop in our areas of interest and expertise. As an innkeeper, I need to be up-to-date and proficient in many areas. I need to be a good hostess, a good cook, a good decorator, a good business manager, and a good marketer. I need to have a good understanding of the travel and tourism market and trends in order to develop a plan for success. I believe hospitality is often an innate quality, but all of those values can be further developed. Conferences provide a way to gain new understanding while building on what I already know. I learn from presenters, from vendors, and from networking with other innkeepers.

I initially planned to attend one innkeeper conference every two years, but this is the second year in a row I attended a PAII conference. I was unable to travel to the inaugural AIHP InnSpire Conference in Long Beach, California in January, but after traveling to Charleston, South Carolina, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Austin, Texas for PAII conferences, I felt like this year’s PAII conference was in my back yard, and I couldn’t miss it! Overall, if costs me about a week of room nights to attend a major national conference. That’s a big investment with my other expenses, but that’s how I look at it… it’s an investment – I’m investing in myself and in my Bed & Breakfast business. Bonus: Val was on Spring Break, so she and Glenn went with me this year!

Over the years I’ve planned some major conferences for DCFS. I have loved working on conferences, Education is very important to me. I’ve been on one of the planning committees for a PAII conference and I actually presented at the PAII innkeeper conference in Little Rock. It was a lot of fun! I really believe in the value of educational conferences.

 

Why do I go to conferences? Why spend the money? What’s in it for me?

Old  Towne St. Charles, MO
  • Getting to travel and visit other places. I am a good tourist and it’s a lot more fun to learn while I’m away from the distractions of home, especially since I have great backup and I don’t have to worry about anything. Most conferences offer opportunities to tour and socialize after hours. Last year, I was able to spend time with my uncle and aunt as well as some “old” friends, originally from Illinois, while I was at the PAII conference in Austin. It was great to be able to spend time with them and eat Texas BBQ and cruise the river in San Antonio. This year, the conference was not so far away, but we still enjoyed the opportunity to get away from home for a few days. We shopped Old St. Charles and enjoyed a wonderful evening event at the Foundry Arts  Centre, hosted by the St. Charles CVB.
  • Adding to my tool chest. One of my guests once told me that I needed an Alaskan Ulu knife for the kitchen. She’d been given one and thought it was the best tool ever. I bought one and used it nearly non-stop as I was preparing Thanksgiving dinner! I use it frequently throughout the year. Sometimes there’s a better way to present towels, or a better way to serve breakfast or a better knife or small appliance. Conferences provide a chance to actually add new tools to my tool chest.
  • Connecting with vendors and suppliers to the innkeeping industry. I am able to offer my top of the line sheets and bath amenities, thanks to connections I’ve made at conferences and their trade discounts. It’s always exciting to see the latest and greatest items at the conference trade show and it’s fun to see vendor friends
    Assistant Innkeeper Valerie
    with Mary White, author, CEO
    of BnBFinder.com

    I’ve come to know over the years. Plus, trade exhibits often offer samples! And candy.

  • Learning from the best. Experienced innkeepers, suppliers and other trade experts present workshops that are packed with information. I tend to choose sessions that will build my skill level. I don’t spend a lot of time at the more technical “how to build a web site” sessions. I don’t need to know that. I leave that work to the experts. Instead, I attend the sessions that give tips on how to stay current with my existing web site, how to increase click-through traffic, and how to make my web site more effective. Like Steven Covey says, I see conferences as a time to “sharpen the saw.”
  • Getting inspired – Katherine Lugar, President and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association was a keynote presenter at our PAII Conference in Austin. An expert in the hospitality industry, she was motivational and encouraging. This year Matthew MacLaren, Esq., Senior Vice President, Member Relations, American Hotel & Lodging Association, presented a keynote. One year it was the Beekman Boys. They provided an engaging and inspirational marketing presentation. You may have seen their little business in upstate New York, or you may have seen them on their TV series, or maybe you have their cookbooks or you’ve seen their Beekman 1802 farm to table products at your local store.  Keynote presentations are inspiring and we build off others’ expertise, strengths and experience.
  • Networking with other innkeepers. I learn so much from others’ life experience. Why reinvent the wheel? (And I’d prefer not to repeat their mistakes!) Several of us stay in touch on Facebook and innkeepers’ forums, but spending time with them, building relationships in  person, is terrific!
  • Reflecting on challenges and successes. Heading home from a conference has always been a time of reflection for me as I spend time “thinking on” things I’ve learned. I consider areas where I’ve hit the nail on the head and ponder times when I may have missed the mark.
  • Improving our service standards. Once back at home I review conference outlines, along with my notes, to refresh things I’ve learned. I drill down to make new notes and new lists, prioritizing things I want to implement, along with a timeline for implementation.
  • Building my business. Implementing the things I’ve learned, along with unpacking items I’ve ordered from the Trade Show, are the final benefits of my conference experience. Whether it’s something guests can see and use, or something operational behind the scenes, I’m focused on improving and building my business, using the knowledge and tools I’ve gained through participation in the conference.
Gwenn with Carolyn K,
Hospitality Manager at
Mountaintop Lodge at Lake Naomi

I’m Already Looking Forward to my Next Conference – There’s Always More to Learn!

 

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