Monday, May 3, 2010

The Six Habits of Highly Effective Conference Centres

(with apologies to Stephen R. Covey)

It was during a group session at last year’s IACC Global meeting in Denmark that this first came to me. The discussion was under the heading “What will our customers want in 2015?” and as our individual thoughts landed upon the large sheet of paper, I began to see six groups form in front of my eyes. The idea to mimic the world-famous “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” only came to me as I approached the microphone to present our group’s findings to the conference.

It is unfortunate that I was unable to think of a seventh habit, but perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it) it was sensible to stick with six to avoid being sued! Not that I’ll be making any money out of this you understand, unless you fancy sending me a cheque, in which case my contact details are pretty easy to find at

So, in 2015…

1. We will be CONNECTED
3. We will be GREEN
4. We will be FLEXIBLE
5. We will be TALENTED
6. We will be SECURE

These are the headlines. But what does each of them mean?


We will provide connectivity in our meeting rooms. We will forge strong relationships with our staff, customers, neighbourhoods, suppliers and, yes, competitors. We will keep abreast of developments in the industry by joining, and actively contributing to, associations and forums that influence us. We will network, not only online, but also in person.


We will continue to provide inspirational places to meet, work and visit – by deploying the latest technology and innovative design. Furthermore, we will inspire a world-weary, sceptical market of the need to keep meetings and training happening. To do this, we need inspirational people throughout our business, and an inspirational network of suppliers.


We will cut consumption and waste. We will recycle more. We will buy more local and seasonal food – trying wherever possible to do this without reducing the variety we offer to customers. To do this, we’ll need to keep our clever chefs.


We will sell what people want to buy. Pretty simple, really, but worth remembering. If someone wants to run their meeting from 2-10 instead of 9-5, we’ll make sure that’s what we offer them. We will have flexible workforces, able to adapt to our quieter times. We will welcome our demanding customers. (Actually, I prefer them – they tell us what other people may be keeping to themselves.)


Again, it’s really not rocket science. Our staff need to be good at their jobs. This means we need to hire the right people. This is a question of attitude – there’s no point hiring someone with lists of qualifications if they are socially dysfunctional – this is hospitality after all. No, we need people with the right attitude to look after people, and an ability to learn. If they have these, we can train them.


If you believe everything you read (and most people do), these are scary times. If the terrorists don’t get us, the pandemic influenza will. If you carry cash, you could be mugged, but if you rely on credit cards, you leave an electronic footprint. The threats are not just to individuals, but also to organisations – a perfectly innocent conversation in a bar could result in trade secrets leaking to competitors. We already provide a secure environment where people can work without having to look over their shoulders, but in the future our people will have to reassure, demonstrate and prove this to our customers. We will defeat the invasive paranoia that has contributed so significantly to the global economic turmoil.

Spotted the theme yet? People. Highly Effective Conference Centres will need Highly Effective People. Remember these six habits. Of course you’ve heard them before, but it doesn’t hurt to read them again.

James Bland
Sundial Group (UK) Marketing Manager
2009 IACC Global Scholarship Winner

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