Hospitality Dos and Don’ts for Conference Event Planners

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I recently attended a conference for a professional organization at a large airport hotel in Atlanta. It had easy access from the airport and the Interstate, large meeting rooms and good banquet facilities. Though showing its age with a large center atrium, rooms that circled around the open area, and glass elevators that gave passengers a birds-eye view of the atrium as it went up and down, it was comfortable and clean.

The hotel provided the venue, but the organization was responsible for registration, parking, logistics, room setup, etc. Conferences are sort of “hospitality inside hospitality,” since the organization creates an experience for the participants and takes on the responsibility of providing hospitality beyond the hotel management and staff. Poor coordination puts the participants in a service “limbo” when things don’t go right and no one wants to assume responsibility. Here are some ways to make sure that event planners provide world-class service:

1. Be clear on the process for obtaining hotel services for guests. When I registered, I asked to have my parking ticket validated. The parking ticket already had two barcodes printed on it, and at the bottom were the words “sticker here. Instead of putting the validation barcode sticker at the bottom of the ticket as indicated, he placed it over one of the other pre-printed barcodes. When I questioned him about it, he insisted that he was correct. When I left and inserted my “validated” parking sticker in the exit machine, it required a fee of $8.00. With a bar blocking my way and cars behind me, I had no recourse but to pay the fee. I suffered the consequences of his misunderstanding of the process.
2. Be available. I arrived about 1 p.m. while the luncheon was underway in the banquet hall. No one was at the registration area, so I wasn’t able to get my badges, meal tickets or the conference program. No one seemed to know who was in charge or when they would be available. Since I was a voting member and needed my credentials, I went to another area only to find that table unattended. Hotels understand that guests arrive at all hours, and event planners should make arrangements so that their guests are greeted and taken care of no matter what the time of day or schedule of activities.
3. Identify yourself. The local chapter of the organization was responsible for the planning and administration of the conference. Yet, there was no way to identify those members as ambassadors that could answer questions or offer assistance. Standardized name tags make it easy to identify hotel employees, making it easy for guests to find someone who can help. In the same way, name badges in a certain color, with ribbons or some other unique markings help confused or lost conference attendees find their way.

Coordination with the hotel or conference facility, understanding their processes, and making sure they have their needs met is key to making sure that the conference event planners are good hosts to their guests, the participants.

Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a freelance writer, blogger, and consultant. Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in "Training" magazine, "Training & Development" magazine, "Supervision," "Pulse" and "The Savannah Morning News." You can read her blogs at, and on the web at

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