From January 23-26, 2012, the Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII), the world's largest bed and breakfast organization, will host the Innkeeping Conference & Trade Show in Little Rock, Arkansas. Nearly 500 innkeepers plan to attend and take part in seminars and sessions, networking, and reviewing the goods and services of approximately 85 exhibitors. PAII president and CEO Jay Karen shares information on the value contained in this annual conference.
What are a few of the highlights of this annual conference?
We’re always adding something new. The meat and potatoes will be really great workshops with the latest on operations and marketing, and food and beverage mixed in with motivational speakers. On Thursday we’ll feature a few ‘Diving Deep’ workshops which last three to four hours and dive deeper into particular topics.
Also new this year are ‘Ignite Sessions’ which are getting popular in the industry. We’ll have ten presenters on stage, and one at a time they’ll do rapid presentations limited to five minutes and twenty Powerpoint images. These topics will be something they’re very passionate about that relate to innkeepers or the life of an innkeeper. It’ll be a lot of fun because the topics are going to be so varied.
We’ll also have some folks from Southern Living, P. Allen Smith who’s well-known from his show, GardenHome, on PBS, and Holly Steiel, our opening keynote speaker, has a fantastic talk on customer service.
The major tracks of education are marketing, management and operations, food and beverage, strategy and planning – and we note if the sessions are geared for the novice, a master level innkeeper, or for everyone.
How do you anticipate attendees will feel when they leave the convention?
There is no question that this is the ultimate battery recharger for innkeepers. You feel totally recharged to go back and do wonderful things with your business and your life.
Of course, you can be overwhelmed since there is so much to consume at the show. A lot of folks go right back and home and dive right back into innkeeping and plan to get back to the conference ideas when they can. But I’ve seen some innkeepers who’ll stay for a few extra days to synthesize what they learned and get together with other innkeepers to compare notes and decide what ideas are best to try to implement in the year ahead.
I think that’s pretty neat.
Innkeeping can be an isolating profession and having a setting like this where you can meet other innkeepers leads to a lot of deep relationships.
Considering the economy, why is now the best time to attend a B&B conference?
However good or bad the economy is, you will always have people attend conferences like this. And we have a spectrum of how innkeepers approach their profession; from people who do this as a lifestyle decision where the business side is not as important to people on the other end who do not are more serious about maximizing their business.
As long as we have people who take this profession very seriously and lean towards a business bent to what they do, a conference will always be an important resource to learn about latest and greatest from knowledgeable people and their peers.
Granted it will be nice to attend, but if you can’t, will you be able to access any of the information?
We record almost all of the sessions and if attendees miss the classes or were there and want to see them again, we’ll have them available for purchase for members and non-members. And these recordings also come with a synchronized Powerpoint presentation so in a way it’s like a movie file.
Jay, here’s your chance to make a final pitch…
There is no better way in our industry to get more ideas and build more friendships than this event.
It is the law of large numbers. The more innkeepers you have under one tent, the more ideas you get. You can commiserate over the troubles and challenges you’ve had, but also there is no other event in our industry that features dozens of classes on all of the kinds of topics we present.
This offers a smorgasbord of innkeeper learning that you won’t get anywhere else. And I guarantee that if they come, they will enjoy themselves and they will learn a lot. In fact, our surveys come back with 99 percent of members rating this as an excellent value.
I know that it’s an investment a lot of innkeepers have to think about because it is not cheap, but it is an incredible value – the same way that a B&B is not the cheapest option, but it’s the best value.
Almost everyone who comes will say that between what they obtained through networking and the conference sessions, they more than paid for conference. I know it can be hard for the owners of a small property to leave for several days and pay for registration and flights and a hotel, but this is one of best values in the business.
It can be hard to convince folks to spend $1,000 or $1,500 if they’re not sure if they will get it back.
But they will get it back in spades.
FOOTNOTE: The host hotel is the Peabody Little Rock, which is offering a special rate of $139 (including breakfast and wireless) for guests attending the PAII Conference. For more information, check the Innkeeping Conference & Trade Show