Post authored by Larry Luteran
I recently took my 12 year old Daughter, Laura, to our new Hilton Worldwide Corporate Headquarters for our annual “take your child to work day.” It was a great day for both of us and started with the usual stop at Starbucks. I should have known it was going to be an interesting day when she started off with a double mocha frappucino with whip cream. To say the least, once we got to the office she was ready to go! We quickly headed into breakfast where she chatted up our CEO, Chris Nassetta, and then we were all dispatched to our offices where the kids were asked to interview their parents. Laura quickly jumped in my chair behind the desk and asked me to sit down, relax, and be comfortable.
Her very first question was, “What do you do?”
All of the sudden, I wasn’t so comfortable. I have been in the hotel business her whole life and she has stayed in many of our hotels – doesn’t she know what I do?! Settling in, I could have answered that question with the usual line about managing a dynamic and diverse sales team and keeping our hotels full of guests and meeting attendees BUT…..
Given all that we have been through in the last couple of years, I thought this question required a little more thought and effort. After all, I can’t remember the last time I really took the time to express to my friends and family what I REALLY do for a living.
On a bigger scale, haven’t many of our recent problems in the meetings industry been caused by a general misunderstanding of what we do and what we actually contribute to business and society? I would venture to say there are many of you reading this now who have friends and family that don’t quite understand what you do and, even worse, might think your job is all about exotic travel, staying in nice hotels, and generally attending and managing high-end and fun events.
So, I jumped on this opportunity to tell Laura what I think we really do in the meetings business:
Laura, I am responsible for making human connections and what I do allows business, and our society, to grow. I work with our customers to create an environment in our hotels that allow people to come together and experience things, build relationships, and to make money. This is important work because these experiences and connections ultimately drive our economy and our society.
Let me put it in your terms. Almost every significant and worthwhile thing that will happen in your life, both personal and professional, will be launched and enhanced with a face-to-face connection. I know this might sound strange given your fondness for Facebook and text messaging, but let me ask you a question: What is the highlight of your summer each year?
She answered, “The swim team.” (I knew the answer).
Well, this requires you and your friends to engage in activity that brings all of you together – face-to-face. Just like the people who heIp coordinate your swim team, I am part of a team that helps bring similar activity together for adults. These events we coordinate in our hotels allow people to connect, and these connections allow business to grow and helps society prosper. In other words, my work is critical not only to YOU personally but to everyone in the world.
Don’t just take my word for it…..here are the facts.
- People who invest one dollar in my business (business travel) get $12.50 in return.
- People who meet their prospective clients face-to-face, often in my hotels, convert 40% of them.
- Those who don’t meet their current customers face-to-face will lose 28% of them.
- Weddings, the raising of charitable funds, and the development of key political policy are all examples of things that happen because of the work that I do.
I know, probably more than she bargained for when she asked me that simple question but the timing was right. It will now be my mission to prompt all stakeholders in the business of meetings and human connections to tell their story. The spotlight has been on us and there has never been a better time to make sure people clearly understand how important the work we do is to business and society. If everyone truly knew our business would we be faced with the scrutiny as an industry we are facing today? Would meeting and event expenses be the first line item cut when times get tough? Would our government pull back on travel to save the environment?
The next time people ask “What do you do?” how will you answer the question?
Larry Luteran is Senior Vice President- Group Sales and Industry Relations for Hilton Worldwide. To learn more about him, click here.