The conference that the author attended was BBAV (Bed & Breakfast Association of Virginia), however, I think her tips apply to all professional events. With her permission, I’m sharing some of them here:
- Arrive early and stay late. This allows you to build new relationships, make new friends, laugh, learn, have fun, ask questions and get answers.
- Listen, more than talk. You certainly should ask questions of fellow innkeepers; however, when you listen you also learn from their success and struggles which may help you in your business or more importantly help you avoid problems in your business.
- Embrace the millennials. This generation has buying power. Connecting to them is a key to the future of a sustainable or growing business, and one of the biggest factors they look for when purchasing is social proof – what others are saying about your inn. This means a testimonial page on your website and reviews.
- You can’t fake happiness. Finding balance between work, family, and the rest of your life is hard when you live and work your business, yet guests pick up on stressed out innkeepers. A balanced, happy innkeeper makes for happy guests.
Sure all of these things are easier said than done. However, I have never met an innkeeper who attended a conference that didn't get something out of it and return to their inn more energized and excited to implement fresh ideas. If you have a state association, check in to find out when their next conference is. Next year there are also numerous national conferences that are in the planning stages, so be on the lookout and be open to making an investment in yourself and your business.
For more on networking, read chapter 8 of Running a Bed & Breakfast for Dummies.