Thoughts and recommendations for CYBER HITEC!
— 12 experts shared their view
For obvious reasons, Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®) announced last week that this year's HITEC will pivot to a virtual edition called "Cyber HITEC." I guess most of you have been participating and attending in a variety of online event formats over the past 3 months... and you probably had some good, some bad, and maybe some great online experiences originating from creative minds.
So the question I would like to ask you is to share your personal best experiences so far and recommendations for team HFTP... supporting them to make CYBER HITEC a success!
Professor at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne
My top 5: 1). Session specific: As these will be online, make the sessions very specific. So not “what will be the future of hotel wireless infrastructure” but “what will WIFI 6 mean for your hotel guests and the three things you need to know”. As Cyber HITEC is over a long period we could have an increased number of sessions but with more focus.
2). Time zones: Please try to keep in mind that traditionally the HITEC attendee has been USA based, but for some of us on other time zones that would love to participate, please have a thought for us non-USA time zone people.
3). Session Length: After having attended many online sessions, I have found that the shorter sessions with focus are the real interesting ones. Have speakers that can get to the point and don't be afraid to cut them off if they go over. I would much rather have an insightful 30-minute presentation or discussion than sitting for 90 minutes in front of my screen and feel lost when it ends.
4). Lose the disclaimers: I know it needs to be done but when you have a 30-minute session, and the first five are taken with anti-trust agreements, non-disclosure and every other thing that needs to be said to ensure lawyers can't make a dime, please find a way that this is done once and once only per participant.
5). Don't go back to the norm! The hospitality industry has had a hell of a time, and while many say we need to get back to how we were, back to normal, please make it a central theme of cyber HITEC that we are at a crucial point of “no going back” for hospitality technology. “We must go forward”, we must be better and improve our technology mindsets, technology usage.
Chief Technology Officer at Accor
Thanks HFTP for virtualizing this year's edition of HITEC! It would have been very hard, especially for non-US based hoteliers to join this year for obvious reasons. What I have enjoyed most at HITECs in the past was the opportunity to network, catch up with old friends, and make new connections (remember the HotSOS parties?). Virtualizing presentations is easy and there are tools available to virtualize the trade show. The key differentiator will be to recreate or re-invent face to face networking. So how do you replace coffee breaks, breakfasts, and HotSOS or Samsung parties?
I have attended many online events over the past few months and nobody has really cracked this at scale. I had a Zoom birthday party with a small group that worked well. One of our partners organized a 'cocktail making' session after a meeting. They shipped the drinks in advance and had a professional bartender facilitating, which was a nice idea and also for a small group.
In a way, I would be happy if this problem can not be solved with a remote solution as it will ensure the long term sustainability of our industry!
Adjunct Professor NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Hospitality & Online Travel Tech Consultant
In my view, the trickiest part of Cyber HITEC will be the organization and online presentation of the trade show. Keynote speeches, sessions, workshops, and seminars can easily be organized via online conferencing technology like Zoom. But to organize an online HITEC Trade Show, which typically generates the most buzz and provides the most value, would be the most challenging since you need the vision, design, and technology to enable:
- Vendor virtual booth sales
- Virtual Booth set-up
- Vendor booth search and browsing
- Request for virtual appointments with vendors
- Vendor promotions of booths, products, and services
- Pre-event educational sessions, product presentations, and workshops
During Cyber HITEC:
- Calendar of appointments with clients/prospects
- Vendor product and services webcasts and product presentations
- Vendor - Client/prospect one-to-one meetings
- Brand and product presentations and storytelling
- Technology product literature library and downloads
- RFP functionality
- Prospect list of interested cyber-participants
- Prospect list download by vendor
- Analytics and reporting by vendor
- Sharing of session and workshop video recordings with participants
I do not believe the traditional - fir years now - now HITEC app can handle all of the above, so a new technology platform must be used for Cyber HITEC Trade Show.
Managing Partner at Wayfare Ventures LLC
HITEC has been and continues to be the most important tech event in hospitality. I've attended without a miss since 1978, forty-two consecutive years. HITEC is valuable for us to stay abreast of the changes year to year. But my primary reason for constant attendance has been to find new and innovative companies exhibiting for the first time and to attend (and often judge) the entrepreneurial competition. A virtual HITEC may limit those personal meetings that often take place spontaneously in the halls or exhibit spaces. But the counter is that now it is much easier to attend more educational sessions than ever. Consider this year's HITEC a further opportunity for all of us who'd like to attend more such events worldwide - virtually.
Corporate Director of IT at Bierwirth & Kluth Hotel Management
First of all, I congratulate HFTP for the decision to fully 'cyberize' HITEC at least for this year. A bold move showing how responsible they act with regards to the health of the HITEC participants and still serving the need for our industry to meet, learn, and exchange views. As for my recommendation for the online event: I would like to see short unmoderated break-out sessions. Part of the benefit I had from attending previous HITEC was reflecting with peers in coffee-breaks on sessions attended and getting someone else's point of view on that subject. I would very much welcome if that could also be transferred into the virtual experience.
As a PMS provider with clients all over the world, we are already accustomed to meeting with clients virtually and demoing our PMS suite online. Although unfortunate that HITEC needed to be moved to a digital format for 2020, HFTP has chosen a positive alternative with the opportunity to meet with attendees virtually over a much longer period of time than the usual 3 days of exhibiting. The success of CYBER HITEC will not be unlike the success of any event, planning, preparation, and understanding the technology in use will be key.
Taking the time upfront to communicate with those planning to attend, inviting prospects and customers who don't usually attend, and ensuring that we can provide a meaningful interaction will be our focus. Whether that includes live shared web presentations, links to video content, engaging with attendees on exploratory discussions, or just providing meaningful information, the intent will be the same, to educate clients on our company and offerings, and engage with them in a way that helps us stand out.
We will miss meeting face-to-face with our clients, partners, and prospective clients this year, however that will not deter us from making CYBER HITEC a productive opportunity to share knowledge and promote Maestro with attendees.
Co-Founder at TRAVHOTECH
With every challenge comes opportunity.
The opportunity in this very specific case is for HITEC to try and to do things they've not had the courage to do in the past. For a number of years there has been critique about the content and delivery style of the event and some questions about the quality/value of what is on offer.
NOW is the time to take some chances and change the approach to the event from this perspective.
A digital show is entirely different to an in person tradeshow. The most specific difference is that now the event is competing with every other possible distraction that could come across a persons digital desk, as well as all of the other practiced and polished content that is constantly being produced given the current circumstances.
Therefore, why do I 'dial in to HITEC'? That is the question that the content team needs to be asking themselves as they plan the agenda. It should look nothing like the agenda of an in person experience and it needs to have a buzz of excitement built around the overall event experience.
Why? Because if the first digital session someone sees falls flat continued visitation to ensuing content in the event is likely to fall off as well. When you are on site and have travelled to the event natural participation follows. When you are off site without the social aspects of an event or following the crowd is the same motivation there? Now it really comes down to a quality of content. Otherwise no-one needs to click the join session button.
That's the challenge for HITEC 2020.
As Neil Diamond said in performing the Hot August Night concerts, HITEC 2020 would do things for you that you would not forget for a while.
Partner & Co-Founder, T-Hotel Hospitality Knowledge
The motivations of people attending and exhibiting at Cyber Hitec will not be different if the event was physical, and we all were heading to Texas as initially planned. Knowledge, networking and gaining business leads are what people expect, and all the successful similar online events must check those boxes.
The challenge for the organisation is the same in essence, regardless of being a virtual event. Have an appealing and robust lineup of sessions, exhibitors and education, inspiring speakers, relevant content and opportunity for the attendees to network. Like many of my fellow hospitality technology professionals, I have attended numerous online events since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, and the ones that I found most successful and rewarding had some things in common:
- The essential points to enable a successful online event are technology and bandwidth. A robust technological platform with the capacity to support a broad audience and to facilitate a frictionless experience in terms of streamed content, real-time interaction and ease of use.Abundant bandwidth and proper geographical distribution of content that allows the appropriate streaming of multimedia regardless of the location of the attendees.
- Besides the streaming capabilities successful events made available to all the attendees' video conferencing embedded features which allowed breakouts and even one on one meetings to take place without the need to abandon the event platform.
- A proper onboarding process for all attendees to allow familiarisation with the platform.
- Content is king in a virtual event. Regardless of all the technological improvements and excellent platforms, the networking experience will not be as enriching and fulfilling so the quality of the content must be word-class to engage attendees.
- For the exhibitors, the best option I have seen is making available their solutions in a self-service mode allowing attendees to try and interact at their own pace.
- On-demand content must be as good as the content of the live sessions. The audience is global and will adapt attendance to its work and personal schedules. Being outside the USA in a different timezone should never penalise the attendee.
To conclude, I believe that Cyber Hitec has all the chances to be a very successful event. However, expectations are high. If usually, Hitec USA is the hospitality technology event of the year in 2020 it will be the ONLY significant event of an industry accustomed to meet and network regularly.
I am very excited to see Cyber HITEC. For full disclosure as an HFTP board member, there was a significant amount of debate over the full effectiveness a cyber-only event could bring to the industry. We are at very different times these days and ultimately, the safety of our patrons is the top priority. However, the work ethic has dramatically changed this year as well with remote/home office and video conferencing becoming a new normal. This ability to remotely participate during and after Cyber HITEC will bring new participants and new opportunities to the industry and it is my hope and desire that Cyber HITEC remains alongside the future in-person HITECs. I will miss seeing everyone (#23) but wish all a safe rest of crazy 2020 and beyond.
Hospitality Technology Consultant
As individuals and as an industry we are by nature hopeful and optimistic. These traits have been repeatedly demonstrated during this pandemic by our laser focus on the recovery, which we want to happen right now! It is however, becoming increasingly apparent that is not going to happen that quickly.
I would like CYBER HITEC to include a session on preparing ourselves mentally for a long, difficult recovery, one that will require patience, mental readiness for setbacks, and possibly, for repeated disappointments.
It would be helpful to hear about techniques to prepare ourselves, our families, our friends and our colleagues (or former colleagues) for lay-offs, business shutdowns, employment application rejections, illness and sadly, death of family or friends.
It is clear that the next two or three years will not be “business as usual”, we are not likely to sprint back to “normal”.
Hardship has always been present, but fortunately, most of us have been spared deep and prolonged contact with it. Over the last several decades we have been lucky. That said, we know that disruption and disappointment can be endured and overcome.
We know that there are techniques for maintaining positivity, for visualizing the return to “normal”, and for enduring challenges until we arrive successfully at the destination. A session to explain those techniques and reassure us that with patience and perseverance, we will prevail, would be useful and timely.
An event's success is determined by the valuable information that it brings attendees. At apaleo, we're lucky to offer a cloud platform that doesn't require any in-person setup, meaning we are used to communicating the benefits of the apaleo PMS through online forums. Prior to COVID-19, our team has frequently participated in digital panels, webinars, and podcasts. Personally, I can say that the most interesting discussions are those which spark interaction between the participants and attendees rather than those which end up as a long series of sales pitches.
I recently spoke on a panel where we had a conversation in a video grid, “Brady Bunch” style. It was an excellent way to speak with each other without hiding behind the safety of prepared slides, I would even go so far as to say that having the ability to look at all the other participant's expressions at one time is even better than sitting in a row on stage. Of course, hosting a similar format would just be one suggestion in a much larger strategy to offer key value to all of the CYBER HITEC attendees.