11 Tips to Get the Most out of the Host Users Group Annual Conference
Across the world, SMS|Host users are gearing up for the annual Host Users Group (HUG) Conference. HUG is a five day gathering of hotel professionals – all of whom utilize Springer-Miller’s SMS|Host PMS or SpaSoft spa management system.
HUG is intense. Those five days are packed with training sessions, hands-on lab instruction, roundtable forums, best practice presentations and Q&A forums, many of which are conducted by SMS experts while others are led by power-users. There is so much going on that it can feel overwhelming. So, check out the following 11 guidelines to help you get the most from your HUG experience.
1 – Make a Plan A and a Plan B
HUG is a marathon, not a sprint. Before you arrive at the conference, make sure you understand your objectives and have a plan for meeting those goals. With six concurrent breakout sessions, there’s a lot going on throughout the day. If you’re traveling with colleagues, make sure you sit down and discuss which sessions everyone will be attending. It might make sense to divide and conquer so that the team can maximize coverage of all the different topics and training opportunities.
Many attendees use the advance agenda to plan their days and then confirm the schedule in the Conference Journal that they receive when they check-in to HUG. The mobile app is another way to plan your day and will help guide you to the right sessions at the right time.
Also, make a Plan B in case a session turns out to be different than what you were expecting. Just quietly leave the room and head to your second-choice session so that you can take advantage of other learning alternatives.
2 – Have the Essentials with You
HUG days are long and you may not have the opportunity to run back to your room in the middle of the day. The conference provides breakfast, lunch and breaks throughout the sessions but, if you have particular tool or supply preferences, you may want to have them with you. Make sure you’re prepared to focus on the conference by having the following items close at hand:
- Laptop or tablet computer with a full charge
- Notebook and pen
- Business cards
- Portable power source for phone charging
- Water bottle
- Hand sanitizer
- Your HUG badge
3 – Focus on the Event
While you’re at HUG you’re technically working but your job is to focus on training and learning. Resist the temptation to try to be as productive as usual at your regular tasks during this time. Block your calendar, set your out of office on DND and designate someone to cover for you during the conference. By all means necessary, protect your schedule so that you can be present at the conference and get all the benefits of attending HUG. There’s nothing worse than seeing an attendee missing session after session while taking conference calls.
4 – Schedule Meetings and One-on-Ones First Thing
One of the great benefits of the HUG conference is the opportunity to sit down with SMS product experts to go over issues your property is experiencing. During that time, you have the full attention of the product expert and you’ll be amazed at the things you can resolve. However, these one-on-one slots are limited and tend to fill up quickly. If you have something that you need to discuss, come to the conference prepared and make an appointment as soon as SMS opens the schedule.
One-on-ones take place during sessions so, it’s helpful for scheduling if you already have your “can’t miss” list made out. With limited availability of one-on-ones, you may choose to miss a session in favor of the individual meeting.
5 – Talk to Everyone
Talk with people you don’t know. Introduce yourself and ask them what they do. If you’re nervous about small talk, prepare yourself with some good conversation starters. Everyone is attending HUG because they’re connected to hotels, resorts and SMS systems – so you automatically have something in common.
At each meal sit with someone new. At each session introduce yourself to the attendees sitting on either side. If you’re in line for coffee, strike up a conversation. Attendees are all there to learn and network, so don’t be shy.
6 – Attend the Evening Events
After a long day of learning and training, it might be tempting to hunker down in your hotel room, order room service and catch up on work. Unfortunately, skipping the evening events means missing out on the very important networking component of the conference. The evening events are meant to be fun and to give you an opportunity for extended conversations.
The Wednesday night dinner always has a theme so don’t be surprised to see many attendees dressed to match the subject. Whether you choose to come in costume or not, just don’t miss out on the experience of seeing the outrageous outfits that some will be wearing. (Photobomb opportunities will abound.)
7 – Recap It
Plan to share your experiences with your management team when you return. Create a report or presentation listing your objectives for attending the HUG conference and then show how those goals were achieved. What problems did you solve? What insights did you gain? What tips and tricks did you learn? Most importantly, how can the results be put use at your property? Be thorough, yet succinct. My advice is to prepare your recap while traveling home or as soon as you return. Otherwise it may never get completed once you start catching up.
8 – Learn from the Vendors, Too
Lining the hallways and break areas of the conference are booths for Vendors that have paid for the opportunity to meet you. You might feel like you want to avoid a sales pitch or, maybe, you don’t have anything to do with selecting systems for your property. However, you should make a point of meeting as many as you can for two reasons. The first is that they’re quite knowledgeable about the hospitality industry. They work with many properties who use SMS and, chances are, they can give you some great information or point you toward resources to help you do your job better. The second involves the Vendor giveaway program, encouraging you to meet all the vendors. Everyone who completes the challenge is entered into a drawing. The prize is always worth the effort and you’ll likely learn something useful along the way.
9 – Wear Comfortable Clothes and Shoes
Days are long and the conference areas can be sprawling. You will be walking around the property so choose comfortable footwear. The conference attire is business casual, so wear clothes that will be comfortable and practical for sitting in sessions and taking notes. Because conference rooms are often too cold or too hot, layers are a great way to help regulate your temperature no matter what the air conditioning is doing. The HUG Conference is also the perfect place to show off logo wear from your property.
10 – Support the Charity
Every year the HUG Board selects a local charity and holds a raffle to raise money to support their good work. One way to get involved is to arrange for a donation from your property. Whether you can provide a night’s stay or a basket of goodies from the spa, the raffle items get plenty of attention and create a lot of excitement. Another way to contribute is by buying tickets. It’s not expensive to participate – and you might win some very cool gifts while supporting a worthy cause.
11 – Keynote, Keynote, Keynote
There are three keynotes at HUG and each has its reasons why you shouldn’t skip it. On Monday, the conference kicks off with an overview of the HUG organization and everything they do all year round, as well as providing an introduction to the SMS experts in attendance. These are folks you want to get to know. The keynote also offers all the information you need so you don’t feel lost. Every year at HUG is a new experience at a new property and this Monday session ensures that you’re up to speed.
Tuesday’s keynote features an amazing speaker. Seriously, these professional presentations are engaging and inspiring. We’ve had jugglers, guitar players and experts in almost every kind of field. The Tuesday addresses provide eye-opening revelations and they’re always worthwhile.
Wednesday is Springer-Miller day at the conference and SMS begins the morning with a keynote that gets you closer to the company. Learn about what goes on behind the scenes and how SMS serves all of its customers around the world. Find out about the latest releases, as well as what will be coming in the year ahead. It’s a great opportunity to further your understanding of SMS.
Each morning’s session also provides breakfast, delivers important announcements and takes care of HUG business, including election of board members. Definitely don’t miss the Monday kick-off!
The HUG Conference only comes around once a year. Leverage all of your opportunities and you’ll enjoy a tremendous event that is unlike anything else in hospitality. Check out smshug.org to learn more.