Marriott Builds Hybrid Playbook to Connect With Confidence
Marriott International turned event planners into willing lab rats this January at the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center outside of Denver. More than 100 of the attendees were on-site at the massive property while another 800 were digital. Knowing that more than 50% of those attendees were meeting and event professionals planning to host a hybrid event within the next six to 12 months, Marriott hoped to show a way forward while gaining insight into how it could serve the new era of events.
The results, which surely will be modified as the industry learns more, are the centerpiece of Marriott’s Connect with Confidence program. Using case studies, like the Gaylord event and an earlier gathering at The Ritz-Carlton Tyson Corner in Northern Virginia, the hotel giant has crafted an 18-page guidebook for planners.
It includes information regarding:
- Devising an event strategy centered on goal and informed on new realities
- Managing expectations via communications
- New methods to engage in-person and virtual attendees
- Creating an environment that is optimal for business while allowing for flexibility
- Crafting meaningful opportunities to connect and network.
“The overall success of a hybrid event is dependent on internet speed and stability,” said Tammy Routh, senior vice president of global sales organization for Marriott International.
Partnerships with industry leaders Encore, Cvent, Convene, MeetingPlay and Hopin provide Marriott ample resources to meet planners’ technological needs. Knowing the digital feed won’t kick out allows for the confidence to create experiences that can be enjoyed by two sets of audiences simultaneously yet separately.
As hosts for meetings of all kinds and with elite in-house planners, Marriott made the most of its unique situation during these fact-finding missions/events. Much of the company, fittingly, revolves around pre-planning.
Mapping out camera angles in advance helped producers devise a strategy to keep virtual audience members engaged. MeetingPlay built multiple angles at the Tyson Corner gathering (44 in-person; 238 online) and used its app as an online dashboard so both sets of attendees could chat and answer poll/survey questions in real time. Virtual attendees uploaded images to a gallery displayed on-site in the ballroom. Prizes added a game element to spur interaction.
Another example cited in the hybrid guide was the need to prepare for attendees to arrive far earlier than in the pre-pandemic era so they can scope out the venue. Bite-sized communication pieces sent out prior to a gathering helps make a potentially overwhelming situation more manageable.
Marriott is making optional safety measures available, including pre-event and on-site COVID testing. Many of the chain’s properties in Mexico and the Caribbean are offering free on-property testing for guests staying three nights or longer as part of Marriott’s “Travel with Peace of Mind” initiative.
“This final decision is with the meeting planner, but testing can enhance the wellness aspect of the meeting attendees,” Routh noted.
So, what did the survey results say? Marriott reports 95% of attendees at the Gaylord would adopt many of the same principles at the events they are planning.