No one has been pushing for hotel groups to develop better meetings industry content than Skift. While Connect+ is an impressive move by Hilton in that regard, there's a lot of opportunity here for more authentic content and intuitive content delivery.
Hilton Worldwide’s Connect+ content platform represents the first time a global hospitality brand is engaging planners at the corporate level with (for the most part) substantive education.
That’s sort of where we are with hotel meetings-specific online content these days. It’s often considered cool and innovative if it even exists, which is why this platform is somewhat pivotal in the hospitality space.
There’s also a variety of other digital tools, such as the Meetings Simplified and getplanning initiatives, designed to help planners do their job more efficiently.
In one way, Hilton is putting itself out there to co-create the future of meetings with industry leaders and develop a robust online learning center for planners. That can only help everyone involved in the industry. But in another way, there’s room for Hilton’s content marketing to shift its emphasis toward more content and less marketing.
We first heard about Connect+ two years ago at the IMEX America meetings industry conference, where we met with Hilton Hotels’ top group sales executives to learn about the brand’s foray into meetings content.
Now is an appropriate time to take a look at how those platforms are evolving. We asked Hilton several times last month for data on viewership numbers for both HTalks and the Idea Network, but those were not provided.
First, Connect+ is not the lead portal into Hilton’s meetings content ecosystem. The gateway site is Meetings.Hilton.com, which does link to Connect+ in the dropdown if you hunt for it. But Connect+ doesn’t link back. The navigation architecture should be adjusted so planners intuitively jump between the two platforms, or better yet, they should be integrated.
HTalks: Hilton Elevated Discussions
The Hilton Elevated Discussion videos, or HTalks for short, were initially called “HED Talks,” but that sounded a little too close to “TED Talks” for the TED people. The videos are 4-6 minute sessions covering different meeting design strategies and industry trends ranging from Wi-Fi to wellness.
Hilton did tell us that the most viewed HTalk is: “Building An Event Technology Framework Part 1” (above). Todd Zint, VP of meetings & event strategy at NFP Financial Services, explains the importance of first determining what an organization wants to accomplish with event tech before deciding on the specific event tech.
Tech companies today are swarming around planners to sell their products, and many event planners who bite are trying to adapt their meeting design strategy to fit the tool.
“The challenge is that most of them are doing everything backwards,” says Zint. “What you really need to do, is before you engage in a solution or tool that’s out there, is really build a strategy and a framework.”
Zint then lays out a 5-level hierarchy of needs that planners need to define, moving from the initial establishment of business goals to the final measuring of results.
In another HTalk, Cindy Novak, director of global travel at the Kiewit construction and mining services company, discusses “Supporting Millennial Travelers.” She says there’s been a shift in priorities toward better messaging and communication processes to better engage Millennial meeting attendees.
“When we’re building the travel policy, we want to make sure the Millennials understand why we’re doing what we’re doing,” says Novak. “They really like to make their own decisions. They like to have access to information. They want to be able to compare.”
Novak suggests that it’s important to explain to Millennials why specific hotels are chosen in their corporate travel inventory, “so that they don’t need to go out and price, compare, or shop, or try to get something better.”
The Hallmark music in the background is unnecessary, but there is some solid insight about corporate travel booking challenges coming from an experienced planner. Almost all of the HTalks offer actionable, intelligent information for junior to mid-level meeting planners. Try and find anything else like that in a global hotel brand’s corporate online environment.
“There’s a lot of interest`in peer-to-peer learning, so our customers value this engagement because they’re going to a place where they can quietly learn from constituents without having to reach out to anyone,” says Rob Scypinski, senior VP, hotel sales for the Americas at Hilton Worldwide. “But then we are seeing planners in the field reach out to these people in some cases, when they’re ready, which is the kind of collaboration and knowledge sharing we’re trying to create here.”
The Idea Network Blog
Hilton’s meeting planner blog is mostly a curated selection of truncated web posts linking to original posts at both meetings industry media and non-meetings media. This is where Hilton would be well served to start developing some of its own content or contract media groups to do it for them, focusing on planner testimonials, event tech, trend research, etc.
Also, the blog doesn’t look or feel like a blog. It feels like a corporate annual report with a poor homepage user experience and interface that makes it difficult to scan the content quickly. The stock advertising photos should be revisited too.
According to Hilton, the top three most popular stories at the Idea Network are:
This Inc. story is sponsored content contributed by the Young Entrepreneur Council about a high-priority challenge for many Millennials—connecting to strangers in a live environment using their voice. There’s huge demand among Gen Y for valuable information about networking effectively.
Our favorite is #4: Don’t waste time with sales-oriented people. It reads: “I’ve learned not to spend too much time networking with people who are solely concerned with selling me on something.—Matthew Moisan, Moisan Legal, P.C.
This Idea Network post links to a story at Entrepreneur about how “Networking doesn’t have to be the dry, time-wasting activity you might think of it as.”
The best section is #2 Don’t be afraid to ask. Again, the focus on networking skills is very Millennial-centric: “Sometimes people just need to know what you need. Be specific and direct about what you want. It makes it easy for people who legitimately want to help you. So instead of saying you’re looking for a job, say you’re looking to meet people at these five companies or with these five job titles. If you want something, make it happen. Don’t wait for other people to give you everything.”
A lot of planners and suppliers generally gravitate toward listicles of meeting trends. Most of the insight in this Successful Meetings post coming from industry veterans is not necessarily new or ambitious, but there is value in places.
More Millennial themes here: “Make sure your planning team doesn’t have just one voice. Include a member of each generation on the planning committee, if possible, to help you get a well-rounded view of your event. ‘If I look at the planning groups for most organizations, it’s a shame because it’s the people who have been around in the industry a long time,’ says Roger Dow, [president/CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.]”
This kind of content isn’t helping anyone, anywhere: “‘If you don’t want people on their devices, make sure the session they’re in is compelling enough so they don’t need to do that,’ adds Terri Breining, founder of the Encinitas, CA-based Breining Group. ‘If you do want people on their devices, they can use them in ways that are useful and helpful to the meeting.’”
Scypinski says Connect+ is still undergoing development as Hilton adjusts to its role as an early adopter in delivering meeting-specific digital content.
“We want to make the blog more conversational, with more back-and-forth, versus being too much of an advertorial site,” he told us. “We have learned that everyone is hungry for this information.”
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Photo credit: The landing page for Hilton's Idea Network meeting planner blog. Hilton Worldwide