In my ten years as a keynote speaker, I’ve spoken at hundreds of conferences and stayed in hundreds of hotels. As with anything any of us have done hundreds of times, many of those hotel experiences have been acceptably forgettable, neither so incredible or so awful that they merit a special place in my memory. I just walked into another hotel room, in fact, and this one hadn’t been cleaned – the bed was unmade, and all of the towels had been used – but even that isn’t a first.
And based on all of my conversations with the meeting planners who organize the events I speak at, they feel the same way. In ten years I’ve heard a fair number of minor complaints (the cost relative to the quality of the venue, the speed of the service, etc.) but I’ve never heard a true horror story. Most of the time I don’t hear anything at all, which I assume means that the overall experience has been perfectly pleasant – nothing to write home about, nothing to sue over.
But earlier this month I delivered the closing keynote at a conference at the Marriott Orlando World Center, and the meeting planner was absolutely raving about the hotel. She raved about it so much, actually, that I asked her to tell me what made the staff there so amazing. She was happy to tell me; and since it’s the first time in ten years that I’ve heard anyone so enthusiastic about a venue, I thought I’d share some of the highlights with you so that you could see what true top-quality service looks like:
The Staff Was Relentlessly Punctual and Professional This one seems obvious, but the Marriott Orlando World Center took this to the next level. I was speaking in the main ballroom immediately following lunch, which meant I was in the room before any of the attendees – and so was the entire wait staff, at least forty of them standing like soldiers at attention beside their assigned table for a solid fifteen minutes before the doors were supposed to open. It was so well-organized that it was almost eerie; and when the meeting planner was forced to delay the opening of the doors for another ten minutes, they kept standing until the first attendees arrived. I’ve never seen a waitstaff take their jobs that seriously, and the meeting planner told me it was merely one example of dozens.
The Hotel Catered A Private Dinner For The President Of the Organization – And Paid For It! So the president of the association was something of a foodie, and he wanted to host a small dinner onsite for some VIPs that he had every intention of paying for. Originally the plan was to hold it in the executive chef’s office; however, it only seated ten people, and there were going to be twelve. So the hotel emptied out the working kitchen, cleaned it up, polished everything, and set a banquet table where the cutting table had been. The executive chef prepared a special menu along with wine pairings; and then – and this is the kicker – he told them the hotel was going to comp the entire thing because he and the rest of the hotel staff had enjoyed working with their group so much. I don’t know what the final bill was, but a catered dinner for twelve people complete with reserve bottles of wine can’t have been cheap, and that doesn’t count the time it must have taken to convert a working kitchen into a banquet space.
The Kitchen Surprised All The Volunteers With Champagne and Chocolate-Covered Strawberries It was the final day of the conference, which means everyone was twitchy and tired and ready to go home. So imagine how nice it must have been for all those volunteers – over a dozen of them, none of whom were getting paid to run around like mad for four days – to watch a giant cart with individual glasses of champagne and strawberries specifically for them. We all know that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but that also happens to be true of women, and animals, and pretty much everything else.
I don’t often mention anyone by name, usually because I spend a lot of time making fun of things and I don’t want to single anyone out. But when ten years go by before I hear a story like this, I think mentioning names is in order. Well done, Marriott Orlando World Center. You’ve just made every other hotel in the world mad at you. I hope you’re happy with yourselves.
This article was originally published by SmartMeetings.com
It’s interesting that as a sideline to our business of speaking, we also get to critic the places we stay and speak at.
It’s a shame that only one place sticks out in all your travels. I also have been underwhelmed at the average-ness of the places I stay – especially considering the price/day paid for this service.
I can name several locations where I’ll never go back to, but only one that was in my opinion “above and beyond”.
Perhaps someone from the hotel industry might read this and think “hmmm…”