by Loren G. Edelstein | November 7, 2016

Loren G. Edelstein, editor in chief of Meetings & ConventionsSteve Enselein, senior vice president, events, for Hyatt HotelsM&C recently chatted with Steve Enselein, senior vice president, events, for Hyatt, about tech tools that are streamlining the booking process, helping to resolve issues on-site, easing group billing, and more. 

What's new at Hyatt that meeting planners should know about?
Ultimately, everything we do is about caring for people, whether that be our employees, our guests, our meeting planner clients….For meetings, we are finding ways, via technology, to make it easier for planners to work with our hotels and for attendees to have a good experience. For small meetings, we introduced Meetings on Demand. At a growing number of Hyatt hotels, meeting organizers can now book small meetings -- ideally, 25 people or fewer -- directly online at any time. They can check inventory, get a room rate quote, see F&B options and so forth. This is intended for short-term business, meetings that will be held within 90 days.

How are hotels being more responsive when a group is on-site?
In the same way our leisure guests use the Hyatt app to make on-demand requests during their stay, so too can planners, with a Hyatt app designed exclusively for them. The Hyatt Event Concierge App allows planners to make requests during their program, from ballroom-temperature changes and extra chairs to an increase in guarantee numbers for lunch, all via their smartphone or tablet. This eliminates the need to chase down hotel staff or wait for a call back; our app gives users real-time progress updates, so they can focus on other needs.

Is the Event Concierge App being used at all Hyatt properties?
Not yet. It's in place at 75 hotels now, and it will be available at 90 by the end of this year.

What other planner pain points you are targeting?
Billing is a huge issue. Two years ago we introduced a contract signing and e-payment portal called Group Bill to solve that problem. It is interactive and all-encompassing across the entire group program. Planners don't have to dig for various room folios, F&B receipts and such, even if they want to use different billing codes -- it's all found in one program and is available during and immediately after conclusion of the program.

Do you do anything differently for your major national accounts?
Our most loyal clients who book multiple programs at Hyatt destinations around the globe -- approximately 25 groups at this time -- are assigned a National Event Planning Manager, essentially a traveling convention services manager who goes from city to city, looking after all their events that are held in our hotels. Unique to Hyatt, this benefit helps strengthen our client relationships and saves those clients from having to educate each hotel on their program needs and preferences.

Is that a new program? Is it only for large meetings?
We started it 18 months ago as a beta test with one manager, and it was very successful, so we added another National Event Planning Manager. We will increase that number based on business demands. For people who do a lot of events with us, the designated manager can be there for them at any size event.

What unique group activities do you see happening at Hyatt properties?
We have team-building events where a group has to work for their dinner. We set a family-style table and everyone is given an assignment on what they need to do to prepare dinner. For example, one has to assemble, toss and plate the salad; another goes to the "wine store" and chooses the wines; someone goes to the "bakery" and selects dessert. These are the basic elements, but you can really make it your own.

What would you advise meeting planners who want to create memorable experiences?
Talk to the chef first! The meeting space is not going to change. Have the hotel tell you what they do well, and what they are passionate about. We do a lot of small events in our kitchens. Think about every party you ever go to. Where does everyone end up? The kitchen.