What organisers can learn from hotel managers

A conference organiser and a hotel manager have much in common. Both have quite meticulous attention to detail. In this urge for perfection, there is a high level of quality awareness and a certain degree of uncertainty. That’s part of the job. Even so, there are also significant differences between the two positions, which ensure that they can learn a lot from each other. What surprises me sometimes is how late the organisers of international conferences knock on the doors of hotels. It often happens when the entire event has already been planned. That’s odd, since the hotel stay is one of the most expensive parts of a conference visit. You would think that the goal is to make sure that this major cost item optimally matches the rest of the conference experience. Contacting hotels earlier helps, as the hotel organisation can then actively contribute ideas about the reception, information and transfers.

Conferences are complex operations

Organising an international conference is a complex operation in which all touchpoints have to be right. An experienced hotel manager is the right person for this because they are used to organising everything down to the last detail. When something has to be ready at 9am, it has to be ready at 9am. There’s no discussion; a deal is a deal. But when it comes to hotel guests who need to go to their conference well prepared, optimally coordinating with the organiser is essential. A hotel manager is used to thinking several steps ahead, so they will immediately ask about the arrival. No, not at the hotel, at the airport! Will the attendees be picked up or do they have to find their own way to the hotel? Have they been properly informed about this beforehand? And how smoothly will the check-in be at the hotel? Is there a special conference welcoming committee or have the hotel desk employees been briefed to answer all questions about the conference? After a long trip, do visitors also have to stand in a long queue at the reception or will they receive their room key card from the organiser directly? The same care also goes for the transfer to the conference centre the next morning. All these details will set the tone with which a delegate starts their multi-day conference.

Never think that it's not your problem

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, especially not on a conference visitor, which requires close collaboration between the organiser and the hotel manager. Never think that it’s not your problem. You have everything to do with it because it also reflects off of you. You can only be successful together, and together really means that: all employees involved must know exactly what is expected of them and why. An event has to operate like a well-oiled machine; the script must be followed at all times, preferably with a unique tone of voice. That is not an intellectual story, but a practical one. You don’t need to know what the keynote speaker is going to say; you just need to make sure that everything, everything and everything is right. Only then will you exceed expectations and truly be successful. There are few hotel managers in the world with more experience than Roberto Payer. He worked for Hilton for 52 years, mostly in Hilton Amsterdam. He started there after hotel school as a young waiter and eventually became the general manager from 1991 to 2022. In 2014, Payer was instrumental in opening the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam. He still has ties to the global hotel chain as a consultant. Comments? Send an e-mail to

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