Way back when, when I first became involved with my local Manasota Chapter, I thought I’d just be getting some education that would help me in my new career. But, I found out early on that I received a lot more than that; I gained a huge network of friends and family that wanted to see me succeed. That was more than 14 years ago and I can honestly say that it all seems like a dream, like it was just yesterday.
Now, you may ask, what does this have to do with the Annual Convention? That’s what I wanted to know too. What was Annual Convention all about; what was all the hoopla about? If I had all the benefits of belonging to my local chapter, what was waiting for me just beyond the Florida gulf shores and into the desert hills of Arizona? I had to find out, so, I decided to spend a week’s vacation to take the long train ride, yes I said train (my first train trip), from Sarasota, Fla. to Phoenix, Ariz. for my first Annual Convention to see if there was more to HFTP. That was October 2001, just a month after 9/11 when people were afraid to get on a plane and the train seemed like the safest alternative; three and a half days later I arrived.
In 2001, everyone at HFTP Global wasn’t sure what the turnout would be like that year, it was a solemn moment in our country and a lot of people stopped traveling. But, they had record numbers, why? I believe it was because everyone that was connected with HFTP felt it was a family and wanted to share the moment, to prove that terrorists weren’t going to “rule” their lives. The moment I entered the hotel, registered and walked into the exhibitor’s hall, I felt taken care of and at home. If I thought I’d be alone at the convention I would find myself pleasantly mistaken, not only did I have my fellow chapter members, I also made new friends for life.
This was also the first time I attended Leadership, and I have to say I was hooked from the beginning. From the speakers to the staff, along with fellow chapter members I met, I knew I’d made the right decision and I would have to keep coming back. With Leadership I could always use what I learned, not only in my professional career, but with my outside interests as well, for example, Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Leadership was just the beginning of a great week. The education was designed to address your needs whether it was in clubs, hotels or technology, and for the first five or six years I concentrated on club education. As the years passed, I wanted to learn more than just about clubs and fortunately for me HFTP also evolved. They listened to their members and started offering many different types of education, including general education that would apply to all areas of hospitality along with leadership and ethics. Back then we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. So, HFTP provided social networking the old fashioned way, face to face. From the Tradeshow to the President’s Evening, you won’t find a more giving and lively way to exchange ideas and have great discussions about hospitality. There is literally something for everyone.
After 14 years, I’m still learning and always anticipating what HFTP Annual Convention and Leadership will have waiting for me. It’s a great chance to catch up with friends and family and meet new people who will become part of that family. I love learning, it’s always been a lifelong passion and HFTP, especially the Annual Convention has always provided this for me. HFTP has made me the controller I am today and I’m forever grateful to the organization, but more importantly to all the friends and family that have given back to me.
If you haven’t found your home in hospitality yet, don’t miss the Annual Convention. Before you know it, 14 years will have passed and you’ll have friends and family you can’t live without. HFTP is home for me and the Annual Convention will always welcome you home.
Sharon Litchfield, CHAE is the controller at TPC Prestancia Association in Sarasota, Fla. Follow her on Twitter @slitchfield
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