Come for the Presentations and Tech, Stay for the People

Written by: John Reyna, J.D., LL.M. | HFTP 2021 Annual Convention Guest Blogger

Attending my first HFTP Annual Convention and HITEC, I was not sure what to expect. Of course, I knew the schedule was packed with respected speakers discussing quality topics. And I was confident there would be an exhibit hall full of cutting-edge technology geared for the hospitality industry. But there was one variable that I was eager to observe—other attendees. Would they be engaged? Would there be collaboration? Or is this an excuse to step away from the office for a few days?

In fairness, my view is a bit jaded from having previously attended Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes. Here I observed my fellow attorneys attend in-person, but spend the entire day working on their laptops – finishing only in time to attend a happy hour or to go out for dinner.

But my apprehension was immediately put to rest after my Monday morning education sessions. What I observed that morning and have continued to observe throughout the week is a high level of engagement and collaboration. It is invigorating to see – and a major reason why I will be returning to the HFTP Annual Convention and HITEC for years to come!

This engagement begins with the attendees asking phenomenal questions. Based on the past 18 months, it is no surprise that attendees arrived loaded with questions about COVID. Numerous questions have been raised about mandatory vaccination policies for employees, hiring and staff retention, and increased wages. These are only a sample of the topics that attendees have inquired about. But these questions led to additional questions, and thus a fascinating discourse emerged about subjects that are important to the hospitality industry.

Further, this discourse results in another impressive occurrence here at the HFTP Annual Convention and HITEC— collaboration. Like clockwork, when sessions end, attendees gather to bounce ideas off each other. Maybe someone raised an issue that another club/hotel is also currently dealing with; or maybe someone learned about a new policy, procedure or technology that another club/hotel is using that would be beneficial to learn more about. Either way, this week provides an avenue for attendees to collaborate in real time with their peers. There is incredible value in these relationships.

To be clear, the above is not meant to disparage the speakers who put forth a tremendous amount of effort to prepare – they have been fantastic. Also, in many instances, they have opened up the floor to allow attendees to steer the conversation. Speakers who engage in this tactic better know their subject matter well or else it becomes a “death by firing squad” scenario. Thankfully, the speakers at the HFTP Annual Convention and HITEC are experts in their fields, and they have provided wonderful responses, even when the questions are slightly off-topic from the session’s original theme.

Additionally, the technology in the exhibit hall is mesmerizing. It is a toy store for adults! Further, it is another avenue where attendees can learn about a subject matter to bring back to their respective organizations. The learning opportunities never cease here.

If you were wondering if attending the HFTP Annual Convention and HITEC would be worth your time, know this: there is amazing value in attending because of the speakers and technology, but it is the attendees who will make you want to return year after year. Which is likely why I have met so many attendees who have been in attendance for the past 20+ years.

John Reyna, J.D., LL.M. is an attorney, professor and entrepreneur with a background in hospitality. He is currently an adjunct professor at the University of North Texas at Dallas School of Business, teaching restaurant management and beverage management. He is also the official event guest blogger for the HFTP 2021 Annual Convention, taking place September 27-30 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. Continue to check back on HFTP News/HITEC Bytes to read more of John’s event experiences.

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