Sharpening the message

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Memo to hospitality communications specialists: Compact your presentations. I say this after attending a largely informative, occasionally inspirational conference of U.S. Franchise Systems in Atlanta in late March. The first USFS conference without founder Mike Leven, it spotlighted the relatively large Microtel franchise and its smaller, extended-stay sibling, Hawthorn Suites. Roy Flora, USFS CFO, kept things moving and spoke succinctly. Adding to the distinction: a talk by Matt Roloff, former president of Little People of America, showcasing USFS' commitment to access by all kinds of people, especially the disabled. Little People of America represents some 1.2 million Americans of stature shorter than 4 feet 10. In case you haven't heard, all Microtels and Hawthorn Suites will offer these folks small stepstool rigs, along with appropriate equipment, so they can reach things, secure themselves, turn on the TV and get into bed. It's more than symbolic, it's an investment (each stepstool rig will cost USFS a hair under $300).

Trouble was, Flora and Roloff said essentially the same things during separate presentations for Microtel and Hawthorn Suites. So did several other USFS executives, though there was some brand-specific variation. I understand there are two constituencies, likely with little overlap, so Flora & Co. had to speak to separate audiences. I've seen similar situations at Choice and the former Cendant, which doesn't make them any less irritating. Redundant presentations may be an efficient way to present the same material, but wouldn't it be better to have one, chainwide presentation and then break off into separate, brand-specific workshops?

I submit that one big general session would be a) more dramatic; b) shorter; and c) warmer. (Memo to convention hotels: It's one thing to keep a room cool so people stay awake. It's another to freeze your audience into cranky numbness.) Also, one big general session would benefit the speakers, enabling them to keep the message fresh and to the point.

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