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Cayuga Hospitality Consultants Discuss Future of Events

Susan Barry Joseph Cozza

By Susan Barry & Joseph Cozza

Aug 22, 2022

Cayuga Hospitality Consultants got together with other members to talk about their area of expertise, projects, and work as well as current topics around the events industry.

Expert participation from the moderator, Susan Barry of Hive Marketing and Top Floor Podcast plus Joe Cozza of JVC Cons Catering and Event Consulting, and David Adler of BizBash talk about the state of the events business and how it impacts all aspects of hospitality.

While we are beginning to see signs of life in terms of in-person events returning after the pandemic, it is generally understood that the industry still hasn’t reached a recovery status on par with 2019.

What is your take on the current state of affairs for in-person events?

Joe: There’s a tremendous pent-up demand for live events but there is still some uncertainty that varies by the region of the country. The demand for live events is back and there needs to be a balance between hybrid and virtual. Events need to have an experiential and emotional connection. A lot of the positive things that were happening prior to COVID are still in place today, but they need to be amplified in terms of the quality food service and creativity. So, I think we’re on a comeback. I think there could be some little glitches here and there that affect different cities and regions but overall, the future looks bright.

David: The industry is on fire but the supply chain is awful. Hybrid events are the most successful thing for top-of-the-funnel marketing for most companies. The face-to-face events are getting smaller and more intimate and expensive. Organizations are saving money by doing off sites.

Can you say a little bit more about why hybrid is a four-letter word?

David: It differs from one event planner to the other and attendees too because they don’t want to turn on the camera. It is a different canvas entirely. It also puts you at a level in the engagement funnel.

Joe: A virtual only event should be purely just content driven. To create an experience with impact, events must be live, hybrid and not just virtual.

Can you share some examples of reengineered menus, changes in service delivery, or other best practices that you’ve seen and observed?

David: Health and safety are an integral part of food. There has to be more option at the breakfast counter, bar counter, or the lunch/dinner menu. People are more health conscious these days and look for healthy alternatives at affordable prices. This is something hotels should explore.

Joe: Casualization has also taken a front seat in events. Attendees want to be comfortable and enjoy the total experience of a live event .Food and beverage quality is  more important than ever.

Hotels and venues need to offer more choices and variety. People’s expectations are higher, and they will demand quality with a focus on seasonality, local, clean ingredients, and healthy options. Things as simple as coffee, sweeteners, and milk choices. Bars with more brands of spirits and wines and non-alcoholic options. Allow time for attendees to enjoy breaks and meals.

Much has been made of virtual and hybrid events.  Some believe that they are here to stay, while others consider them temporary placeholders for the return of live events.  What is your take?

Joe: Hybrid and virtual events are here to stay but when and how. to use them is so important. Creative locations and creative venues set the tone. Events must be better, more engaging, and more emotionally connected. Health, safety, and cleanliness will remain critically important

David: Content is not the king anymore, contact is the king. In a live event, content on the stage takes less than interaction and networking. A five-hour event with 15 minutes break becomes a three-hour event with 30 minutes break.

What are some ways event organizers can create unforgettable events in the digital age?

David: Hotels have to start combining technology with experience.

I have been promoting the idea of the hub and spoke events, where people do an event in a hotel or a large international conference. And then they convert a hallway into a trade show with virtual reality. So basically you walk up and down the hallway and you can go into any door and you can replicate the actual trade show that’s happening in Las Vegas or so.

Also, have people meet in smaller groups. With audio visual getting hotter, people can even get to activate every part of the hotel for the audience to experience virtually.

How important will the metaverse be to the events industry?  Should conferences plan to include a virtual reality component?

David: People are so not ready for the metaverse because they don’t even have the basics of digital. Transformation in their own organizations to even get close to the metaverse. Digital doubles and things like that are gonna be all part of these activations that people are doing so that when you do an event in a hotel, you could be transported into the plane that you’re selling or into the bus that you’re creating that you want people to go onto. You’re gonna have to know pieces and eventually, we’re gonna get there. We’ve got to educate people that the spatial technology that’s coming out and virtual reality in some forms and augmented reality, we got to get beyond a cursory understanding of it.

Joe: I think engagement really drives a message and drives a result and gets some mind share versus just the virtual world. So I think there will be it’s all about balancing now. And how do you figure that out and where do you do it and why? Plus how it comes together. I think this is just where we’re at now. Plus the technology is not anywhere near where it will be.

If you were advising a hotel or country club developer, what suggestions would you make to leverage the current state of events?

Joe: Do a complete diagnostic; a complete review of everything that they represent in terms of marketing, physical space, and processes used for events. Everything from sales, event planning, event execution, and post-event processes need to be analyzed with updates and improvements made as needed.

It is very difficult to have success with just basic traditional space unless customers spend money to convert that space into something interesting. That’s why non-hotel venues and unique spaces are so popular. There is so much competition. Whether it’s a farm, barn, museum or a warehouse, an event can be staged there. Attractive and functional outdoor options are a must! Make sure your technology is state of the art.

David: If you have an underperforming space, you first have to analyze what that potential is and what you could do with certain improvements and decor.

Creating atmospheres and spaces that are conducive to events instead of the typical space that we sometimes have experienced and many times have experienced and are totally bored with it. Finding as many nontraditional spaces in a building as possible and utilizing those for events. There are a lot of empty restaurants. There are a lot of conversions of spaces that go to event space from being Aqua dining and also to third party operators.

What predictions do you have for the future of in-person events?

Joe & David:  There’s a tremendous pent-up demand for live events and there is still some uncertainty. It varies by region and by location within the country. The key to live events is how you balance the hybrid and the virtual and the digital side of it. They need to be amplified in terms of the quality in terms of food service and a better supply chain.

What else would you like to share that we haven’t addressed?

Joe: Engagement really drives a message and drives a result and gets some mind share versus just a virtual world. It’s all about balancing now. How do you figure that out and where do you do it, why, and how does it come together? Plus the technology is not anywhere near where it will be. One of the takeaways as regards meetings since the beginning of the pandemic is that we got to meet people and speak with people and listen to people that we would never have been able to have connected with previously, and built relationships with firms around the world.

David: How do you scale intimacy? The metaverse is a way where three people are stuck in a room like in the gaming world and they have to talk to each other and get to know each other. It’s using the tool, face to face of the venture, doing a terrible job of scaling intimacy.

About the Panel

Susan Barry

Susan Barry, President and Queen Bee of Hive Marketing and partner with Cayuga Hospitality Consultants, executes B2B marketing and commercial strategy projects for hotel owners, management companies, brands, investment groups and vendors. Thinking about trying something weird? We work with hospitality companies to deploy smart commercial strategy ideas. Special projects that don’t fit neatly into an org chart are our specialty. The hospitality industry relies on Hive Marketing when they need an injection of creativity through the lens of extensive hospitality industry experience. Reach out for sales, marketing, and revenue ideas that you’ve never heard before, executed with panache.

Joseph Cozza

Joe Cozza has had an extensive and distinguished career in the hospitality industry. His most recent positions were with Marriott International as the Catering Sales Leader, Northeast Region, and previously as Catering Sales Leader for New York. Prior to these positions, he was Vice President, Sales, and Marketing for Cipriani, where he was responsible for several premier, historic, and iconic event locations. Joe was the opening Executive Director of Marketing/Catering at the New York Marriott Marquis and held this position for 22 years. Prior to the Marriott Marquis he was the opening Director of Catering at the Grand Hyatt in N.Y. and the Philadelphia Fairmont hotel where he held senior leadership positions in food and beverage operations and catering sales. Earlier in Joe’s career, he held executive positions with Sheraton and Hyatt Corporations in Florida and New Jersey. Joe is an active partner and consulting member of Cayuga Hospitality Consultants.

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