Brett Sterenson, President
Can you provide some of your background as a meeting professional?
I spent my first nine years in the industry as a supplier, in sales for Millennium Hotels in Boston, Ma., and then Kimpton Hotels in Washington, D.C. I founded Hotel Lobbyists in 2007 because I saw an opportunity to leverage my relationships in a broader way.
Why did you choose to become a meeting professional?
I find so much personal satisfaction connecting people. It is what brokers do in any industry, but how better to connect people than assist with their meetings? I enjoy our industry’s sense of community, am personally obsessed with travel and exploration, and want to show my children how accessible the world can be.
What was the most challenging/fun event you have been involved in to date?
I recently assisted a company who rented vacation homes for the entire summer to ensure all their employees could take a vacation on them this year.
What are the greatest rewards of being a meeting professional?
No two meetings are alike. There are always different obstacles and challenges. But one learns the more agile and prepared they are, the better suited he or she is to overcome hurdles in other facets of life. Being a meeting professional has assisted in my personal relationships, whether its interacting with new neighbors, or whether it even helps guide how I parent.
How has COVID-19 affected you personally?
I canceled 85 meetings since the second week of March. In a normal year, I would book about 250 meetings. This year will finish around 40. COVID-19 has essentially put my business on pause but I am taking the time to regroup and position myself for when it returns, and it will return. For as sleek and savvy as some of these virtual platforms are, it will not replace people’s genuine interest to convene.
Have you or are you in the process of planning any virtual/hybrid events? If not, what are your thoughts on virtual/hybrid events?
As an intermediary, I would not necessarily be involved in the details of a purely virtual event since my services would not be needed in quite the same way. As for hybrid events, I think it is safe to assume these types of events are here to stay for the near term.
Are you in the process of planning any in-person events in the remaining months of 2020?
There are a lot of factors working against the planning of any in-person events for the remaining months of 2020 including the pandemic and election. I am considering attending as many as three upcoming in-person events in my own industry, as it is important to witness what a safe meeting looks and feels like.
What do you see as the future of the travel and tourism industry?
My supplier sets are changing whether due to furloughs, layoffs, or the mere fact that requirements will change. My meetings will now go to larger venues all because of distancing standards.
Six months into this virtual environment and the need to meet in person is only growing. Meetings are here to stay, but patience will be the key to the success of hotels and planners.