No one needs to be told that since early 2001, there has been a general economic downturn. Those who work in sales at conference and meeting facilities are well aware of the effects of this downturn on the training industry. The terrorist attacks of last September 11 contributed to further slowing an already stalled profession. As Karen Wiley, vice president of sales, Oakbrook Hotels, put it, "Training and development hit the pause button" and a lot of business just stopped.
But in the world of commerce, if it's a truism that the first employees or consultants to get cut in slow economic times are the trainers, it's also true that businesses can't run very long without them. And, so, as of this past January many companies started rethinking how they could affordably train (and some would say train in order to retain) their employees in these still uncertain times. Companies have now switched off the pause button and are easing into slow-speed training with various creative and economical approaches.
Tom Reiling, director of sales and marketing for The Warren Conference Center & Inn, says that many of their clients are reducing the duration of their training meetings--condensing, for example, a previous five-day workshop into three days. Jeff Waldt, vice president of sales, Summerfield Suites by Wyndham, says one of their clients took two separate week-long workshop sessions and designed one comprehensive two-week workshop, saving additional travel expenses.
While aware of the importance of training, however, some companies still remain hesitant to commit. At The Warren Center, for example, the booking cycle has been cut in half; in other words, companies that normally book a meeting six months out are now booking only two to three months ahead. And, of course, because of the hassles often encountered in air travel currently, local business--companies located within a comfortable driving distance of a facility--has increased.
After September 11, a lot of businesses flat out cancelled their bookings at the last minute. Summerfield Suites was flexible with its cancellation …