Tag Archives: questions

How to Keep Guest Conversations Interesting

neon ASK sign, banquet tables and chairs

Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Changes by Frank Sesno has a chapter on entertaining questions called “The Inspired Host.”

For innkeepers who host events such as dinners and private parties, knowing entertaining questions to ask allows you to engage your audience and keep guest conversations interesting.

The objective always revolves around creating an experience that all your guests will enjoy and remember. You can steer the conversation to draw in guests and energize the room. Create a mood that connects people in stimulating and surprising ways.

First, the author advises, you must know your audience by asking:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What do they know?
  • What don’t they know?
  • What do they care about?
  • What will they find interesting and funny and why?

Starting with an exchange that is spontaneous and a little unexpected often breaks the ice and sets the tone for a more relaxed and more genuine experience.

Then begin with a few topics that interest everyone. Mix it up with a few lighter, open-ended questions. Listen closely. Ask for different levels of experience and awareness. Ask for examples and encourage stories.

Pick questions that intrigue and interest everyone and are relevant to the event or occasion. Draw from a menu of topics and questions to create flow and engage different people on different levels.

Set the mood through signals, prompts, words, and timing. Trigger emotions through the subjects you pick and the questions you ask.

Try the one-word association game to open the conversation more and perhaps get a few laughs. Figure out what you want to talk about and map out questions and anticipated responses. You can excite the imagination, or you can prompt reflection.

Your questions should invite participation at whatever level your guests feel comfortable. Frame your questions in a way that is approachable and real. Be willing to change directions when someone observes an altogether different slice of life.

Good hosts are always on, always listening, and always interested in their guests and the conversation around them. The role of hosts is to draw out other people and make them interesting, funny, or noteworthy. Ask guests to contribute new ideas or share interesting experiences.

Make your questions open-ended (they cannot be answered with a yes or no response) as well as friendly. Avoid controversial topics like politics, money, and religion.

To make sure everyone responds, try throwing out a question with the challenge that everyone must respond in just one sentence.

  • “What’s the one thing you want everyone to know about you?”
  • “If you could transport yourself anywhere in the world right now, go to any country just to eat dinner, where would you go and what would you eat?”

By applying a little “conversation leadership” to get guests interacting with each other, you can create an environment that is inclusive, interesting, and dynamic.

According to Author Frank Sesno, good hosts use questions to have fun, make people laugh, or dive into the ridiculous. He encourages hosts to produce an experience their guests will enjoy and remember.

The more hosts understand the people in the room, the better you can steer the discussion. Hosts should ask questions, but don’t answer them. Be principally interested in drawing out others.

The objective of hosting is to direct the conversation, not dominate it. Direct questions so that everyone gets a chance to talk, but also recognize that some people prefer to listen. Alternate topics and moods to keep the conversation moving, varies, and interesting.

Hosting dinner parties and other private events are excellent opportunities for asking and answering entertaining questions, to getting to know one another, and to having a good time while examining life along the way. I hope this inspires more innkeepers to host events which involve guests in conversation with each other.

Insightful Questions Can Lead to Remarkable Results

"ASK" written on sign on side of building with light

 

Insightful questions can lead to remarkable results. It is amazing how just thinking about the answers to questions (like the following listed below), can give innkeepers more clarity about what should be their priorities. It is important to regularly examine your goals (as well as the reasoning behind those goals).

 

  • What do you (and your inn) have to offer? (like innkeeper strengths & on-site amenities)
  • What do you excel at? (culinary skills, event management, hospitality, teaching, organization, property management, etc.)
  • Is your inn known for something? (the best place for…)
  • Do you have a mission statement or overall goal? (why do you exist?)
  • What is your focus? (this depends upon your inn’s purpose)
  • Who do you serve? (these are your current guests)
  • Who needs what you offer? (these are your ideal guests)
  • What problems do you solve? (this can explain why people visit you)
  • Why should they want your accommodations and services? (the benefits you offer)
  • What would make a lasting difference in your guests’ lives? (how you encourage repeat visits)
  • How do you (or will you) get your message across? (blog, social media, website, advertisements, press, etc.)
  • How do you (or will you) follow up to guest inquiries? (do you note who called and the questions they asked?)
  • Do you stay in touch with your guests? If so, how and how often? (weekly or monthly email list, mailing list, phone call, text, etc.)
  • Going forward, what is your plan of action? (how can you attract more of your ideal audience?)

It is a good idea to have a little notebook with you to record any random (yet potentially useful) thought that comes into your head. You never know when you may think of the next big thing your inn could do or offer! 

Guests are also a great source of information and inspiration. What do your guests compliment you about that you do have (or provide)? What do your guests ask you about that you currently do not have (or provide)? Read over your guest reviews as well as reflect upon what they have told you in person. Thus, insightful questions can lead to remarkable results!

Assumptions Can Be Wrong

three large windmills outside by lake with colorful sunset

Your bed and breakfast guests usually have questions. Be careful to understand their frame of reference when they ask a question. Assumptions can be wrong!

While I was a young student at Michigan State University, I lived in an international dorm. For those of you who don’t know, Michigan State is located in East Lansing, Michigan. One of the reasons I chose to attend the university was that I lived only two hours away in a town called Holland, Michigan.

When an international student asked me what I was going to do over the weekend, I replied, “Go home to Holland.” She looked shocked and asked with a puzzled look, “Only for the weekend?” I had failed to take into account that she was thinking of Holland, Netherlands. Actually, the Netherlands is the country my great-grandmother and her family came from when they relocated to Holland, Michigan.

We laughed when we both understood we were talking about two completely different parts of the world. I wrongly assumed that since we were both currently living in the state of Michigan, that she would have heard of my local Michigan town called Holland! Remember assumptions can be wrong!

Often when recommending places your guests can visit and things they can do in your area, please remember my advice to never make assumptions. You could have an FAQ (frequently asked questions) page on your website with links to various places you suggest that they visit.  You could organize the recommended places by categories such as restaurants, museums, parks, and so on.

This helps your guests plan for their stay at your bed and breakfast and you can easily refer them to your website if they are calling or e-mailing you the question. I also recommend offering free brochures to local destinations to your guests while they visit in person.

Have you ever had a funny mix-up like mine with your bed and breakfast guests? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

Fantastic Fill in the Blanks Social Media

the words "Fantastic Fill-in-the-Blanks on Social Media" with drawings of laptops and mobile phones

 

Fantastic fill in the blanks social media can definitely attract more traffic to your website.  People love to use their imagination and share it with others online.

Do you remember Mad Libs? Those books filled with one-page stories filled with blanks that invited you to insert your own keywords? They were  invented in 1953 by Leonard Stern and Roger Price, who published the first Mad Libs book themselves in 1958.  It turns out that  these guys were ahead of their time in recognizing the power of the ‘blank’.

 

Fill in the blanks social media can prompt people to think about activities they would like to do and places they would love to visit.  For example, Disney posted, “If I could spend a day with a Disney character, I would choose _______.”

This is a great way to encourage creative responses as well as to promote engagement with your posts and tweets.  The blanks are essentially ‘platforms’ for people to share their creativity.

  • My favorite way to relax after a long hard day is to _______.
  • _______ always makes me feel inspired.
  • The best afternoon snack of all time is _______.
  • My favorite board game is _______.

These types of posts often garner fun and short comments, which then encourage your audience to react and interact.  Share a great photo and a good fill-in-the-blank sentence to inspire your audience to engage with you and your brand.

a tweet "I'm ready for Spring so I can _________" @bandbblogging with close up of yellow flower with water droplets

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

Fill-in-the-blank posts feel incomplete until they’re engaged with. People love filling in blanks, and the most effective fill-in-the-blank posts are the ones that let fans share their ideas.

Make fill-in-the-blank posts and tweets relevant to your fans and the space you’re working in to see the best results.

Use fill-in-the-blank posts as a two-pronged engagement tactic: interact with your online community and get to know them better for future marketing campaigns.

Use the post tactic in conjunction with a specific event, such as a holiday.

Fill in the blank contests are great as they have the potential to actually get people thinking. The contest consists of a sentence of paragraph, and your fans are asked to add their own unique perspective by, obviously, filling in the blanks.

Fill-in-the-blanks are similar to questions.  They are simple and create engagement.  Some samples of these are:

  • My favorite social media site is _______________.
  • I’ve lived in ___________cities in my life.
  • I laugh every time I think about ______.

Have fun with these, but one piece of advice is to be careful that you don’t leave the blank too open ended for a potentially bad response. Be careful what you make a fill in the blank because people can turn it ugly.  That is what happened when the German grocery chain posted this:

“I became an ALDI-lover when I tasted _______ for the first time.”

Tweet out a straightforward question that’s easy to answer.  When questions are short and simple, it’s easy for followers to respond because they don’t need to spend a lot of time thinking about their answer or trying to fit a longer reply into 140 characters (or fewer if there is a hashtag).

Fill-in-the-blanks social media gets your followers thinking and you challenge to them to show their creative side. The key to making fill-in-the-blank tweets work for your company is to relate them to your followers’ interests.  Then you will have success!

Is Your Bed and Breakfast Organized Enough?

bed and breakfast organized

 

Is your bed and breakfast organized enough? This blog post is inspired by the book called, Organized Enough: The Anti-Perfectionist’s Guide to Getting–and Staying–Organized by Amanda Sullivan.  Our homes and inns are a reflection of our minds.  We must ask ourselves the following questions:

 

  • Why do I need this?
  • What is it doing here?
  • Does it work?
  • Does it get used?
  • When is this needed?
  • Does it reflect me (and the style of our inn)?
  • Do I love it?
  • How many do I need?
  • Where is the logical place that I will remember to look for it?
  • Does it belong here?
  • Does it fit who I am now?
  • Can I let go?

 

Sullivan focuses the first part of her book on the acronym FLOW:

  • Forgive yourself
  • Let stuff go
  • Organize what’s left
  • Weed constantly

 

Her organization tips include:

  • Go through your home and see it as if for the first time (or see it from your guests’ perspectives)
  • Create simple systems with easy routines
  • Gather all of one category to evaluate together (get rid of what is not needed)
  • Make sure your containers are well labeled and easily accessible
  • Keep a bag/box dedicated for items that need to be passed on
  • Having less means fewer objects to keep track of
  • Designate dedicated areas for items (everything needs an exit or resting place)
  • Develop the habit of weeding constantly to keep chaos at bay
  • Put what you regularly use in the easiest access spots
  • Try to deal with the stuff on your desk every day
  • Eliminate piles of paper (including mail) by dealing with it as it comes in
  • Have a recycling bin and shredder near your designated paper area
  • When filing digitally, you want to be able to access what you are looking for and know what a document is without having to open it
  • Be consistent in your labeling system to make it easy for you (and your staff) to find what you’re looking for
  • Keep the most-used files in the front of the easiest access cabinet
  • Store tax information by year (and keep 7 years of tax backup documents)
  • When your file cabinet is full, look to weed rather than buy another file cabinet
  • Give everything a home and stick to those boundaries
  • As we stick with a habit, it requires less and less of our concentration
  • Make a habit of knowing what you have so you can keep your stock replenished without over-purchasing
  • Practice cultivating consistency in all of your routines

 

The benefits to breaking down disorganization habits:

  • Less clutter
  • Less waste
  • Less stress
  • Less running out of things
  • More serene environment
  • More beauty
  • Knowing where things are

Even if the guest areas of your bed and breakfast are very tidy, what about the places that only the owners/innkeepers, their family, and their staff spends time in?  The book specifies that “organized enough” does not mean that all your spaces have to be perfect, but they should be functional.

This book motivated me (Kristi Dement) to organize my piles of mail (it only took me THREE HOURS) into a more efficient system.  I am also going to look into automatic online payments to cut down on the amount of bills I receive in the mail (this saves time and it is better for the environment).  If you want to share any additional positive organization tips, please feel free to comment below.

How to Use Twitter for Hospitality

twitter for hospitality

You can use Twitter for hospitality business growth.  Twitter For Dummies (3rd edition by Laura Fitton, Anum Hussain, and Brittany Leaning) is a book filled with practical information whether you are using Twitter for social or for business purposes or both!

 

Twitter’s limit of 140 characters forces you to focus your thoughts into concise, direct sound bites.  You have 160 characters for your bio statement which could also be your mission statement.

 

 

“@yourtwitterhandle” is where ___________ (types of people) can find ____________ (the value of following your account)

Be sure to link back to your main website so they can learn even more about you and visit/stay at your location.

The key is to give your audience a reason to follow your tweets.  What makes you and your place of hospitality so unique?

  • Amenities
  • Attractions
  • Packages

 

How Businesses Use Twitter:

  • To network with customers and see what they’re saying
  • To answer questions
  • To finely tune a company image
  • To poll and pull in feedback
  • To bring in new leads and customers
  • To take advantage of an innovative form of advertising

 

Twitter Tips:

  • Listen: pay attention to what is going on around you on Twitter
  • Balance: have a good ratio of conversational to business tweets
  • Engage: interact with other Twitter users, follow back people who follow you
  • Public relations: plan and promote events, proactively notify the press

 

Valuable Content to Tweet:

  • Images: pictures of your hospitality location
  • Links to articles: about your business or local area
  • Quotes: to make others think or share great reviews
  • Data: such as useful facts
  • Entertaining content: such as clean humor
  • Smart tips: relevant to what you do
  • Recognition and curation of other great accounts
  • Probing questions: to learn more about your audience
  • Smart answers to others’ questions: be helpful and genuine
  • Retweets: share the tweets that your happy customers mention you in

 

Whether you are a bed and breakfast inn, hotel, or restaurant, your place of hospitality can use Twitter to attract more guests.  With all of these ways to use Twitter and the types of valuable content to share, you can to use Twitter for hospitality business growth.

 

 

7 LinkedIn Groups for Innkeepers

linkedin groups for innkeepers

LinkedIn Groups for Innkeepers can be a helpful way to get support and advice from other bed and breakfasts and others in the hospitality industry.  LinkedIn operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 400 million members in over 200 countries and territories.  All LinkedIn groups are private and those open to membership must request to join the group.

 

Upon acceptance, each group has their own rules for what its members are allowed to post.  If the group’s profile and rules state that no links whatsoever should be posted, its members must abide by that. If you would rather find and join a group with a less stringent view of links, then simply look for a different group.

Group members are not obligated to post anything.  They can just read what other members have posted.  However, many social media experts advise that newcomers introduce themselves to their group. Not only does this let the group know about their new members, but the group will likely reach out to welcome its new members.

Things inn-keeping groups share with each other include hospitality-related articles, online marketing tips, questions for inn-keeping best practices, and much more! A great way to learn information is to ask questions from your group.

The following is a list of just some of the LinkedIn groups innkeepers may want to join:

Bed and Breakfast Business has over 900 members. “Bed and Breakfast group is a group for BnB owners who want to collaborate and communicate with other BnB owners about their business, best practices, tips, etc…”

Bed and Breakfast and Guest House Owners has over 2,000 members.  “Have you ever wondered how you can make 6 figures…from just 4 rooms? Want to know how to get raving fans coming back again and again?…If you’re a bed and breakfast owner, small hotel owner, guest house owner, then join our group and let’s share and help each other.”

Bed and Breakfast Inns has over 400 members.  “BedBreakfastTraveler.com’s goal with the Bed and Breakfast Inns group is to foster partnership, networking, and collaboration among the innkeeping industry. Through sharing of information, resources, and advice, the collective standards and profitability of the group shall increase.”

Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers has over 3,700 members.  “This group page is for Bed&Breakfast Owners across the Globe. Finding your niche as a B&B Owner and making it a success. Sharing what is your unique about your B&B, it’s amenities in what you offer and why you know that an experience at your B&B will be well remembered, and one that ensures your guest will return time and time again.”

B&B Owners Association has over 950 members.  “The B&B Owners Association has 3 main purposes:  1) To provide an independent, stable and well funded Internet marketing organization for the accommodation & hospitality sectors.  2) To ensure cost effective & comprehensive Internet marketing for its members and a effective global promotional vehicle on which to promote their businesses.  3) To ensure the public and Internet user have an easy to use and easy to find accommodation resource.”

Innkeepers has around 2,500 members.  “Bed and Breakfast Business Owners worldwide are welcome to network and share on this Group, whether you are an established Bed and Breakfast business or you want to own and run a bed and breakfast business.”

Just Bed and Breakfast Network has around 250 members.  “Justbedandbreakfast.net is the fastest growing worldwide bed and breakfasts directory offering the most complete list of unique properties from historic inns and guest houses to cabins and farm stays. View bed and breakfast descriptions, photos, reviews, and more.”

At the top of the LinkedIn page under “Interests” click “Groups” and this allows searching for these group titles or using other keywords.  Underneath the search box it will list any groups of which you are currently a member.  Underneath that, users can even create their own LinkedIn group should they desire to do so.  They can focus their membership on a specific geographical area or direct the discussion to a specific topic of interest.

Kristi Dement of Bed and Breakfast Blogging may start her own LinkedIn group.  If I did, what kind of topics would you like to see covered?  Please feel free to share a comment below or use my contact form to notify me directly.

Also, if you are a member of one of these LinkedIn groups (or a different LinkedIn group related to hospitality) and think it beneficial for other innkeepers to join, please tell us the name of your group and what you like about it.  I read all my comments and respond when appropriate.  Thank you!

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

Katie Couric: The Best Advice I Ever Got

the best advice I ever got

 

The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives by Katie Couric is full of practical information for people from all walks of life. Each chapter features a famous person who gives us a sneak peak into what they have learned from their own experiences. At the end of this post is a YouTube video of Katie talking about how she wrote the book and which celebrities contributed their stories.

Comedian and Actor George Lopez: “If you quit, you’ll never find out what could have happened.”

Celebrity Chef and Restaurateur Mario Batali: “As you cook up your own life, never let anyone else’s recipe for success intimidate you…”

 

Emmy Award-Winning Television and Radio Host Larry King: “Learn how to listen.  You don’t learn anything when you are talking.”

Emmy Award-Winning Television Broadcaster, Journalist, and Co-Host of Good Morning America Robin Roberts: “Be patient and persistent.  Life is not so much about what you accomplish as what you overcome.”

Professional Football Player Drew Brees: “What is meant to be will happen for me, and all I should concern myself with is the things I can control.”

Figure-skating Champion Michelle Kwan: “Your finest moments in life aren’t necessarily those in which you finish first but, instead, the times when you know you simply gave your best–when you did it heart and soul, and held nothing back.”

Co-founder of Twitter Biz Stone: “Think about what is valuable before thinking about what is profitable and know that there’s compound interest in helping others–start early!”

Professional Psychologist, Bestselling Author, and Television Host “Dr. Phil” McGraw: “Instead of ignoring these dreams and hoping you can get around to them later on, you have to be committed to developing an action plan, to creating a “life script” with measurable goals, and to building a core of supporters around you to keep you going in the right direction.”

Grammy Award-Winning Artist, Musician, Entrepreneur, Actress, and Activist Alicia Keys: “When you make a decision because you really love what you’re doing, because you’re really passionate about it, believe in it, and because you’d do it no matter what the outcome–that’s when you become most successful.”

Bestselling Cookbook Author and Television Host Ina Garten: “You can’t figure out what you want to do from the sidelines.  You need to jump into the pond and splash around to see what the water feels like.  You might like that pond or it might lead to another pond, but you need to figure it out in the pond.”

Sixty-sixth United States Secretary of State and Stanford University Professor Condoleeza Rice: “The point is that life is full of surprises and serendipity.  Being open to unexpected turns in the road is an important part of success.  If you try to plan every step, you may miss those wonderful twists and turns.”

Four-Star General and Sixty-Fifth United States Secretary of State Colin Powell: “So it doesn’t matter where you start in life but where you finish and, along the way, whether you do something that you love and enjoy doing.  Never settle for anything less than what you love doing and do well.”

Olympic Speed Skater Apolo Ohno: “It’s not really about the destination, but about what it took to get you there.”

Taking Larry King’s advice to learn how to listen, identify at least 3 people who have achieved success and ask them to share their thoughts.  Possible questions could be:

  • What was your greatest challenge?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What do you know now that you wish you could have known earlier in life?
  • Was there anyone who mentored you?
  • How did you become so successful?
  • Is there anything you wish you could have done differently?
  • What are you most excited about for your future?

Essentially, informally interview them (much like Katie Couric interviewed these people) to gain more insight.  If the person you are interviewing knows you well, they will be able to relate this to your goals.

While we each need to do something that aligns with our own personal interests, passions, and goals; we can benefit by the wisdom and experience of the successful people around us.  In addition, we should all be open to sharing the lessons we have learned with those who come to us for advice.

Here is a YouTube video of Katie Couric talking about how she wrote this book!

The Power of Visual Storytelling: Shaping

visual storytelling shaping

 

According to the book The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand by Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio, companies need to do visual storytelling shaping.  Each piece of content needs to have a clear theme and point of view as well as a take away message for the reader.

 

Content needs to be aligned with who you are as a company: voice, personality, and values. Once woven together, these themes shape your story.  It is important to list your goals and determine how visual content can help achieve them.  Ask yourself, if your company were a person, what would it look like in real life?

Embrace social media’s more personable, human side.  Look for the most commonly discussed conversation themes from your online consumers.  Shape your story and identify major themes to craft your visual content mix.  Look at your goals, company voice, and customer feedback by social media platform.

Determine Your Visual Content Mix:

  • The magic is in the mix to keep storytelling fresh
  • It allows you to deliver more personalized content to target audiences across different platforms
  • Evaluate your desired frequency per platform for posts, tweets, pins, etc.
  • Have a formula and clear plan of what steps you will take
  • Frequency varies by company and by social media channel
  • Quality content always trumps quantity and volume
  • Content must be interesting, important, and relevant to your audience
  • The usual shelf life of a tweet is considered an hour at most
  • The shelf life of a Facebook post is around 24 hours
  • Prioritize by social media platform the most important content themes that go into crafting your visual story
  • The mix needs to balance what is important from an ongoing visual storytelling perspective with goals, current events, questions, and general conversation from your customers
  • Content goals will likely change each month depending upon how much news your company has or tweets your making in response to fan engagement
  • Content should aim to be mostly upbeat, fun, motivating, and engaging
  • Outlining content themes makes it easy to identify what messages will be best conveyed as photos, videos, infographics, presentations, etc.

Authors Walter and Gioglio remind us to be listening and responding to what is being said about our company as well as learning the most commonly asked questions.  When we know that, companies can better respond to their own target audience.  This means setting goals and developing a strategy.  Our content will adjust in response to real time as we get live social media feedback.

 

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

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