The Essential TED Talk Guide to Hotel Technology

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Technology can be a complicated thing. There are no set standards, no instruction manuals, or walk-throughs for every new update and tool that takes over the market. You just have to dive in.

Easier said than done.


I’m still very much part of that Millennial marketplace so many industries seek to inundate with advertisements, the generation that is supposed to be on trend with the latest apps and advances. But there are times when I don’t even know what’s going on. (To put it this way, my editor just said something about Peach and I had no idea what she was talking about until I shamefully Googled it, hunched over my screen in over-the-hill embarrassment.)

As a hotelier, you probably feel overwhelmed with hotel technology, too. New tech breakthroughs and gadgets come onto the marketplace, but what to do with them? Are there possibilities for virtual reality at a hotel or a reason why wearables are so enviable in the industry? Who even has the money in their budget to find out? Of course, when you do, you’re already behind.

So how can you stay on top of your tech skills and new business trends without wasting time or money?

The great thing about the internet is that there are so many free tools at your fingers (free hotel software included). But aside from marketing tips or online classes, videos can be a great resource to teach yourself about what’s up-and-coming in the tech industry, especially if they’re TED Talks.

But instead of letting you sift through the videos on your own, I’ve found five key TED Talks so you can get a quick leg up on the latest tricks and trends in hotel technology.

10 top time-saving tech tips by David Pogue

Time is of the essence in the hotel industry. Guests need to be checked-in, shown to their rooms, and given a high-quality first impression to cement your hotel’s reputation.

We all know that the hotel industry lags when it comes to hosting up-to-date technology. With an emphasis on those human touches, technology usually falls to the backburner, resulting in a long catch-up process when forced with becoming outdated.

But it shouldn’t be that way. Rather, tech in the hotel industry should be seen as a way to facilitate time-consuming processes so that you can have more time to add those human touches.

In this first TED Talk, David Pogue does a six-minute runthrough of ten tech tips guaranteed to save you some time. While you may already know a few, you still might find yourself surprised by other tricks he showcases in his presentation. From laptop shortcuts to cellphone keypad hacks, expect to learn a few things out of this short presentation to help you save time in the future, especially if you’re working at the front desk.

Top Takeaways: Don’t see tech as something confusing, or even time-consuming. I know I’m biased when it comes to the importance of hotel property management software, but look at technology as a tool to help you maintain organization, keep a 24/7 profile, and even enhance your reputation through online reviews.

Catching up to the latest in the tech industry may seem daunting, but staying on the forefront of what’s new helps to meet the needs of guests who are growing increasingly technologically savvy.

Think of it this way: in an age where you can order pizza online, shouldn’t you be able to have a room service option that does the same? You may see it as lazy, but it may be second-nature to your Smartphone guests.

How Airbnb designs for trust by Joe Gebbia

As a hotelier, I’m sure your first reaction to seeing the word “Airbnb” either resembled something like uncontrollable hostility or an immediate eye-roll.

Stay with me.

You may see Airbnb as the axis of evil to the hotel industry, but don’t forget there are always things you can learn from other businesses, in particular if they’re your competition.

Ignoring your competitor does nothing for your business, and, in a way, can be damaging if you don’t learn to grow and evolve as a hotel. Imagine if you didn’t use hotel management software just because you’ve always done things a certain way? Sounds more like you’re serving your own needs rather than your guests’.

So the fact that so many turn to  Airbnb rather than an established hotel speaks volumes about both industry and guest, meaning it’s worth a look to see what Airbnb may be doing differently (or even better) to give you a new perspective on your own property.

And don’t let the green shoes fool you. Gebbia really does have some great insight on the cross sections of technology and design, both of which should be standard to any hotel looking to become more modern.

Top Takeaways: When it comes to technology, and particularly online reviews, design matters. As Gebbia mentions, a “well-designed reputation system” enabled  Airbnb to collect customer reviews that were both informative and helpful, inevitably leading to a reliable reviews system and higher satisfaction.

For hotel managers, Gebbia’s advice rings true, considering that “61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision.” Since consumer reviews are more trusted than what a business says about their own product, it’s a worthwhile investment to ensure that your reviews system or any other tech tool is easy and accessible to your guests.

Think of how frustrating some software solutions can be. Something that’s meant to be helpful for you only makes processes more complicated and you more frustrated. Don’t let your guests feel that way.

What’s wrong with your pa$$w0rd? by Lorrie Faith Cranor

While only dealing with passwords, the issue of data security is on the rise in the hotel industry space. Just look at the attacks that took place last year. Whether targeting payment processors for customer card data or even your own computer system and network, hacking as a whole has grown, with more than 707.5 million data records lost or stolen in 2015 alone.

For hoteliers, this can spell disaster for your reputation, as guest safety and security should be your top concern. Reputation fallout can lead to losses in the millions and mar your brand. Big name chains may be able to afford the losses, but smaller hotels may not be so lucky.

Top Takeaways: Understand that while some believe a hack is inevitable, do your best to prevent one from happening in the first place. Employee ignorance of phishing scams or password proficiency are just some of the ways that hackers manage to weave their way into your systems, and can result in a serious compromise of both customer and employee data.

Whether you decide to have an all-hands meeting about the threat of data breaches or have employees complete a series of phishing quizzes to give them a better grasp of the problem, it’s an issue that demands attention in an industry where reputation is paramount.

Big data is better data by Kenneth Cukier

Have you heard the buzz surrounding big data?

In his TED Talk, Kenneth Cukier breaks down exactly what big data is and its benefits to both industry and science.

With big data, Cukier asserts, we have the ability to analyze trends and learn more about customer behavior, which can help hospitality professionals concentrate their efforts on favorite activities and places visited by guests.

“More data allows us to see new. It allows us to see better,” he says. “It allows us to see different.”

Disney’s MagicBands, for instance, help analyze guest data so the park can understand the habits of their visitors and what ride or attractions guests are drawn to. With this information, marketers can focus on advertising a particular attraction or ones that aren’t receiving the same amount of attention. The bands even have the potential to measure the impact of a marketing campaign to see if it’s successful or changes guest behavior.

However, Cukier also touches on the downsides of big data, including how its unethical use could spell disaster, striking parallels between Steven Spielberg’s film Minority Report.

Key Takeaways: While Cukier doesn’t touch on the hospitality industry directly, much of what he says about big data’s abilities to help customize and learn more about people are things that could truly revolutionize the industry.

Similar to Disney’s MagicBands, hotels could make use of wearables to measure popular check-in and checkout times, or hotspots on their property where they should be focusing the majority of their efforts. For example, if most guests gravitate towards the pool during the afternoon, it would be worth it to relocate more employees to the pool area during that time to meet the needs of their guests. Or if most guests ordered room service around 8p.m., hotels could use that data to (and maybe even what the guests ordered) for food prep.

The business logic of sustainability by Ray Anderson

In his TED Talk, Ray Anderson, once an environmental offender, details his own transformation and the world transformation as more environmentally-conscious. Sharing statistics from how his carpet business has changed over the years, Anderson shows that even changes in a seemingly minor sector can drastically cut costs and deliver more sustainable products that still attract customers.

Claiming that his company’s sustainable practices have led to “400 million dollars of avoided costs,” the benefits of going green are not only great for the environment, but also great for businesses with smaller or tight budgets.

Key Takeaways: While hotels and industrial engineering may seem drastically different, Anderson’s case for all businesses partaking in sustainability also works for the hospitality industry. From cutting back on food waste to finding more water-efficient washers, there are a variety of affordable ways in which hotels can cut back on their carbon footprint and become more sustainable. If interested, check out my post on five affordable ways to create a green hotel.


Are there any other TED Talks that you think help teach hoteliers more about technology? Let me know in the comments below.

Looking for Hospitality Property Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Hospitality Property Management software solutions.

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