Home-style settings, networking spaces and a peek at the great outdoors—all are features that will mark the meeting room of the future, according to the second phase of the International Association of Conference Centers' Meeting Room of the Future study. This phase delved into the venue and supplier view on meeting spaces. (See this article for more on the first-phase results, which focused on what planners say about their challenges and what they want in venues.) IACC CEO Mark Cooper presented highlights of the latest study results at his session at IMEX America last week.
More than 65 venues across four continents took part in the study, which covered topics including the role of venues in experience creation, trends in meeting space and meeting room design, food and beverage issues, and technology requirements.
Experience Creation Is Key
A key finding from the meeting planner analysis was the increasing importance of “experience creation,” the study says. Approximately 75 percent of responding meeting planners report that their current role involves more “experience creation” than two to five years ago.
In response, the IACC study shows, some 55.7 percent of venue operators report that it is their role to provide the “experience creation” element for clients and their delegates. A slightly smaller percentage of suppliers (51 percent) feel that it is their role to provide “experience creation” elements.
Venues Get Creative
To help shape that custom experience, conference and meeting venue operators today offer meeting rooms that are designed to foster creativity, themed food and beverage, and ice-breakers. A significant percentage of operators are also offering outdoor meeting rooms or spaces as well as other physical spaces and activities that promote team building, Cooper noted.
In response to the trend towards flexible meeting space and room design, 69 percent of venue operators report that now 75 percent or more of their meeting rooms have furniture/equipment that allows for multiple flexible layouts. When asked for examples of new furniture and equipment that venue operators were incorporating into their facilities, these were highlighted the most often:
“Fireside chat” seating
Bean bag chairs
Chalk paint walls
Ergonomic or eco-friendly furniture
Kitchen- and dining-style furniture
Lounge areas and seating
On-site recreational facilities
Interactive white boards
Mobile AV equipment
Refreshment Breaks Mean Business
Meeting planners placed a high degree of importance on the refreshment breaks and meals, the IACC study says, in how the breaks impact delegates, facilitate networking, and build relationships. Continuous refreshment break stations remain the preferred solution, with fewer options, but healthier snacks. Some 20 percent of venue operators say they see a trend in venues offering conference delegates continuous refreshment break services throughout the day.
Food Gets Healthier
Not only are venue operators supplying continuous refreshments, but their food and beverage offerings are moving towards healthier, locally sourced finger foods that allow meeting attendees to freely move about the space and mingle with other attendees, the study says.
Venue operators and suppliers are implementing more initiatives around health and wellness, promoting the importance of sustainability, incorporating locally sourced food items, promoting healthy eating and active living, and overall making significant changes to their food and beverage offerings, IACC says.
Internet Access Reigns
While there are notable changes and expectations around meeting room design, the study says, the No. 1 priority across the meetings and events industry is providing high-quality broadband Internet.
According to operators, the top three technology-related items being invested in more this year based on feedback from clients includes:
1. Bandwidth: 33 percent
2. AV equipment: 20 percent
3. Collaborative technology: 15 percent
The need to connect with the outside world and keep in touch with work and family will continue to impact the length of breaks and the style of food and beverage service to support the need to complete multiple tasks during break and meal times throughout the day, the IACC study says.
The venue facilities and food and beverage they offer play an important part in ensuring that the well-being of the delegate is being looked after. Where outdoor spaces are available, they should be made available for networking, food and beverage service, and team activities.