Meeting Mentor Magazine

April 2024

IACC Meeting Room of the Future

New Technologies and Space Flexibility
Come up Against Cost Unknowns

Meeting innovation feels like it’s moving faster than the speed of light, and new IACC research substantiates that.

In the first set of reports for the IACC Meeting Room of the Future initiative:
• 75% of responding meeting planners report that their current role involves more “experience creation” than it did two-to-five years ago.
• 77% say that access to interactive technologies — including collaborative tools at meetings — are more important now, compared with the last several years.
• 47% cite the importance of flexible meeting space now over past years.

These key venue elements around uniqueness and flexibility — reflecting a continued trend towards more creative and less traditional options — build on others that remain constant: high-quality broadband, strong acoustics, good lighting, and collaborative spaces for informal gatherings.

While flexibility of space and variety of setups and seating configurations all sound well and good, they come at a cost in labor. “Venues can create a barrier to planners being able to experiment with meeting layout and design, when they charge additional room hire for the use of space, over the delegate package charged,” said the report. “This can reduce options and add to the overall meeting cost.”

So how can the two sides reconcile “experience creation” with the “budget”? “The research highlighted the importance of delegate well-being, and I do not think any of us wants to stare at the same four walls day and night! The need to provide a variety of spaces for different aspects of the meeting, as well as different lighting indoor and outdoor, is critical, but it also needs to be affordable,” said Mark Cooper, CEO, IACC. “When permitted,the venue team (think conference consultant rather than coordinator) put themselves in the seats of meeting leaders, trainers, participants and planners, to build every aspect of each experience, including the design of space, service, technology and culinary offerings.”

As for technology, it will play an even bigger role in meetings than it does now. An increasing percentage of planners’ budgets are devoted to new technologies — event apps, beacons to track traffic and attendance, and videoconferencing. Moving forward, meeting planners will expect venues to have enough bandwidth to accommodate all of their and their delegates’ technological needs — from e-mail and Internet access to smartphone audience participation, conference app and videostreaming. “As clients embrace greater collaborative approaches to meetings and conferences, the use of collaborative technologies will also grow,” said Cooper.

Which makes venue infrastructure the key. “Offering 20 Mb of Internet bandwidth might not be causing issues today, but if you are not planning for 100+ Mb two years down the line, you are behind the curve,” he added. Even more of a reason why security of data will become increasingly important to groups in the next two-to-five years.

IACC’s long-term goal with the initiative is to spotlight what is needed for tomorrow’s meeting rooms and clients’ maximum productivity. The organization, which recently rebranded, represents small- to mid-sized meetings-focused venues that include conference centers, seminar houses, day meeting venues, corporate universities and hotels and resorts. — Maxine Golding

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