Visionary global initiative will transform meetings
As part of an ongoing dynamic initiative from IACC, a second set of research has been conducted and reported following the survey of global venue operators, suppliers and industry experts. IACC Meeting Room of the Future™ aims to transform the meeting experience through a global collaboration of leaders in conference space design, audiovisual technology, hospitality, academia and conference management. The first research, which surveyed meeting planners, was published in April 2016, with this next research focusing on the views of venue operators and suppliers, which draws parallels with the first research. The results were unveiled at IMEX Americas in Las Vegas this week. The project combines innovation and entrepreneurialism with the expertise of meeting industry professionals and planners.
Over 65 venues plus suppliers across four continents were surveyed. Venues included a large number of IACC-certified properties, where the majority or all of their business is derived from meetings and conferences.
Delivering a more profound meetings experience
A key finding from this latest research was that venue operators and suppliers are aware of the changing expectations of meeting delegates and the majority of venue operators see it as their role to provide a great meetings experience, providing new options to the meeting planner. Power has shifted to the participants such that venues and hosts have to deliver impactful and engaging experiences. Gamification, Design Thinking and Matchmaking at conferences, are all good examples of experiences satisfying this important trend.
The report highlights the need for venues to provide more networking and social spaces outside of the meeting room, and food and beverage service at lunchtime needs to facilitate delegates being able to meet people, eat and check in with the office and home during this period.
Physical meeting spaces and design
The report states that fundamentally there are elements of meeting venues that are critical for successful meetings, and these have largely remained constant over the past several years and are projected to remain important in the years to come, including high quality broadband, strong acoustics and good lighting.
Conference and meeting venue operators are addressing their client’s needs by offering meeting rooms that are designed to foster creativity, ice-breakers and themed food and beverage. A significant percentage of operators are also offering outdoor meeting rooms or spaces as well as other physical spaces and activities that promote teambuilding.
Meeting planners do cite a continued trend towards more unique and flexible meeting spaces. When asked how strongly they agree with the statement, “Access to collaborative meeting space will become more important in the next two to five years” (on a scale of 1 -strongly disagree to 10 -strongly agree), meeting planners provided an average rating of “8”, indicating the need for more creative, less traditional options.
Jessie States from MPI cited, “Attendees can no longer bear being stuck in a room listening (or not) to talking heads and mindless speeches. And meeting professionals are being much more strategic about the where, why and how of bringing people together. Meetings are for ‘meeting’ and not for ‘attending’. They are for ‘participating’ and not for ‘observing’. Venues must provide spaces that encourage engagement, boost learning and enhance experiences that foster conversations and growth.”
Both operators and suppliers report the cost of investment as the greatest barrier to investing in new furniture/equipment for more flexible, creative spaces.
Mark Cooper, IACC CEO, comments, “Venue operators whose properties are focused on delivering meetings are not surprised and are in agreement with meeting planners on the major changes and trends affecting meetings today, and those which are likely to in the next two to five years. However, there are also differences between the two groups identified in this research which raise important questions. For instance, are venues investing in new technologies but ignoring the need to invest in Internet infrastructure, including bandwidth?”
57 per cent of venue operators indicated that they did not currently offer collaborative technologies (products which allow greater participation between delegates and presenter, such as Microsoft’s SurfaceHub, or Barco’s ClickShare and other related technologies) in any of their meeting rooms. 32 per cent indicated they did offer collaborative technologies but considered this offering a premium with an additional charge to the client. Venue suppliers also view collaborative technology as a premium product offering to clients. 63 per cent indicated they provide the technology, but at a cost to the client.
These extra costs are creating barriers to greater collaborative technology use for clients. Meeting planners expect the access to interactive technology to become more important than the current top priority when considering venues, being the flexibility of meeting room spaces.
It was evident from this research, that venue operators are increasingly looking to hire staff with IT backgrounds on the basis that is it easier to teach an IT specialist needed AV skills than it is to teach an AV specialist required IT skills.
Communications and connections
Currently 89 per cent of venues surveyed provide meeting delegates Internet access free of charge, but 55 per cent of those require a log in. 11 per cent of venues still require delegates to pay for Wi-Fi, which indicates the balance has finally tipped and Internet access is being considered vital core offering needed by all and not an add-on.
In the first research published earlier this year, on the topic of paid versus free Wi-Fi, one meeting planner commented, “Access to strong, fast, secure broadband should be a given at all meetings and should be provided free by the venue. It still boggles me that some venues charge a premium for using Wi-Fi. When this becomes the norm we’ll be able to use other technologies without barriers.”
The program’s ambitious long term goal is to predict and showcase a clear vision of what is new for today and what solutions need to be sought for tomorrow’s meeting rooms, to deliver what clients want and need for maximum productivity. Collaboration, productivity and inspiration will be at the heart of the 2016 concept, with the plan to build on this annually.
The initiative brings together the brightest minds and companies in the industry, to predict, create and shape the meeting spaces of the future. “As the only global association representing the top 1 per cent of smaller meeting and conference venues in 27 countries, IACC is ideally positioned to evaluate trends in meeting environments,” affirms IACC’s CEO Mark Cooper.
A full copy of the report and infographic can be downloaded from the IACC website here.
Current contributors and research partners include Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Microsoft, Development Councilors International, SICO, Corbin Ball Associates, Sli-do, Warwick Conferences, Summit Conference Centres, MGSM Executive Hotel & Conference Centre and PSAV.