It will only become more important for event venues to provide high-quality internet access. That’s one takeaway from IACC’s fresh-off-the-press “2018 Meeting Room of the Future Report” that will likely not surprise you. But there are plenty of other findings that provide food for thought — and yes, F&B was covered in IACC’s research.
More than 50 venues across four continents took part in the report, a large number of which said that meetings, conferences, and training represented between half and 100 percent of their business mix, and that they hosted an average group size of less than 100 delegates. In addition, suppliers to the venues — including global meeting-space designers, architects, technology companies, F&B experts, and furniture manufacturers — were separately surveyed for their insights.
The report covered a number of areas related to event spaces. Here are some highlights:
There’s a disconnect between how venues see themselves as sharing in the role of “experience creation” with event planners. As planners say they are increasingly tasked with creating memorable experiences for their participants, venue operators see their role in providing “experience creation” lessening. The ways in which venue operators said they can assist with experience creation included creative meeting rooms, themed food & beverage, outdoor meeting rooms/spaces, ice-breakers, and team building (with culinary team building a popular choice).
But as on- and off-site experiences and amenities become more meshed, the report noted that venues must consider how their facilities and meeting-space design fit in the whole of the participants’ experience.
Flexible meeting spaces are growing in popularity to support three different modes of active learning — auditory, visual, and collaborative — in ways that are easy to reconfigure during sessions without interruption. More casual area breakouts — “wherever space” — rather than formal breakout rooms are also becoming increasingly important. (We spoke about that in our April issue cover story.)
While there were fewer venues offering video-conferencing hardware and screen-sharing technology, the number of venues offering virtual reality has quadrupled vs. the venue responses in last year’s survey.
Not surprising, high-quality internet will continue to be the most important meeting requirement in the coming years, not just in the meeting rooms, but in public spaces and guest rooms. And venues are increasingly offering internet access free of charge to clients or included as part of a meeting package.
As Jurab Holub, Slido, said in the report: “In 2018, audience interaction is much more than a five-minute Q&A at the end of a session. To deliver an engaging experience we need to align flexible meeting space, conversational presentation formats, and collaborative technology. When they’re glued together by a skilled moderator, that’s when magic happens.”
Slightly more venues — 80 percent vs. 77 percent — offer continuous refreshment break services, and 90 percent of respondent venues say that sustainability and sustainable practices are more important to their venues than they were three years ago. In addition, F&B has been elevated to an experience, as Australian executive chef George Hill noted in the report, that has “become more than just feeding people; it has evolved into a fashion of food as entertainment.”
Guests are looking for new ways to interact socially during the dining experience. This might include participating in meal preparation, selecting their own food (a farm-to-table experience in which diners visit the fields first to pick vegetables) and touring the kitchen while chefs and staff show how they prepare the meals.
It’s incumbent on event venues to help provide organizers create the best possible experience for attendees, IACC CEO Mark Cooper said. “With the importance of creating memories through experiences and inspiring delegates gaining more traction,” he said, “we encourage venue teams to put in place a range of experiences that are unique and help meeting planners touch as many of the five senses — sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell — as possible.”
You can download the full results of the Meeting Room of the Future report here.