Study: Tech, Meeting Room Design Helping Drive Changes to Event Venues

IACC’s Meeting Room of the Future survey finds that venues want to be there for event planners if they’re needed, and they’re ready to get out of the way when planners want to take the lead.

Meetings could look a lot different in the years to come, and the blueprint for those meetings might just be hiding inside a new report.

Meeting Room of the Future [registration], a new survey of those who operate and supply meeting venues published by the venue management association IACC, finds that many respondents see it as their role to responding to the changing needs and expectations of meeting planners.

For example, this year’s survey found that 57 percent of venue operators believed their role was to offer “experience creation” assistance to meeting planners, which was up slightly from the year prior.

That said, there’s still plenty of room for planners, too. The survey results also highlighted a more black-and-white differentiation from the prior year—another 7 percent of venue operators said event creation wasn’t their role, up from 4 percent in 2017, while 36 percent said that it was sometimes their role, down from 41 percent the year prior.

“As power continues to shift to participants (albeit still with a very high percentage still advocating their role in this area being important), venue operators are seemingly relying more on meeting planners to provide the ‘experience creation’ element,” the report stated.

One hard-to-miss trend is the push toward more “creative” and “flexible” meeting spaces that mix individual and group areas and allow for different modes of learning. In practice, this can look like a modern shared-office setup like WeWork.

Around 60 percent of respondents said they saw such nontraditional meeting spaces becoming a larger trend, while 74 percent of respondents said they had equipment in at least three quarters of their meeting rooms that allowed the rooms to be used in flexible ways. The desire for flexible spaces is even leading to the use of more lounge-like furniture, including armchairs and couches.

Speaking of furniture, another key factor leading to changes in room setups is power—and the desire for more of it. This has often proved a problem in the past, the report notes.

“Bringing power to tabling in meeting rooms has been tricky as it often results in tables needing to be located and kept in proximity to a floor power socket. This does not allow for easily changeable layouts of rooms,” the report explains.

One solution being offered is having rechargeable batteries built into chairs and tables, which is leading to more flexibility for attendees. All this stuff comes at a cost, though—and nearly two thirds of respondents said that the investment was a limiting factor for furniture investments.

Other highlights of the report include the growth of collaborative technology, the increase of healthier food options, and—this one should make event planners happy—the increased inclusion of high-speed internet access as part of the meeting package.

“As the industry evolves and expands, just as meeting planners must continually evaluate all elements of the meeting experience, operators and suppliers must also ensure they are meeting and anticipating the changing needs of planners,” IACC CEO Mark Cooper said on the association’s website in regard to the study.

(g-stockstudio/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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