What Will the Meeting Room of the Future Look Like?

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IACC reportA new IACC report finds that the need to create more experiential events is driving planners to seek new ways to use existing venue spaces.

Four out of five meeting and event planners say their key priority now is “experience creation,” according to the “Meeting Room of the Future 2023” survey report from the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC), which was released earlier this month. The need to provide new and vital experiences is greater now than it was pre-COVID in large part because of the rise in remote-work and the need to get together face-to-face after a two-year shutdown of in-person events. But good, productive experiences mean they want to use on-property spaces in different ways, the survey of 275 planners found.

For one thing, they want to use more of the available indoor space than they used to, including areas outside the usual ballroom and breakout spaces, such as hallways and pre-function areas. It’s these non-traditional areas that promote what the report calls “The Linger Effect,” meaning that attendees want to hang out in comfort in these areas to discuss what they’ve learned in the formal sessions and share insights and solutions with each other. However, even general session space can be broken up into different sections to create more inviting and intimate spaces, in addition to adding lounge-type areas to the pre-function space. And they want to take their sessions outside when possible, meaning they seek to use more of a venue’s outdoor spaces both for formal educational sessions and for information networking.

IACC report
The 275 planners surveyed for the IACC report, who hailed from the U.S., Europe, Asia Pacific and Africa, also said they wanted to be able to use a wider variety of furniture in those spaces to create different types of learning and experiential environments — and they want to have venue staff on hand to help them create new and more experiential configurations. They also want their host venues to offer more options for interactive technology, both to broadcast to a remote audience and also to create more interaction among on-site attendees. Among the tech they want are being able to use their event app outside of general sessions to provide attendees a way to share their perspectives throughout the day via audience-response. Another item on their tech wish list is social media walls they can use to showcase images and interaction of both on-site and remote attendees via different social media channels.

Not surprisingly, good, strong, dedicated and fast Wi-Fi is a must for planners now and for the near future, the IACC report found. Good connectivity is key both for the 44% who provide two-way communication for remote attendees — and those planners anticipate the need for two-way tech will only rise over the next few years. This means that host venues need to be prepared to handle the internet needs of multiple groups who likely will need to use the venue’s Wi-Fi for two-way communication simultaneously. Another 35% said their needs are a little less urgent, but they still want to be able to stream their live content out to those remote attendees.

Also not surprisingly, planners said they’d really like to see the cost of high-speed wireless connectivity come down to more affordable levels, with 37% saying affordable or free high-speed wireless internet would be the most critical technology for events over the next three years. Other top tech needs, the report found, were data security (23%), interactive technology (16%) and streaming support (11%).

Sustainability also is on planners’ radars, but less so in the U.S. than for their international counterparts. For example, in Europe, about half of those surveyed said they request their venues to provide a measurement of their event’s carbon footprint, compared to just 14% of planners in the Americas.

Download IACC’s Meeting Room of the Future report here.

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