A meeting is a meeting, just as a meeting table is well, a table where you have meetings at. Right? Well, not entirely, because it seems that nowadays we’re quite literally breaking through the ceiling and move away from those practical, but sometimes boring meeting rooms. What are the seven trends that make meetings, conferences and incentives so exciting in this day and age, and in the years to come?
1. The loft
Don’t be surprised if you find the marketing manager presenting his or her spread sheets, sitting back completely relaxed in a bean bag while sipping a smoothie. Hotels and meeting venues play a huge role in making meeting rooms more enjoyable, focusing on Feng Shui and other philosophies from the Far East. The long table and artificial light is replaced by natural furnishing, with high wooden tables, cozy seats, softly lit lounge areas and business deals being closed around the fire place. Just as you would have in a modern, elegant loft.
2. The great outdoors
Who ever said that meetings by definition should take place indoors anyway? Any venue that is up to speed with the increasing demand for ecological and sustainable facilities, offers its customers meetings or at least break outs in the great outdoors. And why not? A fresh breeze, a shot of vitamin D, a lovely biological lunch in the garden: a guarantee for sharpening the senses of your attendees instantly. The sky is literally the limit: why not take your guests to a mountain hut in the Alps? In Singapore, organize a morning session on a rooftop terrace, poolside of course. Just make sure you have your Mifi's in place (portable Wifi routers that make it possible to connect to the internet, thus creating a personal hotspot any place, anywhere).
Top hotels and tourism boards all over the world have known for quite a while now that their business guests will not always be just business guests. Most have a partner, a family, friends. So why make the strict distinction between business people and those visitors who want to spend a relaxing holiday? If you showcase what kind of leisure options you have to offer during, say, a conference, next summer they might come back with the whole family. Successful meeting planners know: it’s not just about an efficiently organized meeting or conference, it’s all about the fun and experiences a venue or destination has to offer after – or even during – business hours. Offer yoga sessions before breakfast, organize a city walk or a wine tasting session in the bar. Blending business with pleasure, or bleisure, is a trend not to be missed: because the line between work and play is increasingly blurred. We like to call it a win-win situation.
4. Unplug and be mindfull
There's nothing more annoying than going into a brainstorm or meeting while your mind is stressed about those emails you still have to answer and reports you have to hand in the next day. Being online all the time – or having the feeling that you’re missing out when your not (hello social media!) - is a killer for efficiency, because you lack focus and your creativity and energy will simply not be flowing the way they should be. That’s why more and more companies have entered the concept of mindfulness into the meeting room. Mindfulness is all about the ‘now’, the present moment. Focus and attention are key here. It will help participants see things more clearly and make better decisions. Unplug. Tomorrow is another day, the present is now.
As we all know, the MICE industry suffered a real blow during the crisis. Costs were cut back drastically, budgets were limited. Now, almost ten years later, a certain form of luxury is back. Perhaps not that decadent, over-the-top luxury from before the crisis, but companies are willing to pay for quality and content again. There’s nothing wrong with splurging every now and then – all being it in a somewhat more profound matter. It’s up to the meeting industry to facilitate that with state-of-the-art equipment, professional guidance, fun experiences and outstanding hospitality.
6. Sharing is caring
Hundreds of books have been written about the meeting industry, numerous lectures given. But at the end of the day, best practices from your peer-to-peer network have proven to be just as educational. Your colleagues in the field often experience the same challenges you face, or have brilliant tips about that one, unique venue or destination. Why not share that knowledge? At Meetingselect, we do it all the time: because we’re constantly looking for new meeting venues to enlarge our database and make new contacts.
So make connections! This can be done in various ways: through a Linkedin group, during a networking event, through blogs, vlogs, apps and newsletters. It’ll safe you a lot of time and money, and the energy you experience by learning from each other is priceless. The person sitting next to you at a conference might be just as inspiring as the one who is on stage.
7. Technology as a basic need
As much as we all have the need for a digital detox every now and then: a venue that has poor technical facilities will not be booked a second time, period. In the top 5 of biggest irritations during a meeting or conference is a slow internet connection, having to pay for WiFi, and technical equipment that does not deliver what it promised. Beamers that malfunction minutes before your presentation, incompatible software: we’ve all been there. Having that covered, as a meeting venue you will add serious value by taking care of technical gadgets like smart boards, social media walls, live streams, audience responsive systems and 3D presentation capabilities.