A Welcome Evolution In Meeting Space Design by Marcia Bradford
Years ago, as a conference attendee, I often felt frustrated that I was visiting a beautiful resort area or interesting city, yet ended up spending most of my time in a windowless meeting room. There were many times when I headed home disappointed that I hadn’t gotten to see much of the place where I had just spent a few days.
Over the past year I have had the opportunity to travel to a number of Southern destinations and it has been gratifying to learn that many meeting-goers–especially Millennials–share my inclination to explore and enjoy the places where they attend meetings. It is even more encouraging to learn that civic leaders, architects and others involved in designing convention centers and meeting hotels are responding to demands for more connected and interactive meeting sites.
As new buildings are planned and existing structures are updated, the focus now is not just on expanding the amount of space available. It’s also about creating space that takes advantage of its surroundings. Convention centers are removing exterior walls to create large windows, terraces and other outdoor spaces that offer attractive views and entice meeting-goers to get outside and interact with the place they are visiting. Hotels are renovating lobbies and other public use areas to provide spaces where meeting participants can gather to collaborate and socialize.
Fortunately, facilities are upgrading their data capability to address the growing demands for wireless connectivity. Studies of technology use indicate that nearly all business travelers carry at least one connectible device, while some carry as many as five, and these people expect to be able to use a reliable, high-speed connection wherever they go.
Venues are also using technology to improve the meeting experience in other ways, with digital signage and LED lighting that allows meeting planners to set the mood for specific types of events. They are incorporating “green” aspects into new and renovated structure, working to be more energy efficient and sustainable, as well as less wasteful.
It’s an exciting time for host cities and meeting planners alike, as the options for engaging, connected, interactive and green meeting sites expand. See and learn more in this year’s featured focus issue on New and Renovated meeting facilities across the South.