“How can venues make conferences more successful?”

By Rob Davidson

source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/30364433@N05/26666393696

I am very excited about coming back to one of my favourite European capital cities, Belgrade, to speak at the WESTM2017 MICE and Technology conference on the 17th October. The theme of my presentation will be ‘How can venues make conferences more successful?’, which will certainly be of interest to people working in all kinds of venues from hotels to conference centres, as well as to conference organisers.
These days, conference organisers expect much more from the venues that they use for their meetings and events. With such a huge range of venues to choose from, conference organisers want to hire rooms in venues that actually help their events to succeed in reaching their objectives better. In other words, they expect the venue to make a positive contribution to the success of their events, through the services they offer, as well as their design and facilities.
Technology is obviously a key factor, and I will be talking about how venues can meet the demands of conference organisers and conference participants in terms of the technology they expect in venues. Fast and reliable internet is, of course, essential. Today’s participants arrive at events with their smart-phones, tablets and laptops, and they want to use these devices to stay connected with their businesses and clients during the event. So strong bandwidth connectivity throughout the venue is essential, to enable participants to constantly check their emails and download material in the conference room, in break-out rooms, during the coffee breaks, and even over lunch. As well as sucking up a lot of bandwidth, participants’ devices are also power-hungry, and so many venues are installing ‘charging stations’, where mobile phones, laptops and tablets can be recharged without the hazards created by cables spread across the meeting room floors. These charging stations also act as natural networking spaces for participants, another element of successful venues.
I will also be talking about how the interior design and the furniture of venues can be adapted to meet the demands of 21st century conferences. Organisers and participants understand that much of the value of attending events comes from those impromptu, one-to-one discussions or short meetings of a few people that take place on the periphery of the main conference programme. Forward-thinking venues have anticipated this and have responded by providing comfortable, semi-private spaces for such informal meetings, in the form of lounge areas or cool ‘meeting pods’ for the use of participants.
But successful design goes much further than that, especially for the fastest-growing cohort of organisers and participants, Generation Y. They have their own ideas of what a successful venue looks like, and they will go elsewhere if a venue doesn’t match their particular tastes. It goes without saying that natural daylight is a must – as much as possible. But Generation Y also favours venues that are funky, colourful and imaginatively designed. Anonymous, windowless rooms with plain grey walls and neutral-coloured furniture hold no appeal for participants in their 20s and early 30s. Visual stimulation in the form of bright colours, bold designs and imaginative décor are what they are seeking – they are attracted to venues that look more like their own homes rather than traditional, soul-less offices. Interesting pieces of artwork, colourful rugs and plants can help to create the right effect. Forward-thinking venues also use lighting to good effect, through the creative use of different colours projected on to walls according to the desired mood or even the task in hand. For example, we know from experiments that people working in rooms painted red perform best at skills that require accuracy and attention to detail, while people in rooms painted blue do best in creative tasks requiring imagination.
And who cares if the chairs aren’t all the same, arranged in neat rows? Venues are increasingly providing different types of seating in the same room, from armchairs and sofas to garden furniture and bean—bags, so that participants can choose a type of seat according to their mood. Chairs on wheels, rather than fixed to the floor, are also popular with events organisers and participants, because, when it comes to group-working, groups can be easily and quickly formed, unformed and reformed in the room, when the participants’ chairs are on casters.
I will have much more advice on how venues can make themselves attractive for conferences and other events, when I speak at WESTM on the 17th October. See you there!

 

Rob Davidson
MICE Knowledge, UK