It used to be that business meetings and conferences were boring, rote affairs where attendees, armed with laptops or pads of paper, sat quietly taking notes and not interacting much with their fellow colleagues. The lectures were long and not engaging, the food and coffee were lackluster, and meeting and following up with other attendees was difficult.
Today, attendees are demanding that meetings be fun and memorable. They want their conferences and business events to be more personal and interactive, with meeting spaces that allow more opportunities for networking and content that is short, succinct and easy to share.
Making Meeting Spaces More User-Friendly
In my position as director of event management at Denver Hilton Inverness, I meet regularly with corporate meeting and event planners looking for rooms and layout configurations that are flexible and can be quickly and easily adjusted based on the changing needs of their gatherings. Planners are opting for meeting rooms that can efficiently become think tanks with comfortable seating options that feature built-in writing and typing surfaces. Having easily divisible spaces also facilitates meetings where groups can congregate together or break apart into smaller groups if needed.
Outside of dedicated meeting rooms used for presentations and lectures, planners also are looking for informal meeting spaces such as networking areas and communal workspaces where attendees can interact. Not only do these areas set the stage for collaborative thinking and planning, they also help to personalize the attendees’ experiences and provide for activities and interactions with others that can increase the value of the meeting.
Delivering and Sharing Short, Concise Meeting Content
Long conference meetings and lecture sessions not only take attendees away from their offices, they create content that’s not easy to digest or share. Instead, planners are opting for more condensed, short sessions with content that’s succinct and to the point.
Often, companies have conference attendees who can’t physically be there for the meeting. To accommodate these attendees, many conference venues have upgraded their interactive video, audio and screen-sharing technology and utilize the cloud to connect team members around the world. There are also digital sharing apps and platforms that help meetings be more interactive and collaborative and less content-focused.
F&B as Networking Opportunities
In the past, the food and beverage component of conferences and meetings was not a tactical choice. But today, the added focus on networking has made planners approach breaks and meals as opportunities for collaborating and making connections, which enriches the experience and value for all attendees.
Instead of large, seated banquet-style dinners, we’re getting more requests for flexible reception-style meals with interactive food stations featuring on-trend, healthy dishes. Also, attendees today have a wide variety of food preferences, allergies and diets, and venues must upgrade their selections accordingly to provide a range of offerings, including vegetarian and vegan options.
The same holds true for breaks during meeting sessions. Rather than short 10-minute breaks, planners are lengthening them and asking venues to provide upgraded coffee options such as cold brews and lattes and creative food presentations where attendees can connect and network.
Julie Finn is director of event management at Hilton Denver Inverness. She oversees conference services, catering and A/V and personally manages every meeting on the property. She has worked with five Presidents, many heads of states and countless celebrities.