We've all read the reports, blogs, and tweets about the ever-increasing demand for more unique meeting experiences. In fact, that word “experience” seems to be coming up more and more in meeting planning conversations.
Over the past several years, the meeting planning industry has increasingly tested the boundaries of what a meeting can be. Meetings are no longer just a time slot for group work and decision making. They're an opportunity to create a complete, participatory experience that can be used to foster collaboration, enhance education, and build deeper engagement with your brand. This is especially true when meeting with another party, such as a potential partner, supplier, or vendor. However, creating the right experience for your group requires a complete understanding of the meeting's purpose, group demographic, and attendee expectations. Armed with this information, you will be able to incorporate the design trends listed below to create an event experience that will engage and delight your attendees.
1. Unlikely Locations
Business travel and meetings are a way of life for many industries and jobs. Typically, major transportation hub cities are the go-to site for events that bring people together from long distances. However, with interest for those cities waning among career travelers, event and meeting planners are looking to second- and third-tier cities for new and interesting places to host events. Not only can these cities be more affordable options, but many are rich with history and character, allowing participants to make a deeper connection with the local community and the event itself. It also creates a more unique and memorable event for attendees by allowing them to experience cities they might not normally seek out on their own.
2. Non-Traditional Venues
The use of non-traditional venues has exploded within the past couple years, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. Loft spaces, art studios, quirky museums, and even manufacturing plants and airplane hangars are being re-purposed into unique meeting spaces that capture the imagination. Selecting a non-traditional venue and promoting it effectively will ignite your invitees' curiosity. That said, while the "wow" factor is important, pursuing a venue for the wrong reason could end up costing you big time. You still need to ensure the venue offers everything your group needs in order to be productive. If executed properly, your event will create a severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out) for those on the fence about attending, and you'll be on your way to creating an event experience that attracts and engages attendees like never before.
3. Distinctive food and beverage options
Today’s event attendees are more conscious than ever about the food they eat, the way it's produced, and how it supports the local economy. The occasional vegetarian meal accommodation of the past is now accompanied by requests for food options that are gluten free, allergy conscious, locally grown, environmentally friendly, and more. (Surprisingly, sufficient accommodations for those with special dietary needs is still one of the most commonly forgotten meeting planning details.) Moving away from the traditional buffet set and offering a selection of small bites or menus focused on locally grown offerings is a great way to make your event a more immersive and memorable experience. Beverage selections that include tea stations, mocktails, and locally brewed beers and spirits are also becoming increasingly popular with guests.
4. Unique Seating
Non-traditional meeting room furniture is one of the biggest trends in meeting design, according to a recent IACC study. Seating can create visual interest, support the meeting purpose, and help set the tone for your event. Bean bag chairs can create a fun, casual environment. Overstuffed couches can evoke a homey, more comfortable feel. Modular furniture able to be re-arranged by attendees can encourage interaction and engagement. Furniture blocks, such as those offered by Everblocks, allow participants to build their own seating, and can double as team building opportunities. Utilizing non-standard seating and layouts can completely change the social dynamic of your event and even jump-start your collaboration session.
5. The space outside the space
Having space outside of the traditional meeting area is an important consideration in your event design. Now, more than ever, attendees are seeking out areas for impromptu discussions, a quiet retreat, or to make quick check-ins with their office, email, or social media. Consider incorporating small networking nooks into your meeting design, including quiet areas where guests can go to relax, connect, or collect their thoughts for the next session. Outfitting these areas with furniture that offers charging capabilities is also appreciated by attendees. Hosting your event with a dedicated meeting delivery partner is a great way to ensure your participants have everything they need.
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