I was recently referred to a hotel in Barcelona as a “meeting design expert” I popped along and had a look at a good (if rather too traditional) meetig space. I met with a couple of their senior team and tried to get handle on their interest in meeting design.
Now this type of meeting is nothing new, or interesting in itself, but the conversation was, I believe, very typical of the understanding and mis-understanding that venues have of meeting design. So I thought I would use it as a basis for this post.
How venues can support meeting design
First, let’s look at the principles of meeting design. Underpinning my philosophy of meeting design is the belief that the meeting should be designed to take into account three fundamental aspects which support the attendees’ ability to learn:
1. the brain is not a tape recorder and it remembers little of what is delivered
2. there is a need for white space (where nothing happens) and light space (where the content is very light indeed)
3. the environment matters and impacts the learning
So in helping venues understand meeting design we should obviously start with the third principle, the environment.
Dull rooms make for dull content
This is so simple to understand; yet how many venues still have their meeting rooms in a dull, uninspiring, natural light free basement? If you have an environment that no one wants to spend more than an hour in, you have – b y bad design – a bad environment, and your clients will have a bad even. Venues have to ask themselves how are they supporting the organiser to ensure that the content delivered will be remembered and enjoyed by the attendees.
Meeting Design is so much more than furniture, but furniture does matter
Having a variety of furniture available in the venue, or in the same room, supports the space to be informal and flexible and this will make it easy for the meeting designer to bring everyone together or break everyone up. This flexiblity is crucial for meeting design.
Interactive and creative spaces
There’s two examples here. The first picture shows hot the venue really supports attendees to really get involved in the space. In this particular venue, you could write on the walls and the glass: basically the room is like one massive flip chart! Having this type of space spread out across the room allows the meeting designer that much needed flexibility. It also allows the attendees to be more creative.
There’s a few things to note from the picture below. I especially like the train track on the side of the wall! Again, these little things are proven to help attendees to feel more at ease, relaxed and creative. They also make the venue truly unique and VERY IMPORTANTLY! memorable. This is important for the organiser but I would argue event more important if you are a venue or a hotel! If a client plans to use meeting design, they will need their attendees to be in a particular state: the meeting designer wants relaxed attendees and the venue plays a crucial role in supporting attendees.
You can also see that the space is bright and engaging, there isn’t any natural daylight (sometimes there is nothing a venue can do about that) but it’s not missed because this space is so bright.
Every venue is different, despite many of them being exactly the same!
No matter the location of a venue it has the potential to be suitable for clients who want to use meeting design. The key is to move away from the “blank canvas” approach that was so 1990s! and create a unique space. By appealing to the “meeting designer” client, you will create an environment that will be more appealing to the more traditional meeting organiser too.
The three pictures are from the recently developed Marriott Hotel, Kensington, London.