Monday, June 8, 2015

Useful tips for meeting planners contribute towards healthier conferences

1. Look out, here comes Gen Y, The Millennials!  More fluent in technology, this new generation is addicted to social media, is even more environmentally conscious than their predecessors--the Gen Xers, and has high expectations of connectivity, interactivity, and the ability to influence and engage in dialogue.  They know how to seek out free Wi-Fi, and as they enter the workplace and start attending meetings, they expect Wi-Fi to always be free and fast!
2. Think Socialising rather than Networking  Socialising at work used to be frowned upon, taking on somewhat negative connotations.  But increasingly, socialising is seen as relationship-building, and for meetings, conference venues encourage relaxed socialising by providing multi-use spaces for conferees to gather together.  It turns out that conferees actually do talk business in these welcoming environments!
3. Switch up the Mood!  Meeting rooms have seen radical makeovers in terms of design, color and creative seating options of late. New developments in technology have allowed venues and organizers to instantly change the look and feel of a meeting room with user controllable LED mood lighting, high-tech furniture groupings and more.
4. Geofence Your Conference  Important advances in GPS-based app technology enable planners and venues to now personalise a delegates’s welcome and offer other location-based alert notifications upon arrival.  For example, a badge is printed when the conferee enters the geofence (think venue), with notification sent via the app to the badge printing location. Providing useful location information and navigation assistance, the geofence can notify attendees where they are on a map and give guidance on where they wish to go.
5. Conference Networking and Information Exchange  Developments in app-based two-way communication means that with user permission, one’s smart phone can easily transmit contact information, social media profiles, specific meeting room access information, meal tracking, food preferences, and much more. Communication between attendees can be enhanced with notifications, pictures and other information about who is nearby.   Consider the value of automated demonstrations (videos, etc.) for exhibitor products that meeting groups can offer their sponsors as a marketing enhancement.  Instant and targeted contact is king today; new technologies and applications that help foster participant engagement and social interaction will grow in popularity and usage. 
6. The Sky’s the Limit...For Now!  We have seen a dramatic rise in the use of drones in extreme sports -- and now conference organisers are using this affordable technology to capture creative event photos and map out the venue for GPS integrated conferences.  What will “tomorrow’s” technology bring to outpace the functionality of drones!
7. The Days of the Cable are Numbered  Just when venues think their under-counter box of chargers is current and complete, technology moves on and we get closer to a single standard for wireless charging technology, after years of competing standards. Currently pushing for a single standard, QI Consortium boasts wireless charging points in 3,000 hotels.  With large scale furniture makers such as IKEA installing standardized wireless charging into tables and desks they sell, the writing is on the wall for meeting venues to incorporate wireless charging points into bar tops, meeting room tables and guestrooms.  They better do so this year, as 2015 is sizing up to be the year the hospitality industry finally took standardising wireless charging technology and its availability seriously!
8. Meet your Virtual Colleague  There are times when its just not possible to get everybody in the same place at the same time.  Conference venues understand this and are making the virtual attendee experience much better.  How? Venues are developing meeting rooms with multiple ceiling-mounted microphones, high-bandwidth connectivity and advanced software solutions to provide seamless integration into the meeting for virtual attendees, faculty and guest speakers.  Additionally, there is an increase in clients wanting to capture video to send to another physical location, where a second group of participants is gathered.
9. Conference Venues Welcome Streetview Technology  The trend toward part-time meeting planners who are NOT full-time professional planners but may be an executive assistant, marketing coordinator, human resource professional or department head, is on  the increase.  Today's meeting planner, therefore, expects and requires more from their venue partners, in terms of evaluating venues’ capabilities to support their meeting or event.  When a planner cannot conduct an in-person venue inspection, technology is fast evolving using the Google Street View concept to provide valuable virtual venue tours, multiple room images showing different meeting layouts and even property video footage. 
10. Buying Your Meeting Online  More and more clients are using the web as their primary tool for making purchasing decisions. One IACC venue recently reported 70% of all new business comes via online search activities and they expect that number to grow.  The venues that will be the most successful in capturing this business will have websites that serve not only as marketing brochures but as the primary tool for their clients to plan, book, purchase, and engage with them for their next meeting.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

IACC Events Helps Inspire etc Venues Latest Innovations

The 2014 IACC-Europe conference provided one IACC member with creativity in Sweden, which shaped their latest venue opening in London. It's a perfect example of why you invest in membership of associations, to learn, share ideas and improve as a community! For this one member, opening their 15th venue in London, you might think they have learned all they can learn, but this is not the case!

2015 has been a busy year for etc.venues with the opening of its latest venue at Marble Arch. IACC caught up with Alastair Stewart, etc venues CEO about how IACC had played a big part in the inspiration for the new venue.  

“We know that a new generation of delegates are coming through with very different design tastes to their parents, these are delegates for whom fast wifi is more important than 8-hour chairs and they are I think more receptive to a brand and design led venue design.   There is an area in London called Shoreditch which is home to creative and tech industry hubs and you only have to visit their offices to see just how different the working environments are. They have open plan co-working spaces, hard surface floor,  lots of glass, contemporary art and communal socialising spaces.  The challenge for conference venues is no different to offices with venues and offices designed over ten years ago now looking out-dated.

Getting out and about is key to the way we innovate, IACC has some of the world’s best venues in membership and the study tours and conferences have always been one of the best ways to see what others are doing.  In 2014 we went to the IACC-Europe Conference in Sweden which had a big theme around design. They venue had recently been completely rebuilt, following a terrible fire and we were blown away with the work Lotta and Bjorn had done at Sigtunahöjden.  In the new building they had incorporated many of the design concepts we we thinking about.  The way they had remodelled the space to be so open plan and yet intimate, meeting rooms that you actually wanted to be in and the way they changed the guest-staff dynamic through co-working spaces – it was all superbly done (and that from a team that is hard to impress!)".

IACC member Stewart further commented "We’re looking forward to this year conference in Milan, Chateauform' are one of the most exciting venue operators in Europe and there will be lots to learn from undertanding their philosophy and the attention to detail on design.  It’s always a great opportunity to catch up with industry colleagues from across Europe and this year’s agenda looks to be a weekend from which we can take something back to our venues whether on service or design".

Thursday, May 14, 2015

IACC Reveals Top 10 Conference Food Trends for 2015

Useful tips for meeting planners contribute towards healthier conferences 

Following extensive research among the 400 members of the InternationalAssociation of Conference Centres, the organisation released its Top 10 Conference Foods Trends for 2015, which are influencing meeting planners across the globe.

1. Local is Everything  The importance of adding a local feel to meetings has been identified as a major trend by IACC members.  Attendees want to experience as much as they can about the destination they are going to for their meeting or event--and this includes locally-sourced ingredients for food & beverage consumed during their conference.

2. Network Your Heart Out  Small plates of food items, continuously served in a reception format, add a welcome diversion to an extended meeting event and help maintain energy levels.  Hosting networking-friendly dining receptions midway through an event is particularly effective as this provides a great way for guests to pause and meet up in a causal environment, initiate or build relationships, while recharging with exceptional food and beverage. 

3. Small is the New Big!  Bite-size desserts have overtaken larger portions in popularity—if for no other reason than conferees are watching their waistlines and cholesterol levels.  Conference guests have turned their backs on generous sugary sweets, heading instead for easy-to-handle, bite-size desserts that satisfy without packing on the pounds.  Warm miniature house-made donuts, chocolate truffles, French macaroons, mini cupcakes and house-made cookies are top of the list for planners—taste and pleasure without the calories!

4. In with Flavor, Out with Fats!  Healthy choices don't need to resemble rabbit food.  IACC member chefs are working with exciting new ingredients increasingly popular with conferees--including protein alternatives (quinoa, amaranth, tofu, beans), whole grains, leafy green vegetables (especially kale and  spinach), low fat selections and low sugar substitutions.  The result:  healthy cuisine that sustains conferees through the meeting experience, appeals to the eye and satisfies the palate.

5. Making and Breaking Bread Together  Nothing brings a team together more than food.  Having the opportunity to cook alongside colleagues can create a whole new appreciation for the hidden talents within an office environment or at a company outing.  Culinary teambuilding is red hot today as it has all the ingredients to cook up a winning team while bringing out the hidden chef in every conferee.

6. Contrasting Environments  Using outside spaces to create a change in scenery and provide a casual dining experience can revitalise conference attendees, especially during multi-day meetings and events.  IACC members across the globe are rediscovering these hidden exterior gems and using them for light receptions, breakout sessions and informal gathering areas for conferees throughout the meeting experience.
7. Finale, NOT a Gala  Gone are the days when meetings ended with a formal gala.  Today, meeting planner professionals want finales that create a dynamic and stimulating experience for their conferees, which bring people together to celebrate and bond at the end of their conference.  Creativity, room or venue selection, seating layout and dining style are as important to the success of the finale as the menu and beverages served.

8. That's Theatre!  A little drama is a good thing for ratcheting up the conference dining experience.  Adding a chef interactive station accompanied with a highly personable chef can highlight the menu, underscore locally-sourced and freshly-prepared ingredients, as well as invite guest interaction in the creation of unique takes on selections such as a Panini, clubhouse or slider.  Interaction with the chef also engages conferees in focusing on health choices, such as gluten free options on the menu.

9. Go Micro for Max Effect  With the explosive popularity of microbreweries offering brews that appeal to all tastes; often with a local appeal, conference planners are increasingly looking to chefs and sommeliers to provide pre-dinner receptions and speciality dining with microbrews on the menu.  Raise a glass to that!

10. Infused Tea Cocktails  The English are known for their love of it, and increasingly its health benefits are being embraced globally, but drinking tea has never been more fun than with the current trend of tea-infused cocktails.  So after raising a glass of microbrew, ask your mixologist for a hibiscus tea martini!

IACC is the only global professional association, which represents small to medium sized venues focused on meetings, training courses and conferences. All members conform to a comprehensive global set of criteria and standards. The organisation serves its members by being the global thought-leader in the meetings industry and currently has 355 members in 21 countries in the Americas, Europe and Australasia.