"These days, a portion of the meetings market is looking for a different, technology-integrated experience," says Michael Carsch, general manager of the Sax Chicago. "When you add an exciting technology component to an environment where there's good service, good facilities and a place where people can conduct a good meeting, then you have something unique to offer."
The following properties not only have some of the most technologically advanced meeting spaces in the industry, they also employ technology outside of the meeting room for cutting-edge entertainment and comfort.
> Sax ChicagoIn the midst of all the bustle of North Dearborn Street in the Loop stands the 353-room Sax Chicago, which opened in 1998 but was thoroughly revamped in 2007. Planners who want to wow attendees need simply send them to the fourth floor, where upon exiting the elevators, they will come face-to-face with a fully programmable, 36-foot-long mounted video display curving along a semicircular wall -- the centerpiece of the hotel's lounge-like prefunction area known as The Hub. This space leads directly to most of the property's 14,000 square feet of meeting rooms, which are equipped either with retractable LCD projectors hidden in the ceiling or 50-inch plasma displays mounted on walls behind sliding partitions. Both options are geared for teleconferencing.
Among some neat options with a tech twist, the 991-square-foot Paris room and adjacent 409-square-foot London rooms can be rented separately or as a package; when one room seeks privacy, the flick of a switch causes the large window separating both to instantly (and totally) fog for complete seclusion. For team building or just play time, the hotel's Studio space has room for up to 24 guests to play Wii, Xbox or Playstation games on 42-inch monitors (the same size as the HD TVs in guest rooms), along with computer stations and music-docking devices.
> Fairmont San FranciscoBuilt in 1907 as the city was still digging out from the notorious earthquake of the previous year, the 591-room Fairmont San Francisco has seen its share of history. It was here in 1945, for example, that delegates from 45 countries met to draft the charter for the new United Nations. Today, the hotel is a rich blend of old and new, having retained its original architectural flair while adding some key technological features that belie the close proximity of Silicon Valley.
Perhaps the most buzz-worthy addition to the property's meeting facilities is the Intersect Media Lounge, which debuted last August. Developed in partnership with the Danish technology company Bang & Olufson, it offers 2,700 square feet of high-tech function space for about 100 guests. Some highlights:
• The lounge proper can accommodate up to 60 people and offers a 30-inch Microsoft Surface table (think table-sized iPad), where delegates can browse the Internet and work on business materials or proposals using hand gestures to navigate the table's interface.
• A central "game room" accommodates up to 30 people and includes consoles where groups can team-build while playing Wii Golf or Rock Band. Also available here are two iMac desktops for keeping up with office matters.
• A dedicated screening room, sectioned off with soundproofed walls, holds up to 24 people and features a 60-inch projection screen with full surround-sound for events such as corporate presentations, movie viewings and interactive video game tournaments.
The Fairmont San Francisco has a total of 55,000 square feet of meeting space that can be customized with the help of the hotel's in-house audiovisual expert. Also available: a fully loaded business center, and high-speed wired and wireless Internet in all guest rooms and meeting space.