by Sarah J.F. Braley | October 20, 2016

After surveying 150 meeting planners this spring about their challenges and what they want to see from a venue (see the results here), the International Association of Conference Centres has completed the second phase of its research project, the "Meeting Room of the Future," with the results announced at IMEX Americas in Las Vegas this week. The new section focused on the views of venue operators and suppliers; the overall project aims to transform the meeting experience through a global collaboration of leaders in conference space design, audiovisual technology, hospitality, academia and conference management. 

More than 65 venues, including a large number of IACC-certified properties, plus suppliers across four continents were surveyed. Results tackle the changing expectations of meeting delegates, meeting space and design, meetings technology, and communications and connections.

Respondents said they are aware of the evolving expectations of attendees, and the majority of venue operators said their role is to provide a great meetings experience. In analyzing the data, IACC has concluded that power has shifted to the participants, causing venues and hosts to deliver more impactful and engaging experiences using such tools as gamification, design thinking and matchmaking. 

The report also highlights the need for venues to provide more networking and social spaces outside of the meeting room, while food-and-beverage service at lunch needs to facilitate connections between delegates while allowing them time to check in with the office and home. Both operators and suppliers report that cost is the greatest barrier to investing in new furniture/equipment for more flexible, creative spaces.

"Venue operators whose properties are focused on delivering meetings are not surprised and are in agreement with planners on the major changes and trends affecting meetings today, and those that are likely to [have an impact] in the next two to five years," said Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC. "However, there also are differences between the two groups identified in this research that raise important questions. For instance, are venues investing in new technologies but ignoring the need to invest in Internet infrastructure, including bandwidth?" 

Another important finding is that 57 percent of venue operators said they do not currently offer collaborative technologies (such as Microsoft's SurfaceHub, Barco's ClickShare and other products that promote collaboration between presenters and participants) in any of their meeting rooms. And 32 percent indicated that, while they do offer collaborative technologies, they considered this a premium service with an additional charge to the client. Venue suppliers (63 percent) also indicated they provide the technology at a premium cost to the client. 

WiFi offerings continue to vary across properties, as 89 percent of venues surveyed provide Internet access free of charge, but 55 percent of those require a login; 11 percent of venues still require delegates to pay for WiFi.   

In the meeting-planner research published in April, on the topic of paid vs. free WiFi, one planner commented, "Access to strong, fast, secure broadband should be a given at all meetings and should be provided free by the venue. It still boggles me that some venues charge a premium for using WiFi. When this becomes the norm we'll be able to use other technologies without barriers."  

A full copy of the new report and infographic can be downloaded from the IACC website. Current partners in the Room of the Future program include Meeting Professionals International, Microsoft, Development Councilors International, SICO, Corbin Ball Associates, Sli-do, Warwick Conferences, Summit Conference Centres, MGSM Executive Hotel & Conference Centre and PSAV.