by Sarah J.F. Braley | June 28, 2017

IACC, which represents more than 300 conference venues around the world, in conjunction with its new partner, Meeting Professionals International, has released the latest findings in the Meeting Room of the Future project, which aims to transform the meeting experience through a global collaboration of leaders in conference space design, audiovisual technology, hospitality, academia and conference management.

The lastest results come from a second survey of meeting planners (see the breakdown of the first survey here), with new questions about food-and-beverage concerns and continued emphasis on technology trends. The number of respondents rose from 150 planners last year to 180 this year. 
 
The findings show an increase, from 75 percent to 80 percent, in the number of meeting planners who say their current role involves more "experience creation" than it did two to five years ago; and 87 percent now agree that collaborative meeting space will become more important over the next two to five years, vs. 80 percent in 2016. Almost all respondents (92 percent) said their dependency on WiFi will continue to increase in the next three to five years. 
 
M&C spoke with Mark Cooper, IACC's CEO, last week at MPI's World Education Congress at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. 
 
What was one of the most interesting results from this year's survey?
We found that other generations were open to changes and new formats, not just Millennials. This gives planners the confidence that they can be bold.
 
You included some new questions this year on F&B. What did you find out?
Allergies and personalized F&B are a big deal. Venues need to be prepared to be able to cope with that. One of the meeting planners we surveyed commented that it's fine when a venue says they want to personalize, but then the planner sits down with the chef, who presents a standard menu and says, "Choose one."
 
What is on planners' minds concerning technology?
For the last few years virtual reality has been talked up, but while planners are saying they think it should be part of the meeting, they still don't know how. Is it a collaborative tool or a presentation tool? There's some misperception. It's not a collaborative tool. Virtual reality will really take off when the price point and the ability to deliver a virtual keynote speaker becomes cost effective.
 
Audience participation moved up to number one in terms of collaboratives tools; 91 percent said it positively contributes to communication back from delegates.
 
Meeting planners said they are feeling the pressure to introduce collaborative technologies, but with a question mark as to whether this will make a difference for their meetings. There's a little bit of risk there.
 
A bit of a red flashing light for venues was that planners felt there's not enough focus on Internet infrastructure. Planners need to move from asking about speed to knowing the venue's contention rate - how it evaluates the speed based on the usage. We see that dependency on the Internet is just going to get bigger. Planners are doing contingency plans for Internet stoppage. And planners still think the Internet should be free, meaning it should be built into the venue cost. For meetings of 500 people or fewer, there is no reason why that can't be bundled in, and meeting planners don't understand why it's still à la carte.
 
Any other notable findings?
This year we also wanted to look at hotel brands and planner perceptions. Bear in mind that while planners say they want individual experiences, 64 percent said they use big hotel brands prominently, but they didn't align those big brands as offering a creative solution.
 
For more on IACC's Meeting Room of the Future project, a breakdown of results from the research that focused on the views of venue operators and suppliers can be found here. The full results of all the research so far can be found on IACC's website.