Ideal Meeting Spaces Should Offer Flexibility, Flexibility and Then Some...

By Ronald M. Lustig Design Architect/Principal, Earl Swensson Associates, Inc. (ESa) | June 09, 2013

There will always be a need for meeting space. Even in the age of virtual meetings and rapid proliferation of social media, business people are finding that they still need human contact with face-to-face interaction for bonding, engagement and relationship building. Face-to-face meetings allow participants to associate body language with what is being discussed in order to assimilate the whole message.

Attendance at destination conferences reportedly dropped in more recent years due to the unstable economy. Conference planners now report their market is beginning to return with a pent-up demand for group professional education and networking experiences.

Outside-the-office meeting space provides an opportunity for a fresh environment that may stimulate creative ideas, enable people to think freely and encourage interaction and dialogue among peers.

While there's a massive industry (such as rentable corporate conference centers) providing meeting spaces outside of the hospitality industry, where better to schedule meetings than in a hotel? Hotels can provide the whole experience, from grand ballrooms, to meeting rooms to boardrooms.

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The 509.9-square-foot West End Boardroom of Hutton Hotel, a Nashville five-star boutique hotel, can accommodate 16 for a smaller meeting.
Photographer John Fulton + Attic Fire, courtesy of ESa

The key for a hotel to earn a reputation as a successful meeting venue and to retain staying power hinges on flexibility to accommodate the meeting market.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.