Though technology and real-life experiences often clash, in the case of meeting planners the two event elements are equally important and will increasingly become so in the next few years, according to new research.
The International Association of Conference Centers’ annual Meeting Room of the Future study—conducted this year in a first-time partnership with M.P.I.—found that 80 percent of meeting respondents says access to interactive technology is going to become more important in the next five years, while an astounding 92 percent of respondents say “my dependency on Wi-Fi will continue to increase in the next three to five years.”
The reasons for that increasing importance, as expressed in the data, include delegate email and Internet access (86 percent); smartphone audience participation (84 percent); conference app (83 percent); video streaming for presenter (68 percent); live event streaming (66 percent); virtual attendees (57 percent), and other, less significant functions.
“Bandwidth is the gold standard—if you think you have enough, think again and double it,” says Ellen Sinclair, senior vice president of operations at Benchmark, a global hospitality company, who has been actively involved with the survey since its inception two years ago.
“Everyone is streaming and coming to events not with one device but with four,“ she continues. “And service has to be reliable—people expect that. They don’t want to hear that it creates a higher cost.”
Meanwhile, Sinclair says, “There’s been a shift to personal R.O.I., i.e., the individual experience, and that helps and organizations profit.” In fact, 80 percent of responding meeting planners says their current role involves more “experience creation” than two to five years ago.
Further, when asked about what meeting-venue elements would become more important in the next five years, 30 percent of respondents cited access to authentic local area experiences and, in a new answer choice, 31 percent of planners say delegates discovering the “locality and regional culture” of a destination was vital.
“Business travelers want to experience what’s different about Phoenix from Buffalo—other than weather,” Sinclair notes. “They’re taking the time to relax and get a sense of place.”
Health consciousness has become critical too. A pool of 79 percent of survey respondents say “nutritional information should be visible at food stations.”
“Those of us on the venue side have created ways for guests to continue their dietary or exercise regimen, ensuring a personalized experience,“ Sinclair says. “For example, we can do things like having a refrigerator with sugary drinks behind frosted glass and smart choices such as juices behind clear glass, and we certainly can display nutrition information if a group wants that.”
Ultimately, “By listening to the client and seeing what they want, we start shifting our offerings to cater to those needs.”