Every spring, industry thought leaders come together at the International Association of Conference Centres to answer—or at least debate—that question.
This spring, long-time event producer and strategist, Dianne Devitt, served as panel moderator offering her own expert insights:
“It’s a true form of [conference] luxury when we don’t have to think about what we need and can be immersed in the experience.”
From custom planning to design, the IACC panel’s four experts had a lot to say.
Here’s what we learned:
Terry Bickham, Chief Learning Officer, Deloitte
For Bickham, the ideal experience comes down to personalization. That means considering the attendee experience from the moment he or she arrives at the airport: a welcome text upon arrival, say, or an airport pick up, a welcome packet including key and name badge upon hotel check-in. In other words, the message should be, “We were expecting you–and you specifically.”
Bickham predicts this kind of immediate, personalized engagement will become increasingly critical as millennials grow into their elevated places the workforce.
Tessa Horovitz, Director of International Development and Design, Chateauform
Horovitz, on the other hand, argues it’s the event space that creates the ideal meeting environment. At Chateauform, for example, she works hard to make guests feel like they can use every room fully, as though it’s their own. The prevailing message being, “Help yourself.”
Like Bickham, Horovitz also emphasizes customization. She draws again from her experience at Chataeuform, where, depending on the purpose of the visit, each event at Chateauform is given a space with a personality and purpose that aligns with its mission.
David Adler, CEO/Founder, BizBash
Adler is a strong proponent of meeting design, and sees event professionals serving as the “collaboration athletes” driving the experience. He points to popular events like SXSW and Coachella as models for the future of conferencing; there’s no reason, he says, for a similar festival-like feeling around knowledge sharing in every arena.
The proposed method for catalyzing this shift? Promoting the event organizers. By promoting the people doing great meeting and event planning work, Adler believes meeting and event coordinators can emerge as the next brand of superstars—much like chefs have emerged from the back of restaurant kitchens to become cultural icons and celebrities.
Christopher Kelly, Co-Founder, Convene
Kelly has built Convene around the vision of human centered design, bringing a higher level of on-demand, full-service hospitality into the workspace to enable superior meeting experiences. To provide this level of service, Kelly champions the concept of anticipatory service—knowing the needs of clients before they ever ask, so that their workflow is never interrupted.
What this looks like in practice, to start: office supplies within arms reach, access to reliable Wi-Fi, user-friendly technology and a range of culinary options from healthy to hearty. “If you can get people to feel at home, they can perform at their peak,” says Kelly.