For the last decade, as technology and the concept of going to “work” continue to evolve, there’s been a growing misalignment between the traditional physical workplace (meeting rooms included) and modern workforce behavior and preferences. For the past 3 years, Convene has been analyzing this gap utilizing a comprehensive research program. Our research led to one breakthrough discovery: that a vertical approach was necessary in order to build the smartest framework, one that truly enhances the meeting or conference experience.
The concept of vertical integration can be summarized as follows: a business or organization in which all stages of production of a good (from the acquisition of raw materials to the retailing of the final product) are controlled by a single company. It’s no secret that one of the keys to tech giant Apple’s success has been its vertical integration strategy. We started to think like Apple, and began to put in place a series of changes that would ultimately allow us to source everything in-house. As Apple controls both the hardware and software, at Convene, we now control the design and the service, and all the little details in between.
Throwing away pre-existing meetings industry standards allowed us to take a step back and get a better, truer sense of the big picture needs of meeting and event planners, our core client base. With the help of our Design Thinking ideology, we set out to reinvent the meeting room, designing it from the inside out, with the precise knowledge of how space affects productivity.
We determined that there were four main components that went into creating a successful meeting or conference: Space, Service, Technology and Culinary Offerings. Here’s a look at how we applied vertical integration to each of these core areas of our business:
Convene’s espousal of the principles of Design Thinking has been well documented. We start with the needs of the people we are designing our spaces for: meeting planners, meeting participants, and their companies. We researched these stakeholders in depth (their activities, their habits, their use of technology, their goals and aspirations) and used our findings to create meeting spaces that responded to their needs – even the ones they weren’t conscious of having.
We established that most meetings had 3 main goals: to Share, Create, and Decide, and then we created structures that served their specific needs:
Meeting Goal: to SHARE
Serve the purpose of sharing or broadcasting pre-determined information (eg. new product launches, training seminars, shareholder meetings, etc.). As such, they often require large spaces with microphones, projectors, touch screens, multiple devices to make the speakers thinking visible to his/her audience, etc.
Convene’s Solution: Forums (available in the following locations: Financial District, Midtown East, and Times Square) and Hubs (for medium-size gatherings, available in all Convene locations).
Meeting Goal: to CREATE
These types of meetings are all about creating new content as a group. Resources needed for these types of creative meetings include whiteboards, flip charts, post-it notes, and rolling chairs. All of our studios and hubs are outfitted with Resource Trays that provide instant access to the tools needed to get this important job done.
Convene’s Solution: Studios (for small gatherings of 8 people or less) and Hubs. Available in all Convene locations.
Meeting Goal: to DECIDE
These meetings are about making decisions, setting direction, and long-term planning. They’re usually for gatherings of no more than 20 people, and they benefit from resources that include large displays, projectors, flip charts and conference phones.
Convene’s Solution: Boardrooms. Available in all Convene locations.
In addition to these meeting areas, we also developed decompression spaces, nooks for impromptu networking or “casual collisions”, and lounges for informal socialization. Our clients are not just renting a meeting room, they’re buying an experience. They deserve to feel at home when they come to a Convene meeting location, and that’s why they’re welcomed with their own familiar branding (through custom digital signage), ergonomic, comfortable chairs, attractive, local artwork, and comprehensive nourishment centers. At Convene, we like to empower the meeting planners we work with special meeting planner desks and stations that allow planners to greet participants and establish an authoritative presence. Our locations promise a 360 degree experience that caters to all your needs, whether you’re the event planner or the participant.
At every Convene conference center location, in-house service professionals are on hand to assist meeting planners and meeting participants with any requests. Our goal is to increase participant productivity, ultimately creating an environment that maximizes the potential success of the meeting or conference. We provide top level service that is seamless and as invisible as possible. We provide on-hand support while striving to never interrupt a client’s workflow.
Once again, our human-centered design methodology is at the root of our service principles. By putting ourselves in the shoes of meeting planners and participants, as well as our own internal staff, we can better understand how to improve everyone’s experience.
We host better meetings because we understand and respect both meeting planner and participant goals and we do everything in our power to provide a smooth experience, from start to finish. Our motto is service with a purpose because ultimately, you’re at Convene to get important work done.
We have some of the most sophisticated, high tech conference centers in the country and that’s because, at Convene, technology is never an afterthought. Our conference room technology is built-in. It’s always there when you need it – but never in your way when you don’t! Our design thinking approach to building conference rooms allowed us to anticipate the technological tools required to facilitate your specific meeting type. While hotels may also offer high-speed wi-fi and printing/scanning/shredding services, they will charge you for them. At Convene, they are included in our package price. Convene has the added benefit of providing additional cutting edge services like HD resolution broadcasting, digital signage, comprehensive simulcast ability, audience response systems and even dedicated bandwidth to help make meetings even more productive.
We also offer expert tech consultations as part of our pre-planning process with meeting planners and our technology specialists are available at every site. Our tech experts are not just available on-site during events, they also regularly inspect our equipment for potential flaws in order to eliminate the possibility of malfunctioning during the day of the conference or meeting.
We treat and maintain every piece of equipment as though it were a jet engine: tech failure of any kind is simply not an option.
(Read more about our approach to conference technology.)
Technology isn’t the only thing that powers our meeting participants. Every Convene location features a talented executive chef who carefully curates menus that serve not only as delectable nourishment, but also as sources of energy that keep attendees alert. Convene’s menu, like every other aspect of our business, is streamlined for maximum meeting productivity and comfort. While you may desire a carb or sugar fest at a private event like a wedding, Convene’s food and drink offerings – unlike those at traditional hotels – focuses on seasonal, local ingredients that are as nutritious as they are tasty. We serve lots of vegetables and proteins and offer a variety of dishes that are easy to eat, whether you’re standing up in conversation or sitting in one of our lounges.
Our chefs work hard to create menus that will satisfy even the most discerning foodie, with an emphasis on ingredients that don’t spike energy levels, dehydrate or cause discomfort. We want meeting participants to tackle important business, not be dragged down by a food coma.
(Read more about how we engineered the meeting planner’s dream menu.)
Through vertical integration, which focused on coordinating these four aspects (space, service, technology, and culinary offerings), we created a new model for the 21st century meeting space, one that acknowledged the changing nature of work and the people who are doing it. Convene’s experienced in-house staff of 100+ dedicated employees oversee every aspect of the meeting planner’s and particpant’s needs through anticipatory service and purpose-built spaces. Every detail in our conference rooms has been meticulously studied and selected in order to create the best possible meeting outcome for important collaborations like training seminars, corporate board meetings, think tanks, video conferences and shareholder meetings. We believe that the secret to our success stems from our application of vertical integration to the meetings industry. By sourcing everything in-house, we can effectively apply our high standards for quality control to every aspect of our organization.
Ultimately, our success comes from the knowledge that most of our clients – Fortune 500 companies and their meeting planners – are repeat customers. Their loyalty is a testament to our ability to engage them not just as customers but as people. We strive to engage every meeting planner as an individual so that we can better fulfill their unique needs and goals.