Designing the Transformative Event Spaces Meeting Planners Demand

July 05, 2023

With post-pandemic meetings placing a central emphasis on experience creation and meaningful travel, the types of venues that meeting planners are seeking are evolving with a focus on transformative event spaces.

The latest edition of the Meeting Room of the Future, a study conducted by Development Counsellors International in partnership with the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC), explores meeting planner priorities in the destination and venue selection process. The global survey of meeting planners builds on previous studies from 2017 and 2019, illustrating long-term trends and lasting legacies of the pandemic on business events travel.

When asked the proportion of events taking place in different types of venues, planners pointed to a shift away from traditional conference rooms and lecture theaters. They want spaces that are larger, where people can spread out. They want more flexible arrangements, rather than standard classroom, theatre or banquet settings.

In line with this trend, the proportion of events taking place in alternative venues such as urban day venues and specialist event venues such as sports stadiums, museums and vineyards has increased from 26% in 2019 to 31% in 2023. During the same period, the share of events held at hotels continues to show a downward trend, from 62 percent in 2017, to 47 percent in 2019, to 43 percent in 2023.

Flexibility of meeting venues, such as the ability to transform and tailor spaces for unique events, is a high priority for planners. So, what do these creative spaces look like? Transformative event spaces need to offer “flex working spaces” – liminal spaces that are dedicated neither to main events nor to catering – to provide a reasonable respite for attendees between sessions. Imagine a garden where people can circulate freely or a lounge space with couches or funky (yet practical) seating areas for smaller meetings and convivial encounters. Have spaces that contrast in vibe and décor from the main room that facilitate casual interactions and generate memorable impressions of your venue. Leave attendees and planners saying, “Hey, remember that cool room where we had that breakout?”

A lasting legacy of the pandemic – the need for social distancing – has aft many meeting planners looking not only for larger spaces, but for greater access to the outdoors and nature. Transformative event spaces with access to outdoor spaces such as terraces, gardens or open walls are in high demand. Indoors, meeting planners are seeking “airy,” well-ventilated spaces with natural lighting. High quality acoustics are also rising in importance for meeting planners.

So, what do these findings mean for venues and destination organizations? Venues should prioritize increasing their flexibility and considering creative uses of their available spaces. Access to outdoors, natural lighting and well-ventilated spaces are huge assets that should be leveraged to provide the best possible experience for attendees.

For destination organizations, showcasing not only your major hotels and conference centers, but also your alternative unique venues and transformative event spaces will boost your attractiveness as a meetings destination.

To download the report, visit their site here.

About IACC: Founded in 1981, IACC is a not-for-profit association dedicated to promoting understanding and awareness of the meetings venue industry and to giving member properties the tools necessary to provide an exceptional IACC meeting experience. Active members meet a set of stringent Quality Standards and agree to a Code of Ethics. Currently, the association includes approximately 400 members around the world.

Looking to boost your destination’s meetings profile? Get in touch with Robyn Domber at [email protected] to learn how DCI can help research new paths to success to achieve your meeting and event goals.

Written by

Robyn Domber

Senior Vice President, Research