Evaluating Event Spaces and Their Success

By David Ashen Principal and Founder, dash design | August 07, 2016

Imagine a hotel meeting space that you'd walk into a decade or two ago. Do you see a 3,000-to-5,000-square-foot ballroom designed to seat hundreds of people, along with a patterned carpet and crystal chandeliers? Partitioned walls that subdivide the room to create secondary meeting spaces for smaller events and meetings? Do you conjure up an image of a boardroom for a dozen or two executives, with the requisite large oval table and leather chairs? A vanilla pre-function room for registration before an event and maybe a cocktail after?

Now fast forward to today and take a moment to picture those spaces again. Do they look the same as they did in the descriptions above? If so, it's time to rethink and re-imagine what today's event spaces look and feel like, because current hotel brands, owners, and designers are taking traditional event venues and applying a more holistic, flexible approach to where experiences can be created.

When designing today's event spaces, hoteliers are starting from the outside and working their way in, literally. Pre-function areas have taken on an increased importance, becoming more than simply empty foyers to host a lunch or grab a cocktail and network before being shuttled into the ballroom. Instead, these spaces are designed to be inhabited in multiple ways and at multiple times. Furnishings are more permanent and created with breakout zones in mind, such as areas to take phone calls or check emails, nooks to eat a meal and talk, and lounge spaces to discuss business over drinks. What's more, these zones support other areas within the hotel and add to its overall narrative.

And the concept works. Last year, Renaissance launched its new meeting room initiative which includes a dictate to "inhabit the edge," a term used to describe the better use of the perimeters of pre-function spaces. The brand has seen a positive response. Within one, large space, guests are engaging in social interactions, sitting on laptops and grabbing a seat at a permanently fixed bar, all while feeling connected to the energy of the hotel. Similarly, Yotel offers an engaging experience for guests, who walk into a lobby surrounded on the perimeter with glass rooms and conversation pits. The scene is reminiscent of a lounge, but with Internet connectivity and private areas for interaction, all overlooking the city.

Recently I toured the Le Meridien Atlanta Perimeter Hotel and saw this idea in action, where public spaces that served as "the hub" of the venue included a huge bar, lobby seating, a lounge and various work spaces tucked away into nooks. On any given weekday evening, there are groups of people with laptops open, enjoying big communal dinners. One local company rents part of this space each week to host a standing work session at Le Meridien, providing a more creative, social work environment for its employees. There, they collaborate, work and have dinner together, just off the buzz of the hotel's lobby.

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Coming up in June 2019...

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.