Ideal Meeting Spaces Should Offer Flexibility, Flexibility and Then Some...

By Ronald M. Lustig Design Architect/Principal, Earl Swensson Associates, Inc. (ESa) | June 09, 2013

There will always be a need for meeting space. Even in the age of virtual meetings and rapid proliferation of social media, business people are finding that they still need human contact with face-to-face interaction for bonding, engagement and relationship building. Face-to-face meetings allow participants to associate body language with what is being discussed in order to assimilate the whole message.

Attendance at destination conferences reportedly dropped in more recent years due to the unstable economy. Conference planners now report their market is beginning to return with a pent-up demand for group professional education and networking experiences.

Outside-the-office meeting space provides an opportunity for a fresh environment that may stimulate creative ideas, enable people to think freely and encourage interaction and dialogue among peers.

While there's a massive industry (such as rentable corporate conference centers) providing meeting spaces outside of the hospitality industry, where better to schedule meetings than in a hotel? Hotels can provide the whole experience, from grand ballrooms, to meeting rooms to boardrooms.

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The 509.9-square-foot West End Boardroom of Hutton Hotel, a Nashville five-star boutique hotel, can accommodate 16 for a smaller meeting.
Photographer John Fulton + Attic Fire, courtesy of ESa

The key for a hotel to earn a reputation as a successful meeting venue and to retain staying power hinges on flexibility to accommodate the meeting market.

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.