Article4min26 March 2019
Gone are the days when an off-site meeting meant hours around an oblong table in a featureless, windowless bunker. The right room can make or break a meeting - here’s how you can set your team up for success.
Just like the office itself, off-site meeting spaces are evolving to suit the increasingly flexible, collaborative and wellness-conscious way we work today. They’re in demand, too, as the costs of city commercial real estate compel companies to shave their space needs and seek external solutions for more of their meetings.
As the meeting industry calls out for more sophisticated and diverse arrays of off-site venues, space providers are catering to a demanding new-gen audience in search of alternatives to old-style, sterile meeting spaces.
“As office space is diminishing and changing, we are coming together more, and in a wider variety of places,” says Andrew Cameron CEO of event and conference venue provider Cliftons.
“It’s no longer enough to just have some finger sandwiches and AV,” says Mikaila Faber, group marketing manager at venue and hospitality company The Sydney Collective.
“You have to be able to create something really unique, find out what’s important to the customer and be able to cater something around that.”
Here are some factors to consider when exploring your options for an ideal off-site venue.
The configuration consideration
“It’s very important to consider how your team is going to collaborate,” says Cameron.
Andrew reports a move away from the traditional boardroom or classroom style meeting towards looser, informal and flexible configurations geared to brainstorming and interactivity.
“We’ve done things where there are rooms with no tables, beanbags rather than chairs, exercise balls for people to sit on and then move around in collaborative groups.”
Lauren Henry, National Operations and Major Accounts Manager at Dexus Place, points out: “If your facilitator is a good one, there will be some element of group activity, so factor in how much space you may need.”
Dexus Place is Dexus’s solution for its customers needing space for meetings, conferences, training or events. The space acts as an extension to a company’s own workspace and can be tailored to the needs of the customer.
The break out spaces are just as important as the meeting rooms themselves which are equipped with collaborative technology and even come with writable walls.
“If you’re in a room of 150 people,” Henry says, “and you want to break out into groups of 20, you could book a smaller adjoining room and use the walls to write on as you prepare for a presentation in the larger room.”
"It’s no longer enough to have some finger sandwiches and AV."
“If you’re going to spend eight hours sitting in a room, you want to be comfortable,” says Cameron.
“Look for good ergonomic chairs, everything at the right height. Great furniture is really crucial.”
He adds: “Everyone has a different opinion of how a room should be set up, so there should be the ability to change it around quickly to suit your needs at any time.”
Let the sun shine in
Meetings are finally moving into the light, with the traditional windowless chamber replaced by sunlight-bathed rooms.
“Natural light is probably the most important differentiator in terms of what people are looking for,” says Cameron, who says he’s even seen windowless rooms updated with lightbox technology providing a convincing faux window.
It’s best to seek out the real thing though; numerous studies have shown that natural light increases productivity, lifts moods, creates healthier and better sleep. For this reason, the newest and best meeting spaces maximise natural light intake and often incorporate break-out areas like balconies, terraces or gardens.
Dexus Place - One Farrer in Sydney incorporates The Terrace, a unique and contemporary outdoor event space.
Food and beverage offerings in off-site meeting spaces now reflect the educated tastes of the wider public, with an emphasis on sustainability, health and wellness, locally sourced ingredients and variety.
Says Henry: “At Dexus Place, we pride ourselves on the quality and range of what we offer.
“Customers may want a three-course lunch or for larger events, canapes or grazing boards. For companies looking to accommodate overseas clients, we can create an experience with food they’re familiar with.”
A good venue will cater to dietary needs, from gluten free to vegan to lactose intolerant. And tasteless conference coffee in a polystyrene cup is, thankfully, history.
Adds Cameron: “We have baristas in some venues, and bean-to-cup coffee machines in all venues. We served 1.4 million coffees last year, and accommodate constant requests for soy, almond and oat milk.”
In the latest International Association of Conference Centres (IACC) Meeting Room of the Future survey, quality Internet infrastructure emerged as the highest venue priority, with 71 percent of venue operators placing it top.
These days, delegates will bring several of their own devices and expect flawless, fast connectivity and power.
“USB ports with power to most [seating] positions is something that people have come to expect,” says Cameron. “People come with four to five different devices, maybe laptops as well.”
Superior video conferencing facilities can save significant dollars on travel and accommodation for remote team members. At Dexus Place, the Immersive Studios use Polycom® RealPresence® Immersive technology to emulate the real-life conference experience, making quality interstate collaboration an affordable option.
Acing the ambience
Henry stresses the importance of a venue’s ‘it factor’. “It’s about the subtle, intangible aesthetics of the experience. When you walk in, what are you smelling, seeing, how do you feel?”
She adds: “We have customers who are doing board presentations, or similar, with scenarios that involve high-pressure moments and the right ambience can be just as important as the room itself. Open spaces, ambient music, nice scents – they can all contribute to a feeling of calm.”
So, when booking your next meeting, be sure to consider every possible angle. When it comes to bringing your people together, that old real estate mantra still holds true: it’s all about location, location, location.