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Planners need to balance unleashing the creative juices while maintaining tight budget restraints. Caught in the middle, planners are finding themselves educating their customers that flexible meeting spaces come with a price – and that price is usually higher.
“They all want a new and interesting space but the budget is still set from three years ago on the traditional set-up,” said Dana Zita, president of And Logistix, a Toronto based conference and meeting planning company.
Zita explained it is especially challenging with larger groups and “enhancing the seating and furniture adds to the cost and in a break situation with communal tables, high tables, and the audio/visual to stimulate different senses [all] cost more too.”
Customers are demanding more for less. Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC, said, “We know meeting planners are expected to deliver more with less year-on-year. Tight budgets and tight spaces can be difficult for venues to overcome, but operators repeatedly cite the growing importance of multi-functionality, both in use of space and furniture.”
Despite the initial cost Cooper thinks creating flexible meetings space will pay off.
“We believe that investing in meeting room design adaptations will provide a quick return on investment given the rapid increase in demand for flexibility in meeting rooms, which will attract more venue operators to follow suit and stay competitive,” said Cooper
Moxy Hotels, the new millennial inspired hotel brand for Marriott, has three properties in New York including the new Moxy Chelsea, which opened in February. The Moxy Chelsea is all in when it comes to flexible meeting space. In collaboration with design firms the Rockwell Group and Yabu Pushelberg, Moxy Hotels has purposely designed its guest and meeting space with adaptability and the millennial traveler in mind.
“In designing both Moxy Chelsea and Moxy Times Square, flexibility was paramount. Understanding our guests, we knew that typical meeting rooms and boardrooms wouldn’t work for them,” said Mitchell Hochberg, president of Lightstone, the developer for Moxy Chelsea and Moxy Times Square. “Instead we prioritized socially activated spaces and unique design that would provide the more informal atmosphere our guests are looking for and the versatility they need.”
Since its February opening, the Moxy Chelsea has demonstrated that versatility by hosting events such as the Mapplethorpe film premiere party, Mick Jagger’s Rolling Stones Ballet Celebration and a corporate dinner for Gucci.
Millennials have been the driving force behind the flexible meeting space trend. The connectivity between living and working space is shaping how meeting spaces are designed in the future.
In the IACC commissioned report Meeting Room of the Future, released back in 2018, Miller cited, “ an increase in requests for more “homey” settings for events, including sofas, comfy chairs, and other furniture as meetings move towards being less corporate and become more relaxed. As a result there is more focus on creating a comfortable environment for connecting and collaborating, where people can connect and build memorable experiences.”
“The meetings and conferences now have a different purpose in terms of team building and networking as opposed to straight educational tutorials and a speaker speaking at you. The workplace has changed which has also changed the structure of meetings and conferences,” said Zita.
Space and Labor Savings
Flexible meeting spaces can mean a bigger dent on the budget but there are definitely advantages by transforming the space and its furnishings quickly and with less labor.
At the Moxy Chelsea and Moxy Times Square, the studio spaces are located in the lobby area and the furniture can be deconstructed by one person, allowing events to go from a small meeting space to an evening cocktail space in mere minutes.
Minimizing the downtime between functions and adaptable room reconfiguration is always at the top of any planner’s wish list and this can lead to labor and set-up savings.
Large group meetings and conferences will still use traditional set-ups and venues in the future. But as technology and less expensive and more flexible furnishings improve the pressure is on for meeting planners to educate their customers that the budget needs to adapt as well to the new meeting facility reality.