Here is the ninth installment of HKS Hill Glazier Studio's blog "Top 10 Design Tips to Dazzle Your Guests." This month, the focus is on hotel meeting space design, with thoughts from Sze Chong, Regan Holt, and Melissa Voelker.
Flexibility and connectivity are two key space requirements that meeting and event planners look for in a host hotel today. Flexibility is vital to celebratory gatherings, too, as is natural light and indoor-outdoor access. Yet many properties pre-dating the contemporary bride and groom or the laptop/smart device era are ill-equipped to meet the productivity demands of a modern business conference or accommodate a hip, open-air wedding. Whether designing meeting rooms from the ground up, or repositioning this all-important asset to attract more events and market revenue, designers need to keep adaptability top of mind.
- Flex Your Space. Column-free, properly proportioned rooms are critical for divisibility—the ability to re-configure large spaces quickly to accommodate breakout and small meeting sessions or gatherings gives event planners more options.
- Light Years Ahead. Whenever possible, incorporate windows to saturate pre-function areas (and meeting rooms, if it works) with natural light. In meeting rooms with windows, provide blackout shades to accommodate presentations.
- Let’s Meet F2F. To warrant travel-related expenses for face-to-face meetings over remote web-based assemblies, businesses today expect in-person meetings to be highly efficient and productive, and modern meeting space must support that demand. Wifi and laptop/smart device/tablet connectivity is standard today, but be sure to include enough power outlets and comfortable places in pre-function areas for people to plug in and work.
- Power Up. Hotels in large urban business centers should consider creating a dedicated executive meeting environment that caters directly to small- to mid-sized board meetings, group trainings, and all-day events. Configure the space with windows for natural light, and furnishings that more closely resemble an office than a traditional banquet set-up: ergonomic chairs and tables, easy-to-reach laptop plug-ins and projection equipment.
- Go to New Heights. Adequate and proportional room height for large meeting spaces and ballrooms is crucial for AV/projection functionality. Cloak projection equipment by incorporating automated, retractable screens and ceiling-mounted projectors with power/data sources that are available when you need them, and hidden when you don’t.
- Take a Breather. Create an indoor-outdoor connection to event space whenever possible. The ability to easily step outside for fresh air during an all-day conference is reinvigorating. Indoor-outdoor accessibility is key for weddings, celebrations, and large gatherings.
- Location, Location. Site the banquet kitchen adjacent to the main kitchen and service/loading areas. The connection paves the way for well-organized flow, set-up, and on-time food delivery service to meeting and event spaces.
- Mixing Business & Pleasure. Guestrooms and meeting or event space should be separated. It’s important for leisure guests as well as people staying over for business—guestroom areas should feel like a departure from the 9-to-5 environment.
- The Path Less Traveled. Avoid crossing back-of-house support circulation with public and guest circulation areas. Guests needn’t be concerned with staff movement, nor should busy employees have to excuse themselves unnecessarily.
- Give ‘em Some Elbow Room. Always look for an opportunity to create a separate drop-off zone for buses that doesn’t crowd the main entry, and a secondary entry that allows for easy flow in and out of the function areas that do not conflict with guests at the front door.