Key Trends Revealed in IACC’s 2023 Meeting Room of the Future Report

July 13, 2023

The meetings industry has gone through unprecedented times in recent years, and as it transforms and moves well beyond the pandemic, the future is looking bright for a robust recovery, although predicting trends moving forward is no easy task. Enter the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC), the global association representing the top 1 percent of small to midsize conference and meeting venues, which recently released the 2023 Meeting Room of the Future Report. The findings detail top trends that will shape the future for conferences, meetings and events of up to 250 attendees for the next three years and beyond.

The report, IACC’s first since 2019, combines research and insights from 275 meeting professionals worldwide about their experience over the past three turbulent years and their priorities for the venue selection process moving forward, including aspects such as physical attributes, food and beverage, technology, sustainability and social impact.

Main Takeaways

One overarching takeaway of the report is that “experience creation” for attendees is more important now than before the pandemic, with 80 percent of meeting planners agreeing that this aspect is a priority in their current role.

To that end, creative spaces offering memorable alternatives is critical to successful in-person meetings, according to the research, while outdoor spaces and sustainability continue to take precedent for those arranging meetings.

Meanwhile, the report supports the widely held view that the creative experiences and relationships that are built at live events cannot be replicated through technology alone, but that digital events will remain a feature for successful companies and communities.

According to the research, planners surveyed say it is crucial to create an event that is seen as having real value to attend in person as opposed to virtually, especially since many more people are now working remotely, and they are seeking human connection, meaningful travel and authentic local experiences.

“Planners must take a step back and ask themselves whether it can be done over Zoom, and if so, it clearly has no place in the room,” said Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC.

Physical spaces and design of spaces is important to planners, according to the findings, which reflects the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for planners. Forty-one percent of respondents state that they are continuing to look for venues with larger spaces to allow their delegates to spread out, and 33 percent say that access to outdoor spaces is key.

“Our IACC venues are seeing more requests for flexible space, including outdoor space and terraces and the ability to transform traditional ballroom space into flexible seating or networking spaces,” said Susan Liston, SVP of Aramark Destinations.

Additionally, local immersion has become a key priority in event planning, according to Liston.

“Our teams are no longer just conference specialists,” Liston said. “They have pivoted to become ‘architects’ of the meeting experience and can provide the best value to our clients when they proactively recommend a way for attendees to connect to the local destination and be truly collaborative.”

The report also reveals that meeting planners continue to look for venues with strong technological capabilities, such as virtual streaming and participation, internet access, audiovisual capabilities and cyber security.

According to the report, technology is projected to rapidly evolve in the upcoming years as it adapts to changing demands, including upgrading hybrid capabilities, offering live interaction between audiences and speakers and upgrading AV offerings.  

The report also suggests that sustainability and social responsibility will continue to grow in importance in the venue selection process and in aspects such as F&B, ensuring the meeting room of the future is a positive force for the future.

Regarding the importance of a venue’s social responsibility credentials, excluding the Americas (1 being most important, 4 being least important), the findings include:

         1. Accessibility (accessible to those with disabilities, near public transport links, bicycle storage, car sharing)

         2. Human (ethical recruitment, DE&I policy, local LGBTQIA+ friendly, limited job prospect employment)

         3. Vitality (healthy catering, monitored air quality, fitness facilities)

         4. Climate (climate certification, carbon footprint information, electric car charging, free of single use plastic)

Meanwhile, survey questions and findings about food sustainability include:

  • Generally have confidence that venues will accommodate the dietary requirements you communicate to them in advance? (yes, 89 percent; no, 6 percent; not sure, 5 percent)
  • Consider venues highly if they demonstrate they have strong social responsibility credentials? (yes, 58 percent; no, 16 percent; not sure, 26 percent)
  • Consider the venue’s credentials when it comes to sourcing sustainable food? (yes, 43 percent; no, 18 percent; not sure, 40 percent)
  • Consider the venue’s credentials when it comes to food waste management? (yes, 35 percent; no, 16 percent; not sure, 49 percent)
  • Charge delegates an additional fee for accommodating requests no linked to health or religious needs? (yes, 5 percent; no, 6 percent; not sure, 90 percent)

Mainstay of the Industry

Since 2016, the Meeting Room of the Future initiative, conducted by IACC and Development Counsellors International, has brought together insights from meeting planners, IACC members and industry experts from around the globe.

“Having partnered with IACC on this study in 2017, 2019 and now in 2023, it’s abundantly clear that the meetings industry has undergone some profound transformations,” said Robyn Domber, senior vice president, research at Development Counsellors International. “The way we live, work and meet has changed, and so have, in turn, the spaces and technologies required for business events and conferences.”

According to Nancy Lindemer, director of sales and marketing for Rizzo Center and IACC president, the report is a great jumping-off tool for strengthening the relationship between IACC certified venue leaders and their meeting planners to create events that truly exceed the norm. 

“Creating memories through experiences is important, and together IACC’s global network of exceptional facilities can bring people together to do extraordinary things,” Lindemer said. “I would like to thank our industry partners, Aramark Destinations, Development Counsellors International, the Events Industry Council, Encore, Flik Hospitality Group & Rapport, MPI and Pyramid Global Hospitality, who continue to support our work and provide key insights and intelligence so we can deliver this research.”

To download the full report, visit the IACC Meeting Room of the Future website. 

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