by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua Marketing Ltd
Inspiring venues – it starts at school!
The learning environment in our schools all over the world has changed significantly over the decades with new thinking on how children learn impacting how classrooms are laid out and how children interact with teachers, each other and with the physical setting. The learning environment in our business meetings, however, has stubbornly resisted change, remaining steadfastly faithful to the “tried and tested” settings, many of which are well beyond their reasonable sell by date.
It’s massively ironic that the term “classroom”, still officially used in the meetings industry to designate a type of meeting where participants sit in neat rows behind desks or tables, bears little or no relation to the average school classroom today. Psychologists continuously release compelling research on how we learn, absorb knowledge, undertake behavioural changes yet our business meetings continue to take place in environments least likely to generate positive learning outcomes.
But, of course, there are exceptions. This blog has already highlighted some of the outliers in new meetings environments – Convene, Chateauform’, etc.venues – but here are 5 more worth considering. Here you’ll find AV seamlessly connected into the physical environment, coffee and snacks on demand, flexible configurations and a strong aesthetic and design ethos.
Red Cow Moran’s Hotel, Dublin
As part of a €14m investment, the Moran family has totally re-imagined the meetings facilities at their flagship hotel property in Dublin, creating a suite of truly inspiring venues. Access to daylight is maximised in a series of small and medium rooms that comprise the ground floor of a newly built wing that also adds beautifully appointed guest rooms to the property. Many of the meeting rooms open out onto an attractive outdoor terrace, allowing for coffee breaks and lunches al fresco. Super-sized plasma screens in all of the newly created suites facilitate high definition presentations and great lumbar support is ensured for all participants thanks to magnificent imperial style, ergonomic chairs. One room is configured with a colourful tiered seating zone and lots of casual seating opportunities to encourage creative thinking and brainstorming. Needless to say the WiFi offers lightning speeds.
Bord Bia, Dublin
Bord Bia – the Irish Food Board – acts as a link between Irish food, drink and horticulture suppliers and existing and potential customers throughout the world. Its objective is to develop markets for Irish suppliers and to bring the taste of Irish food to more tables world-wide. It clients are small, medium and large food related businesses located all over the country. It’s not a venue per se but its space has recently been given a make-over that leaves many dedicated meetings venues in the hal’penny place!
The recently launched Thinking House space at Bord Bia’s head office in Dublin’s Mount Street is a truly refreshing environment where food businesses can come to research, benchmark, learn and brainstorm. The innovation room can accommodate up to 50 participants and offers high sensory stimulation to get the creative juices flowing. There’s a seamless video wall, white & black boards, a lego wall, an interactive white board, giant post-it note pads, tables on wheels, flexible furniture and lots of LED.
Well established as a leader in venue design, etc venues has recently opened a new property at County Hall, Westminister with spaces affording iconic views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Key features found across the entire etc.venues portfolio – spacious lobbies and receptions, attractive common areas with great art and Lavazza coffee, best-in-breed technology, intuitive flow systems etc – are taken here to a new level, making County Hall a worthy flagship for etc venues and a paragon for how venues can help drive meeting design.
Combining large capacity suites with smaller meetings rooms, County Hall can cater for single meetings up to 600 attendees. The 5000 square metre lay-out seamlessly delivers formal plenary sessions while providing multiple cluster opportunities at high top tables, in quiet alcoves or over a sumptuous lunch served in an environment that’s anything but a canteen. etc.venues is all about the art and science of great meetings and conferences pivoting its offering on inspirational spaces, a quality food experience and seamlessly integrated technology, sound and lighting.
The Hoxton, Holborn, London
The Hoxton in Shoreditch and Ace Hotel in Portland were amongst the new breed of independent hotels to truly re-define hospitality and position hotels as neighbourhood hubs, not concrete piles devoid of local personality. It was only a matter of time before The Hoxton would weave its magic on meetings and events space too and, indeed, this has now materialised beautifully at The Hoxton, Holborn, the firm’s relatively new opening in London’s midtown, between the West End and The City.
Styled as The Apartment, the Hoxton’s meetings spaces are a suite of smallish spaces laid out around a central “kitchen” area which doubles as a reception area and a hub where unlimited coffee, soft drinks and snacks are available. The remaining rooms can be rented separately as individual meeting suites or opened out into a larger space for bigger gatherings. Rooms have great but unobtrusive technology and are furnished with a designer’s eye. Contemporary art pieces by local artists abound.
Iconic Offices, Dublin
Co-working spaces aimed at start-ups have been mushrooming up in cities around the world and Dublin is no exception. Dog Patch Labs in the chq Building is a great example of how work and meeting space can really stimulate creativity and spark innovation. Iconic Offices offers co-working and meetings solutions at 11 locations around Dublin, The Brickhouse, on Mount Street, the most recent addition to the portfolio. Like Dog Patch Labs, the feel and flavour at The Brickhouse is decidedly informal, casual and collaborative. The common “Events Space” doubles as a lunch location by day but once a week hosts “meet ups”. The private meetings spaces have prominent LED screens, funky furniture and lots of vibrant colour.
To the uninitiated, today’s classrooms can appear chaotic at times with children moving freely and informally around the space, clustering around screens or small tables, connecting. It’s as far from neat rows as a crowd exiting a stadium is from a military parade. Yet real learning is taking place, centred around the children, not the teacher. Business meetings will increasingly move in this direction too and smart venue owners will take inspiration from the outliers mentioned here.
Pádraic Gilligan, Patrick Delaney and Aoife McCrum run SoolNua, a specialist agency working with destinations, hotels and venues on strategy, marketing and training for the meetings and events industry. Please connect with us through SoolNua.