by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua
In his weekly Meetings Innovation Report, Skift reporter Greg Oates provides a link to a compelling article by Charles de Gaspe Beaubien of Groupsize Solutions on “Generation C and Small Meetings”. While technology has revolutionised the airline and hotel booking process for individuals, he says, it hasn’t impacted on the group side but it could do so, particularly in relation to the booking of small meetings. Small meetings – ie, meetings for less than 50 attendees – comprise almost 70% of all meeting activity so this is a huge market – probably worth as much as $124 billion in the US alone.
When you cross reference this with the emergence of a new demography identified by Google as Generation C – a non-age specific generation that values creation, curation, connection and community – you see where there’s a gaping gap in the market. There’s a massive need for small meetings facilities in hotels, venues and miscellaneous other locations and an all-set and savvy on-line community that wants to book and use them but, says, de Gaspe Beaubien, the two are no connected:
Try to book a simple meeting at your hotel. How long does it take to find availability and rates? The process is typically tedious and takes hours to accomplish … it may be hard to imagine, but those requests are still handled the ‘old school’ way with forms, phone calls and emails. However, times are finally changing, and the self-serve revolution is here.
While the speed to market may have been slow, there is now a strong coterie of platforms that allow small meeting rooms be sourced and booked all over the world. Interestingly – and this reflects Generation C’s desire to be different – the type of meeting room available extends way beyond the traditional hotel or business centre into the sharing economy with lofts, warehouses and private penthouses typically part of the offer. Here are 10 platforms – some well established, some new kids on the block – that you should know about.
Founded by UK entrepreneur Richard Smith, MeetingRooms.com provides access to 12,000 meeting rooms, in 2,200 cities across 130 countries. It has considerable inventory in the dedicated business centre space including meeting rooms at serviced office facilities like Regus.
Only 2 years in operation, Peerspace, like LiquidSpace (below) offers access to shared work spaces which, of course, may also be used for meetings. Covering some rather cool cities in the US – Austin, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco – Peerspace may be limited by geographical presence but certainly not by passion or by range of spaces offered. There’s nothing boring here either with penthouses and photo studios in the mix. You don’t have to be on-line either as it comes in App format too.
Spacebase is like Peerspace’s Germany cousin although it does have inventory now outside of Germany too, in South Africa, Spain and Holland. The locations are achingly cool spaces that, undoubtedly, will inspire creativity and get teams thinking outside of the box – particularly as they’re not locked in the beige blandness of the average hotel meeting room. Spacebase comes with an additional “value” promise that it’s 40% cheaper than traditional venues.
Launched late in 2015 by Andrew Needham, Headbox is a UK based platform with around 3000 “creative” locations available for daily rent. Headbox connects bookers direct with the venue through its on-line instant messenger and allows payment through the platform with credit card or Paypal. The venues are a mix of private and hotel locations but all have a decidedly funky, fizzy appeal.
Launched this year in London and focused, for the moment, on that busy city marketplace, Spacily has put together a collection of approx 300 hotels, private members’ clubs and business centres which can be booked through its platform. Although more traditional and “upscale” than the locations featured on Spacebase, all of the venues have been personally curated and offer a quality meeting experience.
Currently only available in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, Bizly concentrates on hotel meeting room for up to 40 persons. Originally in App format only, Bizly is now available as a platform that offers rental of mainly upscale meetings facilities on a hourly basis. It styles itself as a one-stop shop where you browse, book and pay for quality meeting space in one place – a hugely useful service in a massively busy city like New York.
Servicing 10 cities in the US and Canada, Breather takes the same broader perspective as LiquidSpace and Peerspace highlighting “workspaces” as its core competency. It’s got a great UI and has packaged its offering so that spaces booked on Breather all combine workspace + private lounge + WiFi. The site provides some interesting personas, underlining who might use the service – naturally they’re all Gen C types!
Fillit is a brand new, sharing economy platform launched in August 2016 [I wasn’t invited :(] that identifies unusual spaces in retail outlets, galleries, cafes, even supermarkets for out-of-the-box pop-up events. Fillit lists the space and users then pitch their idea for its use to the landlord after which a booking may be secured. Slightly different to the “on demand” approach of other platforms, Fillit does a great job at scouting the locations and displaying them on its very nice platform. For the moment it’s Ireland only.
Founded by serial entrepreneur Mark Gilbreath in 2010, LiquidSpace quickly attracted funding from the likes of Linkedin co-founder, Reid Hoffman. Inspired by the highly mobile way we work these days, this platform connects workers easily and efficiently with workspaces and, as such, is not specifically a platform for booking meeting rooms but the concept is the same. Liquidspace operates on a membership basis and is a real time booking engine: when a member makes a reservation, she is booking time directly into the venue’s calendar. This alone makes LiquidSpace the outlier here: bookings are in real time.
The platform that best brings together the top benefits of all the ones listed above is MeetingsBooker. With inventory in 134 countries and a full range of spaces from traditional to uber-cool, the platform provides the meeting booker with an immense palette of choice. The UX, too, is streamlined into a pretty seamless journey with lots of nice add-ons, like, for example, reviews, special offers and the ability to invite attendees to the meeting and provide additional details, including directions. Meetingsbooker is now also adding its booking technology direct to hotel websites
Platforms to book meetings on-line may have been slow to materialise amidst the chaotic frenzy of on-line activity for travel and tourism. But they’re coming now as fast as knock-off Nike trainers on a Chinese assembly line and, unlike the trainers, these platforms are the real deal.
Pádraic Gilligan, Patrick Delaney and Aoife McCrum run SoolNua, a specialist agency working with destinations, venues and hotels on strategy, marketing and training. Pádraic is a judge for Technology and Innovation Watch at ibtmWorld.