“Event spaces are a stage where we all get to see what’s coming that’s new, and something new that you don’t get to see in other spaces,” said Alice Kim, project designer at Wilson Associates.
Her coworker Melinda Clark agreed, emphasizing that flexibility and connectivity will only grow in importance for event spaces: “We're looking at video conferencing, for example, and how presentations are set up.” Speakers typically stand in the front of a conference room—but new technology allows for remote connectivity, opening up the event for virtual attendees or even presenters who only appear on a screen. “A ballroom has a maximum occupancy, but now the group can be thousands of people who can remotely attend the event through videoconferencing,” she said, adding that audiovisual companies are already promoting these services for conference-focused hotels.
Looking ahead, Dianne Pepe, director of sales and meetings at the Renaissance NY Midtown Hotel, expects that urban hotels will continue “reinventing or creating unique spaces” that will be very high-tech. “Multiuse rooms give the customer more flexibility in one location without having to negotiate with several vendors for the same event,” she said.
Steve van der Molen, VP of meeting operations for the Atlantic City region at Caesars Entertainment Corporation, agreed. “Multipurpose is the key driver when thinking of the future of event spaces,” he said. “We are ready for face-to-face meetings where all options are on the table from networking to tradeshows, general sessions and breakouts, and all supported by the newest technologies. The venue has to lend itself to be open for this. It’s also important to make sure you have a great team of people to execute these events.”
Michael Massari, Caesars’ chief sales officer, predicted that hotel ballrooms will incorporate more elements from convention centers, like roll-up doors and electrical outlets embedded in the floors. “Today, it’s ‘or,’” he said about the two types of venues. “It will become ‘and.’”
Event spaces will also have to be high-tech, Massari said. “I don’t think you can build a new [venue] now and not have it be state-of-the-art, tech-wise. It would be a mess and the customers would reject it.”
Hoteliers risk “massive capital loss” if they don’t talk to their customers and think outside the box, Massari continued. “Really, think big. We’ve been at this for 20 years, and nearly every architect I talked to tried to talk me out of the airwalls. When they see how the customers use them, they get it. You have to listen to the customers.”