10 Nov 2016

Ready for the future: How the meeting destination Germany drives innovation

The “Future Meeting Space“ innovation network’s presentation of the phase I results of a long-term research study ticked all the boxes, providing the audience with inspiring insights, a multifaceted delivery and thought leadership.

Here's a glimpse into the future of meeting rooms: On a Thursday afternoon in October 2016, about 50 guests sat in the HOLM "House of Logistics and Mobility" in the so-called "fishbowl" space, a circle of several rows of red benches placed on different height levels in the light flooded foyer of the building. The seating order as well as the event venue, that HOLM managing director Michael Kadow described as a "catalyst, enabler and cooperation platform" in his welcome, indicated what the audience could expect for the next 90 minues: a live experience of a future meeting room where the research partners presented their findings in new and unexpected ways.

Getting ready for the future

The "Future Meeting Space" research project was initiated at the beginning of 2015, looking at the impact of trends, innovation and developments in society on the meetings industry: "Germany is currently well positioned as a congress destination. However, what will the situation be in a few years' time? That's the question we need to answer," said Joachim König, president of the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC) that together with the GCB set up the "Future Meeting Space" network. GCB managing director Matthias Schultze and Dr. Stefan Rief of the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO showcased innovative approaches in their results presentation, using the Prezi online presentation tool including an avatar who took part in the conversation, asking questions and giving answers.

Interaction and knowledge transfer

The presentation kicked off with a mood film that featured an avatar who invited the audience to "start into the future of events - now". Matthias Schultze then highlighted the developments and challenges that Germany as a meetings and congress destination is faced with, including megatrends such as the digitisation and mechanisation of the events sector. Designed as an innovation workshop, the "Future Meeting Room" initiative aims at providing precise recommended actions as a basis for the development of requirements for successful events, looking at factors such as technology, organisation and space. To that end, the partners of the innovation network have developed six scenarios that were presented by Dr. Stefan Rief.

"Future Meeting Room"

The basic "interactive forum" scenario was the one that the audience could actually experience at the event via the chosen venue, infrastructure as well as the use of technology and format of presentation. Another scenario painted the picture of a congress that is spread out over several different geographical locations, with a number of regional events taking place at the same time. Further set-ups revolve around moving real events into the virtual space ("hybridity") or supporting networking during longer events and providing co-working spaces for delegates. A tool box helps event planners and venue operators to pick their best option from the six scenarios that were presented: "The tool box helps to figure out individual aims and define requirements in order to choose the appropriate scenario," explained Rief.

Committed research partners

"Future Meeting Space" collaborates with a number of research partners from various parts of the industry, who commented on the research results and indicated how the recommendations will be used and incorporated in their work: Prof. Christine Kohlert of Drees & Sommer, a consulting company working in the construction and real estate sector, is convinced that, on the basis of the scenarios provided, they will be able to develop considerably improved visions and strategies for the future with their clients in the structural engineering and infrastructure space. "These are good ideas and concrete recommendations for actions in order to develop Berlin in the long-term as a future-proof meetings destination," said Marco Oelschlegel, Senior Marketing Manager Conventions at visitBerlin Berlin Convention Office, while Katja Heuer of Tourismus NRW (North Rhine-Westphalian tourist board) stressed the importance of taking on a future-oriented perspective as early as possible. With a view to mechanisation, digitisation as well as demographic changes, the results of the study prompted Tourismus NRW to place future meeting formats in the centre of a major MICE project that is designed to run for several years.

Elevating conference delegates to the next level

For Rainer König of conference service provider KFP, another research partner, interaction, live experiences and virtual reality are core themes in order to turn delegates into dynamic participants that can take on an active role in shaping events and get involved on a practical level. According to Claudia Delius-Fisher of the convention center marketing cooperation SevenCenters of Germany, this requires "absolute flexibility", adding: "Our business is about the future - we always need to remain up-to-date with what we're doing and continue investing in infrastructure."

To be continued

All the project partners agree that their initiative needs to continue. KFP's Rainer König described "Future Meeting Space" as the perfect showcase in order to position Germany as an innnovation driver and GCB managing director Matthias Schultze announced early 2017 as the estimated start date for the second project phase. Stage II of the study will explore how different types of delegates and different event elements influence user acceptance, knowledge transfer, learning progress and the quality of the experience.

GCB blog series: 8 requirements to be met by event organisers

The research findings result in eight requirements that future meeting rooms need to fulfil and that meetings planners and venue operators increasingly need to be aware of, namely interaction and networking, knowledge transfer, individualisation, time efficiency, the short-term nature of proceedings, use of technology, hybridity and user experience. Over the coming weeks, a series of eight blogs by Matthias Schultze will explore what needs to be considered in this context and illustrate how events can be organised in a flexible, in a flexible, interactive, networked and hybrid way.

The House of Logistics & Mobility (HOLM) at Frankfurt International Airport HOLM
The House of Logistics & Mobility (HOLM) at Frankfurt International Airport HOLM

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