9 Game-Changers for Hotel Meeting Spaces

Author: Barbara Palmer       

There’s a huge problem in the hospitality industry when it comes to hotels and meeting infrastructure, C2 Montréal founder Jean-Francois Bouchard told the 200-plus hotel executives, event planners, and others at AccorHotel’s Global Meetings Exchange, held at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth in Montréal in March.

 “Very often, we’re looking at very unnecessary spaces. And, very often, we’re looking at very basic, if not truly horrible, food and AV solutions. The use of technology is very basic most of the time. And of course, hotel operators never get into anything that even remotely resembles content or programming in most cases. Based on our experience in the events world, when we look at what happens in such great platforms as hotels, for us it’s obvious that there’s a massive gap in the marketplace.”

The ‘ball pools’ at C2 Espace. Photo Credit Jimmy Hamelin

The good news? “From our perspective, a hotel is really a great campus for convening human experiences,” he said. “That’s something that a single Airbnb room cannot do.” The solution, he said, is for hoteliers — and meeting planners — to start thinking of themselves as experiential artists.

“I think the minute we start looking at or thinking about hotels, not as a collection of rooms and amenities, but as places where immersive experiences can be developed, I think then we’re starting to look at hospitality in a much more exciting way.”

One example was 20 stories up  —  C2 Espace, which opened on the top floor of the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth. Developed in partnership with C2 and Sid Lee Architecture, the 13,000-square-foot space, which includes a rooftop terrace, was designed to facilitate collaboration. (For more, see “Designing for Dialogue.” )

When looking at the world of business events, C2 believes that nine things need fixing, Bouchard said. They are:

  1. Flexible space configuration The first thing C2 is trying to do is reimagine the configuration of spaces to be a lot more flexible, “so that planners can transform space.”
  2. Digital immersive environments Instead of simply adding more digital displays, like many venues do, “what if you imagine how digital environments could literally transform and envelope spaces? Almost with a flick of a switch, you can change the look and feel of a space,” he said.
  3. Thematic décors This element “is something that we see a lot in events — not so much in venues and even less so in hotels. C2 has an 80,000-square-foot warehouse where we keep all kinds of décor that can be used to transform, in a fairly cheap way, spaces without having modifying the actual architecture of spaces.”
  4. Modular structures “One thing we play a lot with at C2 Montréal is scaffolding — creating mezzanines and lounges and other new structures within the walls of venues. So we’re in the process of designing our own scaffolding system for the purpose of integrating them into events.”
  5. Entertainment acts “Some people have a very good idea of what will work and they prefer to book their own content, but some people are actually pretty hungry to be offered solutions,” Bouchard said. “That’s an area we are getting into. So that if you book a space, you also have a menu of entertainment acts that you can book that comes along with that.”
  6. Content & animation Espace C2 offers the services of speakers, emcees, moderators, and teams who can design and conduct collaborative sessions. They also have editorial teams who can provide attendees with summaries of the topics that have been discussed and a concierge squad. “The way we see it is a hotel or a venue is hardware,” he said. “How do we make sure that this hardware runs with great software? That’s when such services come into play.”
  7. Thematic activities C2 is known for developing unique solutions to jumpstart collaboration — whether it’s brainstorming in the sky, suspended in a chair or net, or brainstorming in a cloud or in a ball pool, he said.
  8. Progressive F&B Think collaborative experiences around food. “We’ve done a potluck, where a meal is actually made by participants.”
  9. Tech solutions Venues need to be great curators and integrators of technology,” Bouchard said. “Depending on the type of event, they can propose the proper solutions.”