In her 2011 book Alone Together, MIT professor Sherry Turkle argues that the technological innovations that have created greater interconnectivity — email, texting, social media — have also made us feel more alienated from each other. We connect more via digital social networks than in person.
It’s one of the reasons why we say face-to-face events provide an ideal antidote to that, offering people the opportunity to meet, learn from, and share with others, in person. But we can’t pretend that people cut the digital cord when they become attendees. Working in a world with 24/7 expectations and away from home, people still need to attend to their other responsibilities, professional and personal. And they need on-site spaces — so they’re not forced to leave the convention center or meeting venue — to meet those needs.
At the same time, we’ve become more conscious as a society of the value of the “third place” — not home, not work, but communal environments where people can connect with others. That may be via Wi-Fi on their mobile devices and laptops or in person with colleagues or people they meet. Or any combination of the above, simultaneously.
Think of the rise in popularity of coffee shops, shared work spaces, and increasingly, hotel lobbies. As Skift recently reported, veteran hotelier and boutique hotel pioneer Ian Schrager believes that the greatest potential for hotels to out-innovate Airbnb is to build upon an asset they already possess: the shared areas in their hotels. People seek out those communal spaces, he said, and that’s something Airbnb’s residential model can’t provide.
In the story, “Shared Space,” we explore how the major hotel chains are doing just that, not only by expanding the footprint of their lobbies, but creating ways to foster a sense of community among guests. And in “Business Events’ Third Place,” we provide a case study of how a diverse work environment was created for attendees to use according to their needs in a convention center’s corridor.
Communal spaces in many hotels used to be limited to a café, bar, business center, and maybe a few chairs set around a coffee table in the lobby. Today, you’re more likely to encounter bars that double as check-in counters and giant Jenga games surrounded by comfy couches and armchairs. Why the change? Read more here.
Event organizers used to map out two main environments for their attendees: dedicated session rooms and prefunction spaces. Convention center hallways were just thoroughfares, places participants used to get from one session to the next.
Now, as attendees seek out other on-site spaces that aren’t built for large group interaction — either for face-to-face conversations with colleagues, to make or take phone calls, or to catch up on work — those corridors are becoming important real estate, a kind of third place that event hosts can leverage.
PCMA had help carving out those spaces at Convening Leaders 2018 from Steelcase Event Experiences. Read more here.
Earn one clock hour of certification credit by reading both stories, and architectural firm Board & Vellum’s blog post about the history of the Third Place at convn.org/3rd-place.
To earn certification clock hours, visit pcma.org/convene-cmp-series to answer questions about information contained in this CMP Series article and the additional material.
The Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) is a registered trademark of the Events Industry Council.