An igloo with AV that simulates the Northern Lights, a Nordic cottage with a fireplace, chairs suspended from the ceiling — these are not the kinds of images that jump to mind as traditional meeting spaces. That’s exactly why they’re part of Huone, a recently opened business-events venue in Singapore on the Singapore River that is designed around the premise, “It’s time to say goodbye to boring meetings,” on its website. When I explored the property — the company’s second location — prior to attending the Singapore MICE Forum, July 27–28, I discovered why forward-thinking event organizers are taking to the Huone approach.
Each room at Huone is designed to inspire a different feeling among participants. In the Forest Room, tree trunk–like pillars and splashes of green create a natural wilderness setting. The Nest Room unites up to 25 attendees below an intricate wooden bird’s nest–style structure. A Vaudeville-style stage setup sits at the front of the Theatre Room.
Huone’s variety of settings — 11 unique environments — helps event organizers accomplish a range of goals. For example, Netflix invited an audience of social-media influencers to screen one of its new shows, and Sephora convened a crowd for a product launch. Barclays, Uber, Visa, and Microsoft are among the companies that have used spaces at Huone to provide a dramatic and immersive backdrop to their events. They were able to use a convenient online booking process — free of phone calls or back-and-forth email exchanges — to request a room while easily comparing space options, half-day and full-day formats, best uses, and rates.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
Joewin Tan, CEO of Huone Singapore, thinks that the venue’s size helps attendees feel at home from the moment they arrive. “At big convention centers and hotels, it’s easy to get lost,” Tan said. “You might arrive at a huge venue looking for a room with a random number. You can’t find it. You’re late. It gets the whole experience off to a frustrating start. Because we are a lot smaller, we can avoid those issues.”
Tan has personal experience overcoming those issues. She founded her own event-management agency, Linear Dots, in 2012, and she has applied many of those lessons in her role at Huone.
However, Tan credits Evon and Jussi Söderlund, Huone’s Finnish co-founders who established its first location in Helsinki, for creating a culture that makes working for the company as enjoyable as attending an event at the venue. “One key principle behind Huone that we instill in our team and our clients is that we actually don’t serve our customers,” Tan said. “We host them. There is often a culture where the service staff bows down to customers, but that’s not the case here. We don’t think that service staff deserve any less respect than others around them.”
Plans to Expand
The culture is working, as is the new approach to event spaces: The venue opened earlier this year, and it has already crossed the $1 million SGD mark in revenue. Tan said that the company plans to open two additional properties in Singapore. As more event organizers look to take advantage of Huone’s alternative-space design, the company wants to come to them. Tan said that expansion plans are in the works for Sydney, Hong Kong, and China, with additional properties around the world to follow. “Our vision is to be in the top 10 MICE cities in the world,” Tan said. “Now, we’re set up in Finland and Singapore, and we want to connect the dots in between.”
Looking for more extraordinary design examples? Check out “7 Images That Will Inspire Every Event Organizer.”