Meeting planners know the feeling of standing alone in an empty, vast ballroom in the early morning hours before the sun rises or at night long after the last participant duly exits. There is something captivating that envelopes you—that sound of silence when looking out into space.

Think about space in today’s world. We live in physical places, communicate in digital places, explore outer space, and virtually visit places in the space in our minds. Above all, we continue to reach for that space within our body and soul, that place of balance. As more and more millennials enter the work space, they are searching for a physical sense of place to belong in society and work, having grown up in a digital space.
The sense of place is pervasive; it speaks to you in the silence of the room, in the silence of your mind. If silence speaks, then what should we listen to when choosing a destination, location, venue, hotel? A space where we will invite people to have a place to engage, interact, play, learn, and communicate.

Understanding how destination and venue spaces impact the attendee experience and the sense of place is an added dimension to the site-selection process. It requires a sensitivity to the lifestyle choices people are making now to maintain the balance in their own personal sense of place while they explore new experiences.

Some questions to ask yourself in the meeting design process:

1. Are the objective and goals of the meeting or event clear?

2. Does the location meet your criteria for the format of the meeting, conference, or exhibition?

3. Are there attractions, museums, venues, or locations that could offer unique opportunities? For example, during The Special Event conference in Orlando this month, the Leadership Lunch was held on the Orlando Eye. How creative to use this location, filling each car with a seasoned professional facilitating a specific discussion with a group of 8–10 participants while enjoying the experience. Everyone wins as the PR opportunities benefit The Special Event and the Eye team for future business.

4. Does the space allow for designing places to complement the profile and needs of the attendees?

5. Does the sense of place encourage attendance and pre- or post-meeting tourism?

6. Where in the space are branding opportunities? Where are they allowed? Where are they most effective?

7. Does the space allow for an event design that will maximize flow?

8. What is the vibe of the people who work there? Are they proud of the place? Is there positive energy?

9. Does an actual destination — country, state, or city — complement the theme? If you are planning a meeting with top producers and the theme is Go for the Gold, are you aware of the influence that the location you choose has on perception, behavior, expectations?

10. Certain places have spaces that are uniquely designed for specific looks or themes. If using these results in cost savings that matches the theme and objectives, then the space works. If it doesn’t, choose something else and avoid the risk of losing marketing impact

Alice peered through the Looking Glass and saw BIG and little doors. Explore the spaces. Enjoy the places and continue the search and process for the right fit.

Before your next meeting, stand alone and let the venue tell you the possibilities. And, above all, remember there’s no place like a feeling of home and home is where two or more people can meet face to face. Invite me anytime.

Dianne Devitt