Ahead of the curve. Before it's time. Next generation. Wave of the future. Forward-thinking. Innovative.
Such words and phrases often are used to describe just about anything that seems either futuristic or ultramodern, from sunglasses to cars to cell phones to furniture. But what about meetings?
There are many ways to create a meeting or event that figuratively transports its attendees into the future. This can be accomplished through the use of certain types of technology to create the desired effect, or by choosing décor that offers a clean, modern and fresh look. Of course, choosing a brand-new space with modern appointments and amenities is still another great choice.
Meetings Going High Tech
For those planners who want to bring their meeting or event “into the future,” a great way of doing so is by utilizing technologies that will add just the right look and feel to the function. Key to this strategy is finding a tech partner who can produce an atmosphere that’s both memorable and modern.
According to Lindsay Gieseler, project manager for Advanced Staging Productions, when choosing the right AV partner with whom to work, it’s important to pick a company that offers experience. "With experience comes knowledge and growth. These companies have been able to evaluate what works best and identify the most efficient practices to use."
Gieseler says that being able to provide visual examples of past “modern meeting” projects also will go a long way in gaining a potential client’s trust by demonstrating the ability to handle virtually any challenge with technical skill while also having the confidence to “think outside the box” in coming up with solutions.
"A knowledgeable potential client will have done their homework in seeking out qualified AV/production vendors who will demonstrate that they are willing to work to achieve the same vision,” explains Gieseler. “A vision that is unique, technology driven and forward-thinking."
"As a committed AV partner to our clients, we are open to new products and design concepts that they may bring to the table,” she continues. “Time is spent researching and planning to ensure we have a full understanding of what they envision. It is our responsibility to make recommendations, provide direction and guide them to a realistic and ultimately successful outcome.
Many factors can come into play when working on a next-gen program, such as budget, product availability, and practicality... Our top concern is always to fully understand their goal and how to best provide all of the tools to reach it."
Jon Futty, the lighting designer for Advanced Staging Productions, offers a number of ways that the right technology can be utilized to provide a futuristic look and feel to a meeting or event.
"LED screens are no longer only for the biggest touring music groups or buildings,” explains Futty. “The availability of LED panels, tiles, and video walls has greatly increased from a price and technology standpoint. Ranging from walls designed to be outdoor, weather resistant and super bright to indoor walls rivaling monitors and projectors for color and pixel density. If space or brightness is an issue for a projector, a video wall is an easy upgrade that can overcome those limitations. The many types, sizes and shapes of LED product now available can create futuristic backdrops to help expand your creativity."
LED and Neon tape has greatly enhanced the ways in which light can be used to convey messages and create experiences, he adds. Futty says that LED tapes have been around for a long time, but hadn’t become “robust” enough (and therefore feasible) until more recently.
What are LED tapes? Futty explains, “Think of a single LED light, miniaturize it to be about a quarter of an inch squared, then spaced out along a roll of tape, and - voila! - you have LED tapes. With this simple idea, there has been a large amount of growth and development over the past years. The LEDs have become brighter, smaller, and more power efficient allowing for this flexibility.”
Neon tape is another breakthrough, he says. “Imagine the neon signs that started in the 1920s, but without the fear of glass breaking! And they aren’t limited to one color like the gas filled tubes of the Neon signs. The designer can just punch up any color they want. Again, this creates numerous possibilities to paint with light. They can be custom cut, shaped, and placed in nearly any location, indoors or out.”
Futty says that both of these tapes can be built into a scenic item to make a “living and breathing element” that can change with the theming of the show or session. “Between these two items, you have lots of options to create some simple and effective looks."
Ultimately, in order to bring a futuristic or high tech feel to an event or meeting, he explains, it all comes down to the utilization of technology and scenic designs.
If LED Panels are out of the budget or if space is limited, he suggests utilizing the aforementioned LED tape or Neon tape as an option. “Some even allow the lighting designer to have control of each LED pixel of the tape. Strategic placement of the tapes along hard scenic elements, stages, or video screens can give a futuristic feel.”
“The tapes also are small enough that that they can be attached in very tight or small spaces to give a glow behind a scenic element that could not be achieved with other lighting instruments. With many of these being outdoor, or IP65 rated, you can even use them in wet locations," adds Futty.
Trends, Décor and More
Outside of the infusion of technology, there are a variety of other ways to bring modernity to a meeting or event. One great way is to tap into the latest trends when creating its look and feel.
Melani Kodikian, CERP, president of A to Z Party Rental, explains that being modern is all about trends. She says the best method to modernizing an event is to tap into what is currently trending. Stay on top of things like the color of the year and the latest fashion trends, and then utilize décor and equipment that is in sync with those trends.
“Mix and match textures,” she adds. “Linen can have a huge impact on the overall look and feel of an event. The beauty of tenting is the ability to create a space, of any style, out of nothing. Your décor and designs aren’t limited to the space you’re in. You can transform your environment into anything your imagination creates, including multiple spaces in one tent. Draping can be a valuable tool in creating those spaces. With the correct layout and draping, you can have a game room, garden environment, and a formal banquet space - all under a single tent!"
She explains that an advantage of renting for a meeting or event is that it provides the flexibility to create when without needing to have deep pockets or large storage spaces, and it minimizes waste. “If you’re going to use an item for multiple events it may be worth purchasing it, depending on the cost. Otherwise, renting is the best method."
Kodikian adds that, while many may believe that modernizing a meeting only requires technology, there are several other factors to consider.
“What people forget to address is the environment of the meeting. What is the layout? What is the seating? Remove the stuffiness of a conference table and rolling chairs, replace them with oversized cushioned chairs and sofas. Spread out in a room. Turn off the cell phones, close the laptops and focus on the task at hand."
Another expert when it comes to using décor to modernize a meeting or event space, Michelle Harris is the business development manager for Choice Party Linens. She says spandex is great for a modern, sleek look and works well for both casual and high-end events. She says that velvet also has been very popular among those seeking a modern look and feel, as it adds a luxurious element with a simple, modern vibe.
"Set the atmosphere of the event from when your guests walk in the door to the moment they leave,” advises Harris. “Details matter and people notice and are expecting the ‘wow’ factor more than ever."
"Linens are such an important detail and can greatly change the overall atmosphere of any event,” she continues. “There is no other surface in any event space that is as easily changed with such little effort, time and expense and with such dramatic and impressive results."
Harris says that using a variety of textures and colors to highlight different areas or focal points of an event really brings the room together and adds a modern touch. “Mix it up and enjoy the results."
She further notes that Choice Party Linens offers a number of different fabric options that can bring a modern look and feel to an event, each with its own unique advantages.
"Panama is a nicer option for clients looking for a cotton feel, matte look and something that’s heavier than polyester,” notes Harris. “Dupioni offers an inexpensive upgrade. but doesn’t look inexpensive. It also offers the option of being reversible, and we carry it in 37 colors and multiple sizes, so the possibilities are wide open. Velvet is effortlessly elegant, drapes beautifully and is available in a gorgeous range of colors."
Modern Meeting Space
Sometimes adding a modern touch to a meeting or event can be accomplished by booking at a new and modern venue that offers the very latest in meeting technology as well as eye-catching décor.
Tifani Jones, corporate director of sales for Kalahari Resorts and Conventions in the Pocono Mountains, PA, says that the property’s newly expanded convention center will open this fall to meet the growing demand for state-of-the-art convention/meeting space in the Pocono Mountains Region. “The expansion will bring: 18 new meeting rooms - for a total of 33; main ballroom/exhibit space of over 38,000-square feet - in addition to our current 25,000-square foot ballroom; junior ballroom of 12,000-square feet - adding to our current 9,000-square foot junior ballroom; exclusive Executive Conference Center for up to 400 guests; giant, sundrenched pre-function spaces; substantial registration and client office areas; along with enhanced load-in/load-out capabilities."
"There are lots of choices for convention and meeting space, so the team at Kalahari stays on top of trends and technology to make sure we’re offering the best features and amenities available,” explains Jones. “We have decades of experience working with more than 22,000 groups to know what’s important for group business. In addition to space, it’s essential to have first-class service, ample guest rooms in a variety of styles, on-site food and beverage experiences and America’s best in family-friendly entertainment - all under one roof."
She explains that, not only does Kalahari Resorts and Conventions in the Pocono Mountains provide outstanding convention facilities, it also is home to America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark, Gorilla Grove Treetop Adventures, The Arena and virtual reality attractions, a world-class spa and hydro-oasis, multiple premium restaurant experiences and more. Jones adds, “Kalahari Resorts combines a state-of-the-art convention space with all of these amenities for a successful meeting and the best in family-friendly resort amenities. This combination leads to an average 20 percent increase in meeting attendance."
Jones also notes that Kalahari strives to offer the newest in meeting amenities and entertainment for group guests, including its recently debuted, new underwater virtual reality experience called DiVR - the only one of its kind in the U.S. "Guests wear a virtual reality headset and a snorkel to explore the depths of the ocean from the safety and comfort of the pool in our indoor waterpark. Snorkelers get up close and personal with fish, coral reefs, a hammerhead shark, whales and rays. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that you won’t find anywhere else."
DiVR also allows guests to explore a space station, she explains. “The sensation of weightlessness and the deprivation of your senses underwater adds to the experience of floating in deep space… Sounds complete the experience with cutting edge haptic speakers built into the mask that allow users to ’hear’ underwater for total immersion."
Jones further notes that event style is in the details and says that Kalahari can help planners with this in a variety of ways. “Room layout and furniture choices are important for making a meeting appear more modern. Open concept and modular furniture arranged in intimate groups can be a modern choice. Color also is key for setting the right mood and tone for your event.”
She adds that food and beverage presentation and menu are another opportunity to make “on-trend” choices, adding that Kalahari shares the latest trends in events on their blog at: blog.kalaharimeetings.com
Putting together a meeting or event with a modern look and feel requires the right partners and resources, a certain amount of forward thinking, an eye for what’s trending, as well as creativity and the courage to do something that is a bit different or unique.
With the right technology, creative use of space and decor, and by choosing the right venue, planners can create a futuristic setting and experience for their attendees.