According to the 2014 Global Meetings Forecast released by American Express Meetings & Events, group event planners in North America estimate that overall spending dedicated to meetings will remain flat versus 2013. But at the same time, they also anticipate a 1.5% increase in the number of meetings, as well as a slight increase in the number of attendees at each meeting. In other words, meeting planners must do more with less, yet again.
A second trend seen by North American meeting and event planners is the increasing engagement of attendees through social media and mobile apps. This use is expected to increase in 2014, marking the transition of such tools from attendees' personal lives to their professional lives. Responding meeting planners noted greater interest in using mobile apps and want to learn how to best use apps for their meetings. In fact, planners face a challenge from their management to use social media and mobile apps not just during meetings, but also before and after meetings to reinforce meeting content and keep attendees connected to one another. The goal: maximize the time attendees spend at the meeting itself and create opportunities for increased engagement and efficiency in that brief window when attendees are together in person.
At Kiawah Island Golf Resort (KIGR), an oceanfront property located just outside Charleston, SC, with more than 35,000 square feet of meeting space, the group sales and service teams have worked with countless meeting planners on reaching that specific goal. And when it comes to what's desired at today's meetings, Kiawah's meeting experts know this: creating the best possible in-person event is about making attendees active participants in every aspect of the agenda - they are no longer simply the receivers of information. In the meetings of 2014 and beyond, the subject experts are not so much the session leaders as they are the attendees themselves!
As a result, KIGR is set up to handle the evolving needs of meetings. For the many event agendas that now use shorter formal sessions alternated with longer break periods - allowing attendees to give their own perspectives to one another about what they've just heard - the informal gathering areas of a facility are more critical than ever for meeting effectiveness.
At KIGR's East Beach Conference Center and Turtle Point Clubhouse, the formal meeting rooms are surrounded by indoor and outdoor areas that are ideal for smaller, more focused attendee discussions. Offering everything from upholstered sofas and chairs set in alcoves throughout the prefunction area, to cocktail tables set on wraparound decks just outside the meeting area's glass doors, to a lawn area with wicker rocking chairs that sometimes even has groups using flipcharts there, KIGR's informal spaces were designed specifically for attendee interaction that's different from what's possible at many other hotels and resorts.
What's more, The Sanctuary at KIGR has its own memorable informal spaces just beyond its meeting areas, including cozy nooks throughout the lobby that feature oversized seating; two pool areas with many tables and chairs; and a large lawn with Adirondack chairs and ocean views. And because KIGR has an "all hands on deck" policy among its staff, meeting planners who might need to change parts of their agenda on short notice can be sure that the necessary legwork will happen seamlessly. Breaks and meals can be expedited or pushed back, meeting and banquet rooms can be turned over quickly, and if a creative idea strikes a planner during the meeting itself, alternate spaces can be prepared for use. With so many flexible spaces on property, there must also be flexible service, and KIGR's entire staff is trained to deliver that in order for each meeting to reach its goal of attendees getting as much as possible from their in-person experience.