Did use an abacus or slide rule to build your FY’10 budgets?
To prepare and distribute information about next year’s Marketing Plan did you use a typewriter and make a duplicate with a layer of ink paper?
Or did you hand crank copies on a Ditto (or Verifax) machine?
Of course you didn’t. That would be crazy and inefficient. We have invented better and more efficient tools.
With that said… while we are in the 21st century… there is a tool that is stuck somewhere in the mid-1900s: The Off-Site Meeting.
It is interesting we don’t perceive meetings as a “tool” the same way we do a photocopier, computer, or even the coffee maker.
And, of all meetings, the “off-site” is critically important. So important, it warrants sending a hand-picked group away from the office, sleeping away from their families, huddled in a hotel conference room for three days, not allowed to return with out “the plan.”
Yet we put no thought to the meeting room. It is a “people container.”
Meeting Space = Commodity
Look up commodity in the dictionary, and there will be a picture of a hotel meeting room. Tan. Accordion folding walls. Wall to wall patterned carpeting. Sweaty pitchers of water dripping into black coasters. A small paper pad and hotel logo pen. Sums up 99.9% of the meetings and conferences you’ve attended, right?
And we don’t care… when we book it. We ask the office admin to call around and find a cheap place that can hold the number of people we’re bringing. If there was a preference, it would be something like: “Oh, let’s stay at that place we were last time, so and so likes their Caesar salad.”
Yet, as marketers and business people we intimately understand the importance of environment and ambiance and the affect it has on behavior and action. We create it for our customers everyday. Especially right now, the holiday season is when we pull out the stops! Christmas lights, holiday music, decorations, special programs and themes… All this to create a more pleasant environment mood and environment conducive for purchasing.
Pay Per Stomach
And the hotel doesn’t care… what you do in the room. They just want to know how many stomachs will be present.
Catering Manager: “How many?”
Your Assistant: “18 maybe 20.”
Catering Manager: “Okay, that’ll be $45 per person for breakfast, buffet-style lunch, and an afternoon snack.”
We literally pay “per stomach.”
And, because the rooms are where hotels make their money – book enough rooms and there is no additional charge for use of the room – just the food costs. But, of course that does NOT include all the tools for the meeting itself. Add on fees for renting the projector, a mic, access to the internet, easels, flipcharts…
The room is tan to be generic. To accommodate yesterday’s Bar Mitzvah, your meeting today, and the wedding reception this weekend.
That is the venue that we think will inspire the multi-million dollar strategy and “killer idea?”
Today’s meeting spaces are the equivalent of using the Ditto machine. With hard work you can crank stuff out… But your results will be inconsistent, sloppy, and slightly blurry.
Hire A Better Space – If you’re going to have an off-site where creative thinking, problem solving, and new ideas are involved – get yourself into a space that will inspire you – yet not be distracting for your work.
Below I’ve listed a few places throughout the United States and Europe built to be a creative space for creating thinking. But it doesn’t have to be a ‘meeting space’ either. You could get inspiration from your local art museum, science museum, or zoo. Find a place that works for your particular group.
- The Boardwalk, Manchester, England
- The Boardwalk Creative Center, Ann Arbor, MI
- Catalyst Ranch, Chicago, IL
- Heineken – The City, Amsterdam, NL
- Idea Loft, Kansas City, MO
- Meet, New York, NY
- The Old Laundry, London, England
- SoHoSoleil, New York, NY
- SparkSpace, Columbus, OH
- Strategy Loft, Denver, CO
- Spaces, Amsterdam, NL
- Thinkubator, Chicago, IL
Hire A Better Lead – If you don’t have someone on your team skilled at leading groups or drawing ideas out of people – hire someone. (This will also allow you to relax and focus on coming up with the “killer idea” instead of running the meeting).
What spaces have you found inspiration for you and your team?
Paul Williams is a professional problem solver at Idea Sandbox. He can help you create remarkable ideas to grow your business. You may read more at his website and find him Twittering as @IdeaSandbox.