The ‘traditional’ meeting room – with its inoffensive (and, therefore, offensive) decor, drab office furniture and basic AV facilities – is no longer the fulcrum for corporate off-sites.
‘It’s all about breakout spaces, communal working areas,’ says Margaretha Welsford, director of sales at Etc. Venues. ‘People don’t want walls, they want a place where they can be creative and interact with each other.’
Garreth Walsh, GM at The Marylebone hotel, agrees. ‘Boundaries between work and play are becoming blurred,’ he says. ‘Busy people do not want to be corralled into dull, windowless spaces for hours on end; they want to move about, be stimulated and relax all at once.’ This ethos underpins The Marylebone’s new-look meeting rooms, which were designed to not feel like meeting rooms, but a private members club.
We’ve always had a lot of bright colours and contemporary art, which are triggers for the brain
Newly opened Mortimer House in Fitzrovia is taking that idea a step further, opening an events-ready property that is for members only. Its ‘shared focus on work and repose’ is realised through fitness classes, a meditation room and organised talks covering health and ‘creative connection’. In one of its meeting rooms there’s regularly rotating art on the walls; in another, a kitchen where the house chef can cook while you work.
The Hoxton Hotel has been channelling the idea of these blurred boundaries (for creative output) with its event space the Apartment for a few years. A swanky seven-room ‘flat’ in Shoreditch, it’s taken the traditional idea of a meeting space and reconstructed it into something fun and informal – a place delegates actually want to spend time in.
‘The Apartment is supposed to feel exactly like that, an apartment, so it’s relaxed and therefore a great place for businesses to get creative,’ says Jules Pearson, The Hoxton’s marketing manager. ‘The flexible interiors, fun decor and an open-plan kitchen make people feel like they’re in a creative space, which gets the brain flowing. Boring interiors equals bored brains.’
‘We’ve always had a lot of bright colours and contemporary art, which are triggers for the brain,’ says Etc. Venues’ Welsford. ‘My favourite is the life-sized model horse we have at The Hatton, which has a lampshade on its head. You might hate it but it gives your brain something to do and it’s a conversation starter.’
Boring is also bad for business. Companies increasingly want their employees to be engaged and animated, generating ideas and collaborating with colleagues; not dipping stale bourbons into weak tea while feigning interest in a presentation. ‘People who book events are moving away from presentations and lecturing,’ says Welsford. ‘They want interactive sessions.’
Sam Riches, director of sales at The Curtain, agrees. ‘Nowadays [events] have to have some return on investment and this is where the need for inspiration comes into play,’ he says. ‘It’s our job as the host of an event to take guests outside their normal routine and bring them into surroundings that inspire creativity.’
Now take a look at how this creative approach also applies to event tech and experiential events
Venues are using active or unusual breakout sessions to get creative juices flowing. Here are some of our favourites
+ Yoga before a meeting at The Marylebone
+ Swimming in the rooftop pool at The Curtain
+ Meditation between work at Mortimer House
+ Snapping on a ‘selfie spot’ at Etc. Venues Co. Hall
+ After-work cocktail making at Hoxton Holborn