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January 9, 2014

Marriott Invests in Technology; Launches New Program for Meeting Planners

Yesterday, Marriott Hotels launched Meetings Imagined, a new program that aims to help meeting planners and hotel staff collaborate on event creation. Using an online platform, MeetingsImagined.com shares tips, trends, and images described as “inspirational” to spark creativity. Through the website, customers can collaborate with hotels to design custom events or view programs featured at the participating test hotels, as well as share images on social media sites, such as Pinterest and Facebook. 

The site has images of experiences Marriott has hosted around the world as well as event tips such as icebreakers, food and music to set the mood. (“Tip:  Create plenty of breaks throughout the day. Research shows that the brain focuses better with several short breaks rather than a few long ones.”) Planners can tailor food and beverage, setup, technology and experiences based on the ultimate goals of each meeting, to design more inspiring and engaging experience for attendees. 

“Attendees and planners are looking to be inspired,” Andrew Moffett, senior director of event management for Marriott, told International Meetings Review. “They’re looking for resources to go to and finding different ways to set up and execute meetings based on their needs. We’ve categorized what these look like for planners. They can go online and look through a library of photos to gain inspiration.” 

The concept is the result of research that found key shifts in how planners work collaboratively and use technology. After speaking with next generation customers and analyzing more than 40,000 meetings hosted at Marriott’s hotels each year, the research team determined seven purposes for meetings: celebrate, decide, educate, ideate, network, produce and promote. 

“We know every meeting has a purpose,” Moffett said. If a planner is looking to hold a training class, for example, the planner and a hotel’s event manager can collaborate through the Meetings Imagined program to create the right kind of environment that would promote higher learning engagement and retention. “We’re looking to co-create this with our customers who bring us meetings and the hotels that have been selected.”

Five Marriott hotels within the U.S. will test the new concept, including the Chicago Marriott O’Hare, Tysons Corner Marriott, Gaithersburg Marriott Washingtonian Center, Orlando World Center Marriott, and the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. The concept is also available in Europe at the London Marriott Grosvenor Square, Paris Marriott Rive Gauche, Munich Marriott Hotel and the Amsterdam Marriott Hotel and will expand to more Marriott Hotels in 2014. 

Technology Initiatives

Meetings Imagined is the latest development for Marriott’s event technology scene, which already includes the Meeting Services App (Red Coat Direct) and Workspace on Demand. The app allows planners to communicate with a hotel’s event staff before, during and after events, even when the planner isn’t able to be everywhere at once. “Typically, an event manager will talk with the meeting planner before their arrival, then the operations team takes over. Now, they can build that relationship earlier.” For example, planners can use the app to direct where boxes should be delivered in advance to the associate who will execute event. They can also make real-time requests while the conference is underway. “They can sit in Salon A and request more coffee through the app without leaving to look for [an associate],” he said. The app will expand globally in 19 languages throughout 2014. 

RELATED: Marriott Launches New Meeting App

Apps and programs like Red Coat Direct and Meetings Imagined can help build confidence in the brand among planners, Moffett continued. “If we’re putting effort into building an app, that will show our customers that we’re forward-thinking. We want to give them a chance to connect with the associates, managers and the whole team before they get on property. If they can do that, the confidence level increases a lot.” 

Over the last two years, Marriott has conducted research on how people meet in hotels around the world. Ultimately, the company found unique needs for individual meeting attendees, small groups and large groups—and what is helpful for one may be a problem for another. First, individual business travelers were looking to escape the standard desk in a business center setup. “They’re looking for a third space to work--a nontraditional meeting space,” Moffett said. “We needed to understand, what does our event space need to look like in order to attract an individual attendee?” To that end, Workspace on Demand is an app that lets individual business travelers or planners book meeting space off the cuff, even when the formal boardrooms are all taken. “We’ve given people a different way to find and book space based on individual needs,” Moffett said. “We don’t want it to be a cumbersome process. If you come off the street and need a meeting room, we want to make it easy to be a s productive as possible. If there’s a section of the ballroom in a hotel, or a private dining room that’s only used at night, it could be listed in the app. Guests can use it at their leisure.”  

Small groups, which Moffett defines as fewer than 40 people, are looking to network and collaborate. “They’re looking for ways to be more productive within their space,” he added. Large groups, meanwhile, are looking for better ways to connect over a two- or three-day conference. 

RELATED: Marriott Hotels Expands Mobile Check-In Feature and "Greatrooms"

Technology can play a major role in all of these goals, and Moffett says that Marriott is making efforts to stay on top of the trends. “We’re a global company, and we get global attendees,” he said. “Being able to provide a platform where the customer can get content out to attendees--that’s something that’s evolving throughout the industry.” Hybrid meetings, he added, are also a growing trend that cannot be ignored, and is not something that will truly replace face-to-face meetings. “It’s about being able to connect individuals with others who are not there in person,” he said. “Telecasting [remote attendees] in can get them engaged with attendees in the room.” 

Meeting Space Design

For this year, Moffett says that Marriott is working on event space design standards, and will focus on how spaces are created in both new-builds and renovations. “We want to build more collaborative spaces,” he said. “How can we innovate our design to bring more collaborative spaces in?” One element that deserves another look, he suggested, is the prefunction space outside of a larger meeting room. “In a lot of events, the real meeting takes place outside. There’s a general session with 2,000 people, and you hear the message on content, and then you break for coffee and start connecting with other people and start doing business.” The question for Marriott’s design teams, then, is to create prefunction spaces that facilitate that kind of networking.  

And while Marriott’s event teams are currently focusing on Meetings Imagined, Moffett expects that more initiatives may grow out of the feedback that they get from what they already have. “There are already some great attributes today that we can carry forward,” he said. 

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About the Author: Jena Tesse Fox

Jena Tesse Fox





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