CoVaBiz Meeting Planner
Planning a company meeting? New trends go beyond PowerPoint presentations and boxed lunches. Find out the latest ways to engage employees, create connections and boost morale.
Conferences that Count
Modern Business Meetings in Coastal Virginia Move Toward Technology and Teambuilding
You walk in, grab a boxed lunch, take a seat next to someone you recognize from your department, perhaps making a little small talk as you settle in. The speaker fires up a PowerPoint presentation, and you try to be attentive as you sit through yet another presentation on quarterly earnings or cash flow projections.
This is the business meeting of the past. Times have changed, and corporate get-togethers have evolved to meet the changing ecosystem of professional organizations.
At the forefront of this change is the increased use of technology. While this does mean business meetings are seeing an upswing in audiovisual tools and technological gadgets, these tools are not replacing face-to-face interaction between team members. They are more often being used to enhance the experience and help fuel discussion and interaction.
At The Founders Inn and Spa in Virginia Beach, technology is an integral part of the meeting experience. “Founders Inn was built from the ground up to do meetings. The meeting spaces have built-in LCD projectors and drop screens,” says Melissa Georges, Director of Sales and Marketing for Founders Inn.
Founders Inn recently boosted their Internet to increase bandwidth throughout the entire space, from the guest rooms to the conference wing and even outside. “At many of these meetings, every single attendee is connected on their phone or iPad. Our WiFi is complimentary because in this day and age, it’s an unspoken need. It’s as important as a chair,” Georges says.
The prevalence of technology as an element of business is undeniable. Coworkers can go days without seeing each other face-to-face in the office, solely using instant messaging or videoconferences to communicate. The result is that business leaders are increasingly looking for ways to get their team members engaged with one another in person. This has led to an increase in teambuilding meetings, especially for larger corporations that have a diverse group of employees.
“Many of these organizations are looking for ways to bridge the gap from the older generation to millennials within the company,” says Courtney Wydra, Director of Sales and Marketing for Wyndham Virginia Beach. “Face-to-face teambuilding is a crucial way for them to get to know each other on a more personal level and interact with people they wouldn’t normally have the chance to talk to.”
Founders Inn also helps facilitate teambuilding activities for business meetings. These activities include culinary challenges in the banquet kitchen, cupcake competitions and even activities to benefit charitable causes.
“We had a group that did a competition building bicycles as a teambuilding activity. The bicycles ended up going to local kids in foster care, and the kids actually got to come in and ride the bikes around the ballroom,” Georges says. “Teambuilding that ties into community responsibility is something we’re beginning to see a lot of.”
Teambuilding during business meetings is an important way for today’s organizations to build camaraderie among employees, as well as hone important skills, such as leadership, communication and customer service. These types of activities often require multiple spaces to allow for breakout sessions, and local conference centers are prepared to meet that need.
“Founders Inn has 25,000 square feet of meeting space, including more than 20 breakout rooms. They feature built-in kiosks specifically designed for continuous refreshment breaks,” Georges says.
At the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, no hotel rivals the meeting space available at the Wyndham, which provides 16,000 square feet of meeting space and the ability to host nine concurrent meetings.
Culinary creativity and attention to special dietary needs are also coming into play in modern business meetings.
“One thing we often hear from corporate customers is they want a break from the routine boxed lunch. They want something more creative and interesting,” says Sue McKechnie, Sales and Marketing Director for Sweetwater Cuisine.
In response, Sweetwater Cuisine offers a wide range of food options to suit an organization’s needs. Companies often opt for a buffet, which allows for even more interaction between team members throughout the event.
Catering to the company’s creativity often spans beyond the food and into the meeting itself. Companies looking to shake things up sometimes employ a theme for their meeting—adding a casual and fun element to what is typically considered a formal gathering.
“We love when a company lets us know what their vision is for their meeting. Then we allow their vision to become our artistry,” McKechnie says.
Wydra is seeing similar trends at the Wyndham. “We’ve seen everything from a ‘live’ mermaid in the middle of the dinner table to a James Bond impersonator,” she says.
Businesses are continually working to align their values with the values of their team members—a trend that can be seen in many companies’ corporate meetings and retreats.
“There are several companies that encourage their employees to bring their families along with them to corporate events and retreats,” Georges says. In these instances, companies will plan corporate activities during the day and fun, inclusive events in the evening. This gives families a chance to explore Coastal Virginia while the employee participates in the meetings.
Today’s business meetings are vastly different experiences from meetings taking place just a few years ago. The focus of these meetings is increasingly moving toward building successful teams, fostering a healthy work environment and engaging with the community. Employees are being seen as more than cogs in the corporate wheel—they are crucial elements to a company’s success, and today’s business meetings are finally reflecting that truth.
By Chelsea Sherman
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