I cut my teeth as a facilitator around 20 years ago working for an international training and consulting firm, and while I won’t mention the organisation’s name, rest assured that as a result of our work over the years, there are business leaders all over Asia winning friends and influencing people.
Hotel meeting rooms have been my life since the 90’s – big ones, small ones, fat ones, skinny ones – the ‘hotel meeting room’ is like an old friend. Both hoteliers, and I have become so accustomed to the ‘old way’ of doing things that we haven’t noticed the torrents of change gushing by under our feet.
The standard ‘deal’ when running a seminar at a hotel is usually the hotel providing the training facility either free or at a reasonably cheap base rate and then they will charge ‘$X’ per person with a minimum guaranteed head-count, which includes morning coffee, 2 breaks and lunch (usually buffet). You get a choice of your standard bakery kind of ‘snacks’, maybe a protein option or two, but that’s pretty much it. Some will try and throw ‘surprise’ costs onto the bill for LCD projector rental, audio cables, microphone rental and Wifi. In this part of the world, they’re generally good about those things though, and throw those ‘extras’ in for free.
Last month I needed to organise a weekend seminar at very short notice. We hadn’t budgeted for it and the facilities that we usually fall back on were being used. That led me down a path that has now changed the way that I will plan my training sessions from now on. After some quick searches in Google and Facebook, we found several ‘spaces’ within walking distance of our office that have rooms set up that can host meetings from 5 people to 200 people. Think AirBnB type places, but for meetings.
I walked into one place that looked like a normal house from the outside, however as we walked through the property there was life everywhere. In one room there was a group of about 50 people holding a church service, and in another room there was a gathering of teenage Korean Drama series fans who get together on the weekend to binge watch their favourite dramas. I had entered a ‘meeting space underworld’.
I asked if there was a space that could accommodate about 20 participants. They led me into another attached house and up into a wonderful facility complete with a very funky ‘black’ whiteboard and fluorescent markers, a selection of seats and / or bean-bags, super fast internet, a wonderful 52inch LCD TV screen and sound system, HDMI cables and adaptors that I could use.
When I I asked about catering, they said that while they can help organise catering, with so many online delivery services now, most people that hold events there use these services to cater for their events and meetings.
In order to book the room, I just added them in on the Line chat app which is very popular in Thailand (similar to Whatsapp and WeChat), they sent me the price menu for the rooms – which were about 70% cheaper than what I would be paying at a hotel – yes, 70%! I made a deposit and attached the screenshot via Line, drew a quick floor plan of how I’d like the room laid out and also sent it via Line. When I arrived on the training day, it was perfectly set up. I ordered food using a 3rd party service as they had recommended. That in itself was a liberating feeling. I could finally choose things that I knew people would eat – not just dry pastries and obscure sugar and carb-laden sweets. They supplied water for free and they had the local street vendors also selling tea, coffee and snacks downstairs.
The training experience was amazing and the service provided to me by the family and staff at the venue was second to none. It allowed us to have a very intimate and relaxed training environment which made coaching much easier.
Since then, I have been searching for other venues like this around town and it turns out that there are many of them to choose from.
When compared to the ‘traditional’ meeting facilities in hotels and the cliché food offerings – especially break choices and the standard lunch buffet that you have to fight over as hundreds of other people cough and splutter over the food you’re planning to eat, using these ‘shared economy’ meeting facilities was a fresh new experience for me. While there are some situations where we would need to use more formal / traditional meeting spaces, I will be definitely using these ‘millennial’ inspired facilities for workshops and meetings in the future. They are fully customised, homey, cosy, have state of the art technologies available by default, give me unlimited creative choice over food and beverage options and allow me to have a much better margin on my training offerings.