August 2012

Want Better Meetings? Try Taking Them OFFSITE

2012-08-22T17:38:48-04:00 Categories: create, grow, SandBlog, solve, think|Tags: , , , , , |

The three secrets to being more innovative and hosting better meetings are to…

  • involve the right PEOPLE,
  • choose and use the right PROCESS, and
  • hold your meeting in the right PLACE.

99% of the time, hosting your meeting at your offices is not the right place. You need to host it offsite.

Let me introduce you to… OFFSITE

OFFSITE Main Floor

OFFSITE is midtown Manhattan’s newest and most evocative venue for corporate meetings and private events. Designed and wired to inspire creativity and optimize productivity, OFFSITE was literally built from the ground up with the perfect gathering in mind.

From the state-of-the-art A/V system to the comfortable yet versatile decor, this sprawling, 3-story enclave offers the ideal backdrop for your next board meeting, brainstorming session, focus group, product launch or social event.

The Main Floor

Step off the streets of New York City onto OFFSITE’s Main Floor, which boasts a professionally designed living room space with comfortable seating for up to 60 guests.

OFFSITE Main Floor

Stylish furniture easily lends itself to custom configuration to ensure your meeting or event is arranged exactly how you envision it. Curtained room dividers allow for impromptu brainstorming and break-out sessions. With three huge LED TVs that can be seamlessly integrated, The Main Floor is as conducive to open conversation as it is for a celebration.

The Mezzanine

OFFSITE Mezzanine

Overlooking The Main Floor, OFFSITE’s Mezzanine features the conference room – reimagined. Designed to generate thought and discussion, white board walls engulf you on all sides to keep track of your team’s free-flowing ideas.
An ultra modern, ultra high-tech 30-person conference table lets you seamlessly connect your personal computer to big screen monitor and digital smart board – or any other TV throughout the space – to add visual panache to any presentation.

The Underground

OFFSITE Mezzanine

OFFSITE’s inspirational lower level, set along an urban Rio de Janeiro backdrop, offers adaptable classroom-style seating for 25 people and an 80” LED TV. This sophisticated think tank is a cooler, more casual place to hash out important ideas, hold a training session, participate in team building exercises, or simply celebrate.

Centrally located in the heart of midtown Manhattan at 52 West 39th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenue), OFFSITE is right around the corner – or just a few subway stops away from anywhere in the city. OFFSITE is primed to host your next corporate meeting or private event.

Inspire. Brainstorm. Innovate. Celebrate. Go OFFSITE.

You may check out their website visit their Facebook page, and follow them on Twitter @goOFFSITE

Looking for a better meeting space, but not in NYC. Check out the Idea Sandbox list of meeting destinations from around the world!

March 2011

Brainstorming Studios: Redefining Meeting Space (Literally)

2018-05-14T23:08:52-04:00 Categories: create, Destination, grow, solve, think|Tags: , |

Our current options for great places to hold meetings are minute compared to the number of important out-of-office meetings we conduct.

While there are a handful of creatively crafted locations in the United States, our overwhelming options are hotel meeting rooms and professional meeting/convention space. Boring space. Millions upon millions of square feet of plain, multipurpose rooms. Tan rooms filled with long tables surrounded by expensive chairs.

Below is a Google image search for the term “meeting space.” This is one page, with 30 images, of over 38 million images featuring the same of the same of the same.

But, we don’t have much choice.

Meeting space is a commodity. We get it free when we book enough hotel rooms or buy the catering department’s food package. We then pay crazy-ass prices to outfit the room with basic equipment (LCD beamer, flip chart stand). Yet, we have to settle for this arrangement as it is the only offering.

This is far from a place where we could see the room itself as a tool to help us generate ideas. What I’ve described so far are merely people containers. The positives are (1) we aren’t at the office, and (2) the pool has a swim-up bar.

Form Can Follow Function

Yet, a model exists where form follows function… Movie Studios and Recording Studios.

These are spaces designed and built for a single function. They are controlled environments, fully equipped with the proper tools. They are staffed by professionals with specific skills.

The movie studio has a soundstage and backlot. The lights, camera, and action are all there. Everything you need to make a great movie. A recording studio is designed to achieve desired acoustic properties and equipped with recording and mixing tools. Everything you need to record a song.

This is a concept we understand and value. The word ‘studios’ is fairly synonymous with ‘specialized purpose.’

Brainstorming Studios

Idea Sandbox is designing and will be building Brainstorming Studios. Just like movie and recording studios, our Brainstorming Studios are designed, built, equipped, staffed, and environmentally controlled for the specific function of brainstorming – turning your brain into an idea machine!

Idea Sandbox plans to do for meeting space, what Walt Disney did for carnivals and amusement parks.

November 2010

The Way We Book Meetings Is Broken

2010-11-10T19:20:05-04:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , |

There is something seriously wrong with the way we rent meeting space.

Does anyone else notice it?

Problem No. 1

We don’t care where we meet.
Standard practice for an off-site meeting is to pick a city then ask the admin or specialist to ring up a few hotels to book rooms for the team and then book a meeting space. This is conveniently handled in one call, as most hotels have a conference rooms.

However, these spaces – some large with ballrooms, others smaller with themed names – all have something in common.

That they are common.

There’s nothing special about them. They’re designed to be generic, and tan, and multipurpose. A tan shell. To be filled this weekend with a wedding reception, tomorrow your meeting, and next week a Bat Mitzvah.

Why aren’t we asking the admin or specialist to first find the best place in the city / region / country for a meeting? Then find a hotel nearby where we can sleep?

Problem No. 2

Book A Bed, or Buy Food – Get Meeting Space Free
This problem reinforced for me last week, while shopping for meeting space for an upcoming conference. As we toured different meeting venues – over and over – the same situation took place… Hotels had no interest in taking our money to book a meeting room. They were giving us the rooms if we

  1. booked enough hotel guest rooms or
  2. bought food.

I know – duh! – hotels first sell beds, then they sell meals… the meeting space is nearly afterthought.

While the room is a give-away… Even the most basic, required equipment is offered at a premium. Flip charts are $60 each. Another $15 if you want an easel to put it on. An LCD projector is $800. If you want the projector to sit on something… the cart with extension cord is another $200.

Why are we happy to settle for bare bones space?

Of all the specialized tools we use, to give us an edge in business, why do we not consider the venue – where we need to create ideas and make million/billion-dollar plans – as a ‘tool’ in that process?

November 2009

Off-Site Meetings: Last Century Technology

2012-05-07T22:30:51-04:00 Categories: Destination, SandBlog|Tags: , , , , , , |

The most up to date list of locations can be found on the Places page within Brainstorming Tools section.

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 timelikes 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.

The Solution?

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.

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?

This article originally posted on the Marketing Prof’s Daily Fix Blog.
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