Centres tap value of small meetings

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 April, 2011, 12:00am


Pictures of conference rooms are a great favourite among serviced offices. At times it's hard to resist showing off those large tables surrounded by empty designer chairs with the business centre logo emblazoned on the LCD screen, or market indices and graphs, if providers want to be more subtle.

For meeting planners and brainstormers these venues are like arriving at an oasis after a trudge across the Gobi.

They crave the boardroom atmosphere, revel in PowerPoint presentations and secretly relish the office politicking.

There was a time when all an executive needed was a briefcase, change of suit and desk to languish at all day. Now he or she is expected to perform in that conference room - primed with pie charts and a perfectionist on projections.

Trouble is there may be a long road to one of those rooms at the top and the big money for meeting planners is not serviced office conference tables hired by the hour, but in trade shows and large conferences. Business centres are little else if they don't cater to niches or find a growing segment to serve.

Business centres in the United States are tapping another revenue stream by targeting meeting planners for shorter presentations that do not require a big venue. What is essential for these clients is a hi-tech meeting room that can enable conference calls, video link, Wi-fi and that LCD screen. A regular supply of coffee and biscuits are also appreciated.

Be wary, however, of what can be interpreted as 'hidden costs' as meeting planners can drive a hard bargain and, as is the experience in the US, small or boutique hotels are likely to be the main competition when it comes to this segment of business centre activity.

Hotels have long offered meeting packages for 10-15 people with concierge service and the essential audio-visual equipment at hand. Location is also a selling point along with transport links to an airport, attributes which many of Hong Kong's serviced offices can boast.

Alas, many providers may demur and say: hotels have the advantage of lounges, bars, restaurants and other trimmings.

Hoteliers will also point to their own business centre facilities, but seasoned executives know too well the exorbitant charges they're hit with here.

Consultants in the US say the hotel competition can be countered by packaging offices and work stations along with the conference room and offering it to meeting planners as a full- or half-day deal.

Additional perks, such as arranging limousines or partnering with nearby restaurants, are only limited by the serviced office providers' imagination. If that's the case, then it's time to start brainstorming around that conference table.