The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a lounge as “a room in a private home or public building for leisure activities.” The meetings industry has redefined the lounge as a place where intimate learning, networking, and collaboration takes place.
The idea of lounge-setting educational and networking sessions often came about from need and desire. Meeting planners needed a way to fill empty floor space and attendees wanted an area in which to learn and network in smaller spaces. This became the impetus to carve out smaller spaces where attendees and speakers could have intimate and interactive learning experiences.
This transformational space is about so much more than just knowledge sharing. It’s about giving attendees the time and the place to immediately process what they’ve just heard during educational sessions. By discussing these fresh takeaways with colleagues in a meaningful way, all of those little “a ha!” moments can be cemented to memory and applied as reallearning.
The concept of the lounge has been very successful at many meetings, including those held by members of the ConventionPlanit.com Advisory Council.
“Lounges are the best places for informal learning opportunities because that’s where participants connect, share their common interests, and seek out others that may have a solution to their issues,” says Annette M. Suriani, CMP, Chief Meeting Strategist, AMS Meetings Solutions. “One thing I like to do is use the lounge for 20 minute meet-up sessions throughout the day. Have a specific topic that people can come to the lounge to discuss. I make an effort to include someone that has an expertise in that area to serve as a facilitator. It proves to be quite lively. Of course we use the lounge for our tweet-ups as well.”
Nedra Sneed, Conference Manager at Bioactives World Forum, adds, “When I think of the use of lounges to facilitate all types of networking, I think of IMEX America, where buyers meet with vendors from all over the world. ConventionPlanit has hosted me as a buyer the last five years. IMEX has a buyers’ lounge which is used by most buyers. You can get your name badge, have your appointment schedule printed out, get your travel refund, check your baggage for later pickup, have a snack, pick up a tote bag for all the literature you will pick up at appointments with vendors, check in for your departing flight and print your boarding pass, as well as just visit with others in the room. Various groups grab a table or couch area for private conversations while others like to meet strangers and exchange business cards as well as experiences at various venues. At IMEX, lunchtime is a time to eat with strangers and interact with them. I have done business with someone I met at lunch there. I find that most people who come to programs, short courses, or conferences have the mind-set to interact with each other and enjoy doing so. ‘Build it and they will come’ is a popular phrase from a movie. For interaction between meeting attendees, it could read, ‘Give them time and they will interact.’”
Valerie Sumner, Principal at VRS Meetings & Events, Inc., offers, “Learning lounges, tech labs, and ‘Ignite’ conversations are all tremendous learning, networking and collaborating formats for all types of events and conferences. VRS works with each of our clients to create unique open-space learning environments based on the industry, content, and resources particular to that industry. The attendee response is tremendous and the experience always valuable.”