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Anything is possible in an engaging learning environment

How Will The Future of Venue Design Drive Engagement and Learning? was the title of the Future in 15 show being recorded at Warwick Conferences in Coventry on 6 November 2017. After several shows in London, this was the first show to be recorded in the Midlands.

The event concept centres around the recording of the show, which is later published on the Future in 15 YouTube channel. Show host, Caleb Parker interviews an entrepreneur or business leader in front of a live audience, choosing a different topic and guest for each show.

Warwick Conferences was a fitting host venue for this show, as not only are they an academic event venue but they have recently undergone an extensive refurbishment with a strong focus on creating the ultimate learning environment.

Richard Harrison, Head of Conferences at Warwick Conferences was in the guest seat to impart his knowledge about how the venue has been designed with the aim of driving learning and engagement.

The first thing of note was that the spaces were all distinctly different. As Richard explained, they hadn't been designed around the idea of how many chairs they would fit in but around the idea of how clients would use them. The room that the event took place in included a kitchen. Not only did this provide a relaxed homely vibe for attendees to cater for themselves but also encouraged interactivity and creativity.

When designing the space Richard explained how research had been conducted with clients to ascertain how they would like to use the space. "We want new spaces, spaces that challenge us and put us in a different environment". This was the challenge that Warwick Conferences set out to meet. They have worked to gain accreditation as a learning facility from the Learning & Performance Institute who recognise innovation in learning environments.

It was clear that clients and their needs were at the centre of the thought process for every decision made at Warwick Conferences. Richard said "We cannot dictate to customers, we have to offer them options" Caleb identified that “You can always tell if a venue has thought about their customers if they provide enough plug sockets.”

With the food offering being key to a successful event the conversation soon turned to catering. When asked about where Warwick Conferences sought inspiration for innovation in their food offering, Richard answered that he looked to the high street. This is what people are eating in their daily lives and what they have come to expect. Explore the cultural influences that people are experiencing in their cuisine and replicate to keep your food offering up to date. Warwick Conferences have added a street food van into their event catering options. Post event, the Future in 15 attendees got to sample the Korean burgers and stir fry dishes served up by the on site chef.

In between the filming attendees were able to ask their own questions or input into the discussion in a Q&A. Suggestions were put forward around collaborations between the academic venue and their academic community to add value to for the event planner. The topic of event technology and the future of the meeting space was approached. Richard was an advocate of the environment facilitating the technology. Connectivity and access to the systems is key to clients having a seamless experience. In the future there may be potential for the venue to continue the learning, post event, in a digital environment.

Once the filming wrapped up, attendees were shown around the event spaces and were able to see the variety of creative environments available.

The break out areas focused on fun and activity with table tennis, croquet and video games available to encourage interaction. The design of the event spaces focussed on generating ideas. Seating was not fixed and was available in multiple designs from bean bags to bar stools and from comfy chairs to steps to sit on.

Inspirational and humorous quotes decorated the walls to encourage discussion. Above the doors quotes declared "Gateway to success" or "Where the ideas come out". One window was framed with the quote "If your mind is wandering, change the conversation". Tongue and cheek delegate descriptions were a popular feature with the Future in 15 attendees. Framed descriptions on the wall outlined the types of delegates that you meet at events e.g The Fidget - Never learnt to sit still at school. Supply with colouring pens. Immediately attendees were walking along the wall, examining the different delegate types and discussing which one they were most like. The walls in one of the event spaces was completely made of chalk board so ideas could be scribbled across it. A much more effective way to actively engage people in discussion and idea generation than handing them a notepad and pen. This is a great way to make attendees active participants in the meeting.

Event professionals are often responsible for planning a whole programme of events in multiple venues.They see a lot of event spaces so are often looking for a space that can inspire not only them but their event attendees. They regularly have creative ideas about how to develop their event and engage attendees but often venues are not designed to facilitate anything other than the traditional meeting formats. It is great to see innovations from venues in the design of creative spaces to really captivate the imagination and drive learning and engagement.

The Future in 15 event was a great way to discuss an event topic and then be able to see a case study of how the discussion points were being put into action, as well a great opportunity to network with other event professionals. Look out for the video coming soon on their YouTube channel.