Imagine That: Imagining the Future of Convention Center Design

On Oct. 23 and 24, Populous’ convention center group hosted its 10th annual Imagine That workshop in Kansas City. The workshop began a decade ago as we began to discuss internally and with our clients the rapid evolution of the convention center industry; the result of that conversation was a two-day workshop that brought together event planners, convention and visitors bureau representatives, chamber of commerce members, facility operators and Populous designers to explore the future and imagine the possibilities.  10 years later, the workshop continues to create innovative ideas, with 30 attendees discussing issues and opportunities facing the industry and the impact design has on the evolution of the customer experience.

This year’s Imagine That workshop was undoubtedly a huge success. At the conclusion of the event, attendees left with a more comprehensive understanding of trends shaping the industry, while participating in meaningful design workshops that will undoubtedly impact Populous’ approach to design in the future. With the help of industry leaders, Populous is proud to continue to shape the industry by ensuring  its designs are based on a deeper understanding of the business, emerging trends and the evolving needs of the customer. Some of the trends participants explored were increased focus on hospitality and customer experience, convention destination design, wellness , technology and unique meeting spaces. In each category, attendees and designers delved into the following key issues:

  • Hospitality and Customer Experience
    Increased focus on the customer experience, including comfort, convenience and connection has resulted in greater emphasis on delivering a more hospitable environment. In the future we will see more interesting spaces with nicer finishes and materials, more attention to amenities and emphasis on the exciting and unexpected.  Delivering great customer experiences at a convention encourages vistors and convention delegates to return to the city again and again.
  • Convention Destination Design
    In the past, convention center design was limited to the confines of the building. As design has evolved, based on the ever-growing sophistication of customers, convention centers’ boundaries have expanded to encompass the district surrounding it. These destinations include retail, entertainment, dining and cultural venues within a walkable distance, creating a more comprehensive and varied experience.  Moving forward, we will see an increased emphasis on creating complete convention destinations.
  • Wellness
    Wellness was an important topic of discussion with participants and appears to be an emerging trend that will impact the design of buildings over the coming years.  As individuals continue to focus more on health and wellness , convention centers will begin to incorporate design elements with this in mind. This may include walking spaces or trails, natural light and views to connect attendees to the city, healthy dining options and fitness or spa services.
  • Advanced technology
    Improving and incorporating technology will continue to be an important trend impacting convention center design. From ensuring constant internet access to facilitating conversations via social media during conferences and events to broadcasting or streaming the convention as it occurs, technology’s influence will be pervasive. In addition, attendees noted that buildings will need to be configured to better adapt to emerging technology.
  • Unique Meeting Space
    Over the last 40 years customer needs have evolved tremendously, but for the most part meeting spaces have remained the same, making convention center meeting rooms in North America almost indistinguishable.  A trend that is quickly gaining momentum is creating a variety of spaces that are more interesting and more conducive to the customer’s needs. We believe that more unique spaces help distinguish a convention center from its competitors and ultimately, will generate higher revenue.

The Imagine That workshop has proved to be one of the most important learning experiences that Populous designers engage in each year. Collaborating with industry professionals to discuss the future and imagine the possibilities of convention center design has resulted in a lasting partnership that continues to positively impact convention centers around the world.


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  • Todd Voth of @populous summarizes 2012 #imaginethat workshop, trends in convention center design @iavmwhq @mcmagtweet

    Populous 6 years ago
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