As every planner knows, organizing an event typically begins months in advance and includes several rounds of communication with suppliers and attendees, catering contracts, AV partnerships and a host of other details that are necessary to make a large conference run smoothly. However, this type of preparation requires significant advance notice and can be cumbersome for small groups simply looking to hold an impromptu meeting with minimal support.
Fortunately, there is, quite literally, an app for that.
Keeping in line with the trend toward flexibility and digital communication, major hotels have partnered with the Liquidspace smartphone app to take advantage of an untapped market segment: business travelers and other small groups looking for meeting spaces they can book immediately.
The target audience includes groups coming off the street into hotels looking for a place to talk or work on laptops and groups within a large conference who need to step out for a private conversation.
Mark Gilbreath launched LiquidSpace in May 2011 after three years of preliminary concept work. A self-described “technologist” by trade, Gilbreath had spent years working with software and computer chips in Silicon Valley and was frustrated by the inappropriateness of the commercial office business model. He explains how signing a five-year lease is difficult and impractical, especially for quick-growing companies and start-ups with changing demands.
Gilbreath set out to create a flexible “infinite workplace,” where groups and companies can easily meet their space needs. He first created a prototype building in Boise to explore a new business model; offering a variety of working spaces where members could use what they want and pay for only what they used, but quickly realized real estate was not the best solution.
“The 'aha' moment came when I realized we don’t need more buildings, and could instead harvest existing space,” he says.
The real estate project was transitioned into a tech company, creating the LiquidSpace app and Web interface, and he set about building a catalog of diverse meeting spaces located in office spaces, executive suites and hotels around the country.
A year and a half ago LiquidSpace began allowing anyone to list available spaces, and now offers sites in more than 260 U.S. cities.
Gilbreath predicts that this is only the tip of the iceberg.
“Demand is strongest in meetings,” he says, and LiquidSpace’s most common booking is two-hour meetings of three to four people.
The company has partnered with Marriott, helping promote the hotels as more than just a place to sleep via the Workspace on Demand program. Westin properties are also moving into the fold as the brand rolls out its Tangent program.
Keri Robinson, general manager of the Westin Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego, says that the Westin team has been working to repurpose a portion of the hotel’s business center or lobby as a flexible meeting space with basic amenities and she expects Tangent to debut on-site by end of the year. The 450-room Westin currently offers four floors of standard meeting space.
“The rooms will always be ready for impromptu meetings," she says. “These spaces are great for people who need to meet on the road, but a guest room is too personal and the lobby isn’t private enough. We've already seen this type of demand grow."
Five Westin properties already have Tangent spaces, including the Westin Arlington Gateway and Boston Waterfront, and 40 more will roll it out by the end of this year, including the Westin Grand in Munich, Germany.
LiquidSpace is available for both iPhone and Android.