JUN 2015

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ J U N E 2 0 1 5 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 18 How Standards Keep Meetings Productive A look at several IACC-certified properties in the South demonstrated the importance of IACC standards for productive meetings. According to IACC criteria, conference centers, unlike many other meeting facilities, are specifically designed and operated to m aximize learning and training, a primary component addressed directly by Keith Purcell, director of sales and marketing at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center located on the University of Texas' Austin campus. "Conference centers," said Purcell, "are developed and built to facilitate learning and development of people. The campus atmosphere gives attendees the platform to develop relationships and share ideas." The AT&T Conference Center is a residentially accredited IACC facility and was a ConventionSouth pick as a 2014 Elite Conference Center. It provides 40,000 square feet of meeting space, a multimedia amphitheater, a dividable ballroom, and both tiered and traditional classrooms. Additionally, it has a 296-room hotel, a full-service fine-dining restaurant, and a coffee shop. "Dedicated meeting space is very important in providing an ideal learning environment," acknowledged Tom Cupo, regional managing director with The Chattanoogan, a Benchmark property.I"We have 25,000 square feet of dedicated meeting space supported by personal meeting planners, AV technicians and a conference concierge. All rooms are equipped with ergonomic chairs, tackable walls and standard audio visual." I The Chattanoogan is the only Four Diamond-rated, full-service property in Chattanooga and has the only IACC- certified hotel in Tennessee. A recent r enovation of its 25,000-square-foot facility brought it recognition from ConventionSouth as a 2014 Top New or Renovated Meeting Site. The Chattanoogan's meeting space includes a 7,752-square-foot newly renovated and redesigned ballroom – the largest in the city, 12 breakout rooms, an 85- seat amphitheater, a 16-seat executive board room and five general-session rooms. The hotel has 199 guest rooms. A number of learning-enabling amenities at the Wyndham Peachtree Hotel & Conference Center in Peachtree City, Ga., a half-hour south of Atlanta, help it maintain its IACC certification, according to Victor Stegall, director of conference services. "The IACC standards make a conference center more conducive for a learning environment," he said. "The staff is better trained than at many meeting facilities. We have fluorescent lighting, which is more conducive for a learning environment. The hard, non-reflective writing tables and the ergonomic chairs, which are among the IACC requirements, are also important." The Wyndham Peachtree Hotel & Conference Center, one of the first IACC- certified conference facilities in the South, In your own words, briefly, what do you see as the value to a conference center o f having IACC certification? Certification creates trust, and trust gives an assurance that is a rare beast in the meetings industry today. IACC certification goes beyond compliance to brand standards, way beyond. IACC members care enough about the meetings experience to put themselves through the certification for their venue. They are perfectionists! Do the criteria for certification change over time and why? Yes. IACC's quality standards are aligned with best practice, and best practice is influenced by innovations, trends and client expectations. The next generation of meeting and conference delegates expect a very different meeting experience than Generation X when they entered the workplace. Have you seen a trend toward more training meetings at conference centers? We are experiencing an increase in the development of residential conference centers worldwide and particularly in the U.S. New openings are scheduled for 2016 and 2017. IACC experienced its fastest growth in new members last year, greater than any of the previous 35 years. The emergence of the day conference center in major cities including Paris, Sydney, London, New York, Chicago and Beijing is significant, and we expect this trend and rapid growth to continue for some time. Any other trends you notice in general for conference centers? The meeting attendee today expects creative meeting spaces, quality design and even artwork that they can have a personal connection with. They expect high-quality technology and super- fast connectivity from their meeting venue as a standard offering, not an additional chargeable item provided on request. n Q&A W ith Mark Cooper, CEO, IACC C O N F E R E N C E C E N T E R S Q Q Q Q Oxford Conference Center, Oxford, Miss.

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