Designing a ‘Huddle’ Space that works

Designing a ‘Huddle’ Space that works

Are you planning on hosting a cosy meeting reception for your clients or prospects during IMEX? Are you also struggling with how you could possibly create a nice environment for everyone to freely mingle, network, and collaborate?

Most would agree that a typical conference room at IMEX venue may not be suitable as a huddle or networking space as it does not require the sophistication of a professional meeting space. Yet you would probably want this space to be as close to the tradeshow venue as possible so as to make it convenient for your guests.

Here are 5 Tips you could consider in designing a ‘huddle’ space that works:

Tip #1: Location is Key

The location of your huddle space can make or break your event. Networking receptions are typically after the end of the tradeshow, so you’ll want to find a venue that is easy to get to, especially during rush hour traffic.

If you choose to use one of the conference rooms at IMEX venue, refer to Tip #3 on how can you makeover the meeting room to create an effective and conducive huddle space. If you intend to use an external venue, make sure it is within walking distance. Taxi queues are a ‘snake pit’ when a tradeshow ends, because of the way it snakes around the building with everyone rushing out at the same time. The last thing you want to do is to put your guest through the agony of waiting in a queue for an hour just to get to your reception venue.

Tip #2: Don’t underestimate Capacity

The most fundamental question in selecting an ideal huddle space (or any meeting space for that matter) is to ask how many people are you expecting, and whether the potential location has the capacity. We all have come across overcrowded events—it makes it almost impossible to generate a comfortable relaxing environment for guests. Too large of a space is also problematic as it creates the feeling that the event was poorly attended.

The rule of thumb in setting up a huddle or reception space is about 10 square feet per person so as to encourage a good flow. It is slightly less than a space that has theatre seating (which is about 12 square feet per person with additional space for walking through the rows of chairs). You should also expect a ‘no-show’ factor when planning out the capacity. If it is a first-time networking event, you may want to consider a 10-20% decrease if attendance is voluntary rather than required.

Tip #3: Meeting Room Makeover

A typical conference room is functional and purposeful, with professional set ups such as chairs, projectors, sound system, conferencing equipment, and other room-control systems (lighting, screens, audio connectivity). However, such a setting may not captivate your guests for your reception event, especially if they have already gone through a day of seminars at IMEX facing the same walls. To do a makeover of an existing conference room and create an ideal huddle space, you can do things like:

– Laying out comfortable or trendy furniture: these can be lounge chairs, cocktail tables or special luminous furniture, even if it means additional expenses

– Providing nice lighting: get a conference room that has dimmable lights, and then cater for ambience lighting from third party contractors to set the mood that is in accordance to your event theme

– Hanging up photography, info graphics, or even paintings: this is subjective to the theme of your networking event, but such visuals create an effective huddle space that generates conversations amongst your guests

Tip #4: Match Technology to your Huddle Space setup

If you are getting people to sit in theatre-style seating, then technology-wise—a projector, screen and laptop located at the front of the room would suffice. However this arrangement can be boring for networking and huddling purposes.

An ideal huddling session should have several tables scattered throughout the room. This setup is perfect for networking, small conversations, and collaborative discussions. Collaborative technology would then be required, where speaker engagement or networking mobile apps (e.g. Hashable, Pigeonhole, Twitter, Jump Scan, Bump), can be used. Meeting new people can be the hardest part of networking, and so such iPhone or android apps will easily be your best friend.

Tip #5: Stage a highlight of the Space

Every huddle space requires a highlight because people are naturally more engaging when they are actively enjoying themselves too. To achieve this would require some sort of feature of the space to encourage more fun and entertainment. It could be a venue with interesting surroundings, creative interiors, unique historical significance etc. Anything that helps to spark conversations and generate interest will allow guests to easily immerse themselves in the environment.

Get your huddle space right for your networking event, and you’ll not only create a memorable evening, you’ll be able to create a host of lasting meaningful connections that are grounded in a wonderful shared experience.

— brought to you by Cassy Xie, Consultant, GainingEdge Venue Development Advisory team


GainingEdge organises GainingConnections activities at trade shows and industry events during the year, such as IMEX Frankfurt and the ICCA Congress. These consist of:

- Educational events
- Business leads exchanges

Please contact us should you wish to participate in these events or would like to know when the next activities are taking place.