I was attending a conference at the prestigious Centre Mont-Royal in the heart of downtown Montreal last month. I was instantly impressed by the chic, intimate environment of this actually large venue. I stepped into a wide foyer with panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows facing Mount-Royal for a quick cup of coffee before the meeting started. By the way, from yours truly who adores a cup of good Starbucks java each morning, this coffee was delicious. Kudos to their coffee bean supplier!
I made my way to the meeting room and found a seat up front. What struck me as a little odd when I took my place was that the tables weren’t covered with any type of tablecloth. I’m sort of a meeting connaisseur since I attend a lot of conferences throughout the year and I had never sat down in a meeting with a few hundred people where the tables were non-reflective and laminated. It was amazing! Tables you can actually write notes on with no glare from the presentation. Very cool. I glanced down at the complementary pad and pen in front of me and saw the letters IAAC. “What the heck is IAAC?” I asked myself.
The meeting topic itself was interesting but after 4 hours of sitting and listening to the outright leader in combustion energy equations, I noticed something really unusual. It was inevitable at this point in any meeting that my back would start to get twitchy and restless and I would start wishing for a comfortable lounge chair by the pool. But I was still comfortable. It turned out I had been sitting on an ergonomic 8-hour chair. I’ve been in movie theatres that didn’t have chairs that comfortable. The chairs were something I didn’t find out about until I started reading up on what the heck is IAAC! Who knew venues like this really existed?
It turns out IAAC stands for International Association of Conference Centres, which is the premiere professional association of it’s kind in the world. IACC’s members in the Americas, Europe, and Australia form an elite group representing the most innovative, forward-thinking, and results-driven meeting venues and people in the conference industry. IACC member conference centers don’t just adhere to the highest standards of service, they create those standards, like the 8-hour chairs. It’s hard enough for a speaker to hold the meeting’s attention for a full afternoon, but it’s doubly hard when no one is comfortable. I looked around that meeting and everyone was awake and participating. I also noticed that I took far more notes than I usually do in a meeting because those non-reflective tables are easier to work on. They’re also very satisfying to drum quietly on.
There was one other thing about that meeting. The air quality was amazing. Let’s face it, you put that many people in a closed hall for that long and inevitably the atmosphere gets a little heavy and stale. But that hall was so well ventilated that if it had been a bit warmer I could have imagined myself in that lounge chair by pool. It turns out that’s another IACC standard.
There is only one IACC member conference center in Québec, the Centre Mont-Royal in downtown Montreal also known as CMR by all of my meeting cronies.
IACC membership is difficult to achieve. You can’t just send them money and slap a logo on your website, you have to earn it. You have to prove that your centre meets IACC standards in the quality of your meeting spaces; pricing; technological infrastructure, food and beverage service…Don’t get me started on the food & beverage which was fresh and fantastic. They don’t do these things for fun; they do them because they make a difference in the quality of the meeting that they host.
So now, when I go to a conference, I’m going to check to see if the venue is an IACC member. If they are, I’m going to be a much happier camper.