Round Up: The GWA Conference in Boca Raton 2014
The Global Workspace Association attracted workspace professionals across the world to its 28th annual conference in Boca Raton last week. A compendium of speakers, exhibitors and the workspace businesses they represented descended upon the conference for three days of speeches, workshops and networking.
We spoke to some of our colleagues at Search Office Space and meetingrooms.com who attended the conference to find out their best bits. We also spoke to Daniel Soffer, US Senior Vice president at Search Office Space, about the Q&A he did with a panel of industry professionals.
The GWA app
Last year at the 2013 conference, the GWA rolled out a mobile app for the event. This app was intended to allow conference attendees to post pictures of their experiences, communicate and comment on their favourite speakers and network amongst other professionals.
The app provides a social media style experience for members of the conference, allowing them to RSVP to speakers and follow other attendees, read bios for individual exhibitors and share their experiences through image updates or general commentary. 2014 saw the app used to its full potential and conference attendees were still updating about the event on their way home.
‘The people kept us coming back to the GWA conference’ - Frank Fabish, CEO Executive Office Space.
The conference attracts workplace professionals from around the globe and provides a unique opportunity for new connections within the industry. In a touching speech Frank Fabish talked about his long time connection with the GWA through multiple manifestations of the organisation and the many lifelong relationships he has developed through it.
He spoke about the global workspace community and its friendliness; many who attend the conference year on year are returning for the personal relationships as much as the obvious business benefits.
A huge part of what makes the GWA conference so successful is the people that attend. The networking aspect of the conference are central to its success. Whether it was the quiet conversation over golf, or the wit and laughter at the bar in the evenings, the personal relationships forged through the GWA can go on to create lasting business relationships as well.
‘The power of our industry is its ability to attract such a wide range of sectors within the business community’ - Daniel Soffer
The GWA is a collection of different areas of expertise. Conference attendees come from a variety of workspace backgrounds and the types of businesses they work with can be incredibly diverse in range.
Daniel Soffer stated that while the traditional industries looking for serviced office space are the financial and legal industries, there is a rising demand from the tech industry, as successful start-ups quickly expand to need larger workspaces.
This growth has seen a rising demand for less conventional, aesthetically pleasing workspaces that provide a community driven atmosphere.
‘They want to be in a place that is contemporary and they have the desire to be where they feel they can network with like-minded businesses’
‘It’s no longer enough to be in a great building or be on a high floor.’
As the workspace industry moves forward so do fresh ideas. Daniel Soffer spoke at length about fresh trends in the serviced office market, focussing on a new generation of office business center that encourages working collaboration.
A sense of community is becoming more important in workspace environments and this attitude bleeds over into the workspace professionals themselves, at the GWA conference. The healthy environment of collaboration, is increasing the awareness that there is the flexibility to accommodate larger requirements.
Daniel Soffer compared the new generation of workspaces to the new generation of gym. Tenants are no longer just tenants, but members and the exclusivity of this membership is what sets a stellar office business center apart from the rest.
‘Your Client’s….your members, want an environment full of smart people with access to your smart services in a vibrant community.’
The Mobile Worker
‘It goes without saying we are no longer a desktop society, but through technology and cloud-based platforms, more than ever before, work is something we do, not just a place we go to.’
The advance of technology means the workspace is evolving to accommodate the rise in mobile working. As more and more people start to work remotely the pressure is on for many workspace to providers to keep up to date with new trends in co-working and compete with free options, such as coffee shops and home-working. Daniel went on to praise workspace providers for adapting and innovating to a changing environment.
‘Through your diverse, innovative office space, wide ranging products and services and touchdown solutions, you are encouraging the new generation of workers to enjoy hip and trendy workspaces, rather than stay home or go to the local Starbucks.’
Back to the people
The ‘people’ conversation was a recurring theme. Many attendees relished the opportunity to meet with those they rarely get the chance to speak to face to face. In an increasingly globalised economy, where people can communicate effectively via the internet, the time we spend face to face is becoming much more valuable. As such, events like the GWA conference are always going to be essential for business and the future of business. The new economy relies on relationships after all. Bring on GWA 2015 in Denver, Colorado.