That time we went Immersive in NYC.

A few notes on a flex space industry event that was significantly different. In a good way.
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Over the 28th and 29th of June, a significantly different kind of event took place in NYC for people involved with providing, filling, running, or supporting flex workspaces.

Immersive 2022 was spread across 6 buildings within Tishman Speyer‘s 22 acre Rockefeller campus.

The content was delivered through panel discussions, which wasn’t anything new. 

However, instead of a linear timetable with panels ‘competing’ for attention at the same time, at Immersive the attendees moved between the buildings getting to participate with each of the panels as well as getting to view, experience, and explore 6 different flex business models and methods of space activation that make up a significant portion of Tishman’s Studio flex offerings.

This was interesting as each of the 3 groups of attendees got to attend a version of each panel. The subtle brilliance of this approach is that each attendee got to engage with each topic, in an intimate setting, without worrying about what else was happening at the event whilst they were in a specific session.

Now I can’t speak for the other panels, but I can share the observations from the panel I participated in. 

Our panel: Tech's place in enabling daytime hospitality.

The panel was officially called “How Can Technology Continue To Augment The Hospitality Experience?” and was moderated by Jack Richer, the President of the Board at the Global Workspace Association (GWA). 

(Side note: this event was actually arranged by the GWA board, who guide the non-profit industry association. Also, Jack was the driving force behind the vision for a new experimental and immersive style of scheduling, but you won’t hear him saying that anywhere.)

So, given that 3 different groups would attend the panel at 3 different times, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of…. 

“Hold up, does that mean you did the same panel 3 times!?”

And that is what we thought too. Until our 2nd panel-slash-group-discussion kicked off.

But before I get into exactly why it landed up being so interesting, I should give you some context into who was on the panel as their insights and dynamism was half of why it all worked out so nicely.

My fellow panelists were all subject matter experts, in very different ways.

Denise Brouder guides organizations into literally flipping their teams’ workdays upside-down to really get into how remote working and other new workspace strategies can drive long-term and impactful change for each employee. This brought viewpoints into the panel on why/how/when flexible space works (and more importantly doesn’t work) for the individuals that make up businesses.

Barbara Sprenger wears two hats in the flex space world, one as a long-term operator of (now) 8 centers on the West Coast, and the other as the CEO of a workspace management system. This deep experience in both operating, and supporting, individual and smaller networks of flex spaces provided another perspective to the topic of tech + hospitality.

Iain Miln helps some of the world’s biggest CRE brands, landlords, and other major global players dig into how to use their company’s technology stack to provide a seamless experience to organizations and their teams. This wide-spanning experience brought valuable insights into how some of the largest portfolios are thinking about and engaging with technology.

So the panel was already going to be interesting, at least the first time.

But what actually happened is that each group was and interactivity, alongside Jack’s questions, drove each session into completely different areas of just how technology enables, could improve, or is affecting the adoption of flexible workspaces.

Session 1. Could broken tech = broken promises.

The first session (the only one in the morning), dug into how tech should be both invisible and reliable, but for numerous reasons, we’re not just there yet. 

We explored how in an ideal world a mixture of technology could be interwoven to enable a truly seamless “curb-to-suite” experience for individuals and teams alike. 

We also looked into the fact that many employers were actually pulling back flexibility about self-directed workspace selection for their teams.

We explored improvements that could be made from both a policy level and from the angle of where/how tech could improve discovery, centralize billing and also improve the efficiency of the workspace operator. 

Session 2. Commoditization vs whole new methods of leveraging space.

This group came to play.

It all started with a kind note from Barbara who highlighted some of the things we’re working on at Syncaroo (and which is integrated into Deskworks and other management systems).

We then dug into 80/20 balance between insight/data for filling coworking space from Alejandro Alvarez a director at Cushman & Wakefield.

This rolled into a bunch of banter and back-and-forth around travel, flights, travel agents, and how they relate to flex space, brokers, operations and more. We heard and discussed fascinating insights from a bunch of great people including Brandon Medeiros from Alidade,  Ben Wright from Upsuite/SquareFoot and Harun Biswas from UltraSoft.

With the backing of my fellow panelists, and their experience across tech and employee experiences, we went deep into how with the right data infrastructure, operators and their partners could convert effort-ridden processes into delightful, seamless, on-demand, and highly profitable experiences.

Session 3. A glimpse into where things can be improved.

Nearer the end of the day, we dug back into fundamentals.

We explored the ways in which employee experiences can be improved. Where technology was headed, and how operators are increasingly having to support a growing variety of customer personas across a growing set of flex products.

Throughout the session, we ripped business requirements down to their fundamental pieces (and sometimes flipped them upside down) to build up an Ops Stack, which is superior to just a “tech stack”. We looked into how this allowed for a coordinated dance between service and platforms, letting tech fade the back whilst still delivering delightful experiences in a scalable and sustainable way.

A peak into the other panels/sessions.

In summary, Immersive was insightful.

Not only did I get to learn more of Tishman Speyer’s Studio story, models and activations but I also get to have a day filled with interesting discussions with some of the top flex-thinking CRE professionals on the continent. 

Thanks for having me, thanks for sharing your time with us, and I look forward to crossing paths and learning more from all of you again soon.

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Hey, I'm Hector 👋

I’m a flex workspace technologist – which is just an odd way of saying that I get to work with a tonne of awesome people and technology that support, run, market and enrich thousands of flexible workspaces around the world. 

I currently lead Syncaroo.com and curate This Week In Coworking. Alongside other geeky resources and projects, I also founded included.co and grew that global network to supporting 700+ communities. Learn more about me and my work here.

In my blog and email updates I share my thoughts, observations and spotted trends regarding workspace, technology & entrepreneurship. 

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