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Focus Group Suites – The Place to Have Your Next Off-Site Meeting, Training Session Or Seminar

O.K., you’re going to have an all-day training session, and you need a place to meet. So you call the local hotel and explain that you need a room for the day.

o In the morning you want some coffee, Danish, and fruit. In the afternoon, you’d like sandwiches and cold drinks. And maybe some mid-afternoon munchies as a pick-me-up.

o You need the session audio- and video-taped. And maybe an adjoining room it can be transmitted to, where observers can see and hear the proceedings in real time.

o Then there is the playback equipment necessary for showing your materials.

o And, finally, a host or hostess available throughout the day in case there are any other needs.

Now for the over-and-under pool: How long will it take for paramedics to revive the hotel’s salesperson from a dead faint? Because, as we all know, what I’ve just described has the capacity to send hotel personnel into an advanced state of apoplexy.

But don’t despair. There is a place where Meeting Room Equipment personnel will not be fazed by any of these requests; a place where, instead of a promise to “get back to you” after half the hotel staff has been consulted, you’ll get a smile and the words, “No problem.” I’m talking about a focus group suite: the next-generation training room.

As most people know, focus groups are informal panel discussions conducted among some number of people (usually about eight to 10, but it can range much higher). Typical focus group facilities can run three to five such discussions simultaneously. But some are even larger. Importantly, focus group facilities are ideal for training sessions. (Full disclosure time: I am the president and co-owner of National Qualitative Centers (NQC), a focus group facility with eight suites in downtown Chicago.

Let’s see why, by comparing a hotel’s capabilities to those of a focus group suite:

The room: A hotel meeting room is generic space. That is because the hotel never knows what it will be used for. Today, it is your training session, but tomorrow it will have a seafood buffet; the next day is a wedding reception; etc.

By contrast, our focus group suites are dedicated meeting rooms. You need 10 to 12 people sitting at a table? Or maybe a larger room that accommodates 50 to 60 people sitting auditorium-style? That’s what you get. Not because it hurriedly can be cobbled together in some way, but because that’s what it is.

Food and beverages: Ordering hotel food means being restricted only to what the hotel serves. And, oh, those prices!

But a focus group facility has no such restraints. Whatever kind of food you want, from whatever place you prefer, is available-almost always at far lower prices.

To research this article, I called a name-brand hotel within a few blocks of our office and asked how much it would cost to provide food and beverages for 15 people. The prices were staggering. Continental breakfast? $32 a head. Sandwiches and salads for lunch? $43 a head. Soft drinks? $6 a can. Focus group facilities charge about half this amount, and the food will be at least as good, usually better.