Are you looking forward to meetings again? I know I am.
There’s something real about talking face-to-face with a client, a colleague, a contractor, even your own team. There’s passion in the heated discussions that surface when people literally put their heads together. Not to mention the innovation and out-of-the-box thinking that you can’t match from an email thread or Zoom call.
That’s why your physical meeting space is so vital. It’s the heart of your business, where the magic happens.
True, meetings can also be an incredible time-suck, where pointless, circular conversations equals zero work done. But the right meeting space sets the scene for productivity, for creativity, for meetings that could *never* have been an email.
I can’t transform your team members — I’m no wizard — but I can offer you six tips for setting up meeting spaces where conversation flows, ideas emerge, and everybody truly wants to be there.
At the very basic level, a meeting room needs to be a defined space. You can’t expect to shuffle around desks or gather in the kitchen every time you call a meeting.
To create that space, think about the different meeting types you need, and build around that. Will it be used for one-on-one meetings with clients? For technical spec-ing with the whole team? For brainstorming and creative sessions? For gathering for announcements or celebrations?
I often come across clients who need a multi-function meeting space. Designing a space to serve more than one purpose is tricky, but with the right planning, it can be done. For instance, a huge conference table can be overwhelming in a one-on-one meeting. If your room needs to serve both functions, consider adding more intimate seating off to the side — like a pair of comfy armchairs around a small table.
Offices are busy and noisy. That’s why meeting spaces are generally removed from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the office. But there’s no reason they should feel closed off. One quick fix: paint the walls of your meeting room a light shade to make it feel spacious and open — the opposite of boxed-in.
Or opt for glass walls that let in light and retain the “we’re all in this together” feel, even when you’re in (or left out of) a meeting. Still, it can be hard to keep meeting momentum going with people passing by every few minutes. Hang blinds or shades that you can pull when needed.
Another way to separate your space from the rest of the office is the half wall; there’s a clear demarcation but it’s less severe and more open. To control noise, use glass for the top half.
A third popular way to set up a meeting space is with moveable walls. This can as low-tech as standalone screens that you arrange as needed to built-in moveable wall panels that slide to adjust room size.
What did you say?
Can’t hear Bill’s accounting report because Rose is sharpening pencils at reception again?
Not only is it annoying when you can’t hear the other end of the table, it can impact your work. You miss what was said, and suddenly you’re the one stuck finishing up the project over the weekend!
Even if the room is completely closed, noise from the rest of the office can still interfere. Consider acoustic wall or ceiling panels to absorb sound so meeting participants can hear what’s going on.
Today’s acoustic panels are a design element in their own right. Available in a range of colors and designs, they add style and visual interest to walls, rather than detract from the look. And even small panels can be effective if you don’t have the budget for large panels.
Another consideration: the shape of your table. When people can’t all see each other around the table, it’s hard to follow what’s going on. Oblong or circular tables give people a better view from all angles — and a better meeting experience.
No skimping here.
For meetings to run smoothly — and be productive — you need working technology: a phone line, strong wi-fi signal, a screen, sound system, webcam, speakers. Even in the post-COVID world, telemeetings aren’t going away so far. (We all love Zoom too much!) So you might want to add a 360-degree camera like Meeting Owl to your space too.
Multiple conference rooms? Keep the equipment standardized. That way, everyone knows how to use the tools, regardless of the room, and there’s no arguing over the “best” space.
Natural light is amazing…until you’re trying to see a screen.
Solution: attractive window treatments that let the sunshine in, except when you don’t want it to.
As for overhead lights, soft lighting is preferred for low-key, casual meetings, where you want to generate warmth and openness. Brighter light is better for the serious “lets crank this out” type of business — where you don’t want anyone accidentally dozing off.
Need both types of meetings in the same space? Install dimmer options so you can adjust lighting as needed.
Here’s the truth: Uncomfortable furniture doesn’t make meetings shorter. It just makes them worse.
Invest in comfortable, ergonomic seating that are adjustable (because your whole team isn’t 5’6”). I also prefer armless chairs because they fit everyone. And if you’re looking at chairs with wheels, try them out first to make sure they don’t squeak.
One fun trend for meeting rooms today is making them look more like a living room or lounge, complete with sofas and throw pillows, even a rug. These less formal spaces are ideal for setting people at ease and encouraging communication. However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them for meetings where you need to review any cold hard facts.
Make it yours
The most important rule to remember: your conference room doesn’t have to follow every rule — as long as it works for your business.