Meetings. Ah, yes, we've all been to them. In fact, if we've been an employee in a company for even a few years we will have attended dozens if not scores, if not hundreds of meetings. Middle managers are said to spend a third of their working day in meetings and for executives, make that fifty per cent.
How do you rate meetings? Are they good, bad or somewhere in between? It's interesting that one study has found that almost half the people interviewed reckon the meetings they have attended could've been better. They could've been better with another timetable i.e. another day or time, they could've been better chaired, they could've had a better agenda and, and this is the point of this article, they could've been more comfortable.
You see, why we can look at a whole range of issues in order to make our meetings more productive, and one issue we deal with specifically here is with the setting, the venue. It doesn't matter if the meeting is between two people or 22 people. The setting, the venue is important.
Why is the venue important?
There are several reasons. If we assume the meeting is necessary and has a purpose, then getting the best outcome is a given. We want the meeting to be productive. So of all the issues which can impact the success of a meeting, where it is held and the conditions of the meeting room are crucial. You can even say the venue and set-up can make or break your meeting.
It some areas it's a no-brainer. If the lighting is wrong, the seating is poor and the colour scheme harms rather than helps, then your meeting will either be unproductive or certainly less productive than it could and should be. Let's consider three issues.
Lighting, seating and colour scheme
People are environmentally aware today and to see the wrong light bulbs being used will make them unhappy, even angry. You can save energy and money and the planet by making simple choices re lighting. Then there's posture. Ergonomics is no longer a subject for a few today. It is a universal and proven science showing that caring for the posture of your people pays all sorts of dividends. Choose the right seating and make your meetings more productive. Finally, there is the colour scheme of your venue. Again this is as much a science as a designer's art today. The right colours can enhance the mood whereas the opposite is true.
It may be that the company colours can feature in the décor of the meeting room with the aim to establish loyalty and a feeling of belonging. Mind you, if you wish to encourage competition between employees, using vibrant colours such as orange and red may well help develop a more aggressive approach to problem-solving. Just leave the inter-office punch-ups to the Christmas party. Glass, wood and chrome are three materials which can all play a part in the layout of your meeting room. Again their use depends on the needs of your employees and the mood you are trying to establish.
Setting up your meeting room is like creating a well-written book. You want to make the experience as relaxed as possible. Get rid of things which distract or interrupt the flow of the meeting. Get your lighting, seating and colours to work together to make the meeting super productive.
Starting from scratch
The experts today start with the needs of the client. Ask what your meeting participants want and need. Is the room for small collaborative meetings, for large gatherings or something else? If the decisions on the workspace are top down, you may be running less productive meetings. Attendees who dislike the space are less inclined to participate. Certainly, you may be killing their enthusiasm. Talk to those who will use the meeting room.
Create the workspace according to the results of any survey. Listen to the views of your fellow employees. Any manager or owner dictating what a meeting should look like without considering the specific outcomes required is probably shooting themselves in the foot. You want success. You want productive meetings. Then listen to what the participants find works best for them.
A really good meeting space is one which can change. Take chairs for instance, yes, ergonomics is vital but so too are things like materials, colours and casters. If the chairs are set in a position and not able to be moved with ease, you are limiting the ability of your workspace. If participants need to move to be able to see a screen or monitor, having chairs which can easily be maneuvered is a big plus.
We know about colours giving feelings of warmth or security and such but remember too the visibility factor. Often in meetings, there will be a monitor and/or whiteboard. Are the wall colours ideal for people in the room to see these devices? If people need to strain to see they are not being productive. For instance, bright colours and stark white walls are usually not good on walls in rooms where you plan to show videos. If in doubt, ask.
Tables too today are all about flexibility. Do you want your meeting participants in rows, in a square or in a V-shape? Having furniture which is able to be increased, reduced and easily moved gives variety to the meeting and allows you to adapt according to the numbers present. A giant table in a fixed position is never a good idea for a meeting with a handful of participants.
And does your room have appropriate storage facilities? If equipment is needed and it's there on the spot, you're helping the flow of your meeting. Fetching and returning equipment is a waste of time and effort.
Please speak up
Acoustics are another important issue. Choosing a room with poor acoustics puts a real break on your productivity. Participants drift away if they are unable to hear what is being said. It doesn't mean they can't hear at all but limited hearing makes the running of a successful meeting all that much harder. Bare walls, glass partitions and screens and whiteboards are not good for acoustics. Simple changes or a better venue will overcome these problems.
And don't forget you may not be alone. A poor choice of venue can mean what is happening is heard outside the meeting room. That can upset other workers. Don't allow your meeting to become a disruption. You need to avoid things like poor microphone and speaker systems which give echoes and feedback. Shifting furniture should not only be easy but free from unnecessary sounds. Scraping furniture on the floor is never a good sound.
Coffee or tea
If you are to provide refreshments in your meeting room, the ease with which they can be accessed is important. All of this comes down to design in the first place. But if such a facility is not available, a well-stocked trolley with ease of movement can assist participants and provide minimal interruption to your meeting.
Different types of meeting rooms
Just as flexibility is important for the layout of your meeting room, so is the ability to find alternative accommodation. If you have only one space for meetings and another meeting is needed, where do you go? Having a space or spaces which can easily be used as a meeting room - even for two or three people - is a real asset. And if it's an informal meeting, then informal furniture is the go. Less formal seating which again is easily moved and repositioned is ideal. Adapt and be flexible.
It's vital your meeting room is fully equipped with the necessary hardware and software to be used if needed. Massive strides have been taken, and continue to be taken, in designing and manufacturing new technology. Ensuring your meeting rooms are capable of using their equipment is vital to the success of your meetings.
Decorations are another way to develop the mood of your space. The company logo or parts of your mission statement or pictures of your products or services in the market can all establish a vibe within the room. Is that your aim? Then go for it.
All work and no play
Some businesses have meeting rooms with alternative seating and a relaxed area within the main space. Why not? Instead of the group seated on chairs at a table, why not lounge on a beanbag under funky lighting? Will that make for a better meeting, a more productive meeting? There's only one way to find out.
Facebook in New York has a mini meeting room, like a child's room with mini table and mini chairs. Maybe a gimmick but it certainly generates a lot of discussion. When it comes to meeting rooms, be prepared to think big - or small.