With U.S. companies losing billions of dollars each year to poorly organized meetings, it has become increasingly obvious that changes must be made to increase efficiency. While there is no one perfect path to a well-run meeting, there are a number of techniques—such as setting a clear agenda and limiting the number of invitees—that can help. One factor that is often overlooked is how meeting spaces can be used and adapted to improve productivity.
As WorkSocial stressed in their recent piece on meeting room design:
Well-designed meeting rooms can put attendees at ease, encourage conversation, and induce creativity. Mindful meeting room design can drastically improve effectiveness of your meetings.
Many office buildings have several distinct and different conference areas available, and choosing the right one involves an analysis of not only the number of expected attendees, but also the purpose of the meeting, and how your team likes to work. A room that seems perfect for six colleagues preparing for a presentation may not function nearly as well for a large board meeting, and vice versa.
Consider whether your team prefers standing meetings to sitting. Do they like to work on their own, or as a part of a group? Do they do their best work when they have access to a white board, or might they need equipment to teleconference with employees working remotely? All these factors should be considered in order to optimize a meeting’s efficiency. But the size of the room, because it’s the hardest to change, is probably the place to start.
(1) DETERMINING THE BEST SIZE FOR YOUR MEETING SPACE
Today’s offices generally offer some combination of the following types of conference spaces:
- Privacy Booths: these relative newcomers to the world of meeting spaces are intended for telephone calls or one-on-one discussions. An upgrade on the cubicle, Perfect for sharing sensitive information in otherwise open floor plans, privacy booths are frequently modular and thus can be added easily and inexpensively. Many companies have multiple privacy booths so they can be used as the need arises, without advance scheduling.
- Huddle Rooms: typically intended for 4-8 people, huddle rooms are particularly useful for brainstorming and collaboration, as well as small corporate training sessions. They commonly contain advanced videoconferencing capabilities that can help to create a connected culture. As with privacy booths, most companies do not allow huddle rooms to be reserved, allowing more flexibility in use. They are particularly valuable in offices with open floor plans, as they allow small groups to meet without noise or other distractions.
- Small Meeting Rooms: more than simply convenient rooms for internal meetings, these can also serve as places to work on longer-term projects too substantial to be packed up at the end of the day. Rooms this size must generally be reserved ahead of time.
- Large Conference Rooms: these are the rooms where a company pulls out all the stops. The largest meeting space, with top-of-the-line furnishings, state of the art equipment, and a lovely view, a large conference room is used primarily for meetings with clients or others who executives are trying to impress.
- Outdoor Spaces: while less traditional than indoor conference rooms, outdoor meeting spaces are becoming increasingly common. Outdoor workspace can promote relaxation, as well as encouraging creativity and innovation. Patios, gazebos, and rooftop gardens have all become popular conference spots—with some companies even holding walking meetings along nearby trails.
(2) OTHER MEETING ROOM CONSIDERATIONS
(A) Décor & Lighting: While not every company has access to an outdoor conference space, all can enjoy the benefit of the great outdoors by bringing certain aspects inside. Placing live plants in meeting rooms can have a relaxing impact, as can maximizing natural light. Indeed, lighting often plays a significant role in creating the desired meeting atmosphere, with softer lights making a space appear welcoming, and (dimmable) brighter lights generally preferred for more formal meeting rooms.
(B) Color: Like lighting, color can impact the effectiveness of a meeting space. Cool colors such as green and blue have long been touted as helping with productivity and relaxation, whereas warm colors like yellow are said to aid in creativity. Materials such as wood also add warmth, while glass is associated with a more modern feel. Some businesses like to use company colors or incorporate a logo into the meeting room décor in order to better tie the space to the company.
(C) Sound: Meeting room acoustics should also be considered. Not only should these rooms be soundproofed—keeping meeting contents private and outside noise from becoming a distraction—but set up to provide optimal communication within the space, without echoing or other distortion. This is particularly important when microphones or speakers are in use.
(D) Furniture & Technology: Comfortable office furniture is an essential part of an effective conference room, but other amenities may not be. While it is important that a company have access to features such as projectors, screens, white boards, microphones, speakers, refreshments—even height-adjustable tables for those standing meetings—not every meeting room must provide each and every one of these. Meeting rooms can be customized according to the ways in which they are most likely to be used—and modified when necessary.
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Does your office’s conference space meet the needs of your team? Please comment below.
Written By; Kim Pierson