A Primer on Effective Meeting Room Design
Meetings are an inevitable part of organizational life. Many decisions need to be made as a product of discussion, brainstorming, and consensus. So how can you make the meeting space a vehicle for effective planning?
Make the space work for you
First, look at the big picture: what kind of meeting room does your organization need, and how do you make it suit your requirements?
There are different kinds of meeting rooms. Focus rooms are the smallest rooms intended for two people or one-on-one consultations with someone online. Huddle rooms are great for small breakout sessions of four to six people, while meeting and conference rooms are built for bigger crowds and accommodate company guests.
Knowing your organization’s needs allows you to shape available space for optimal use. For example, if the organization holds more small group meetings or consultations, a greater number of small rooms would be useful. At the same time, companies that usually meet only for town halls or company announcements can do with a large conference room. For more flexibility, you can explore making big rooms with collapsible dividers.
Design the space based on its objectives
Once the role of the room has been established, equip it with the necessary elements to achieve its objectives. This means adjusting the seating, accessibility, and overall design of the room–even having it conform with or promote company branding if necessary.
Seating matters little in smaller rooms, but it helps facilitate discussions and get everyone on the same page in bigger rooms. Look into optimal meeting setups for bigger plenaries like U-shaped or round table settings.
Regardless of room size, accessibility matters. Are the doors wide enough for wheelchairs or food carts to enter? Is the equipment within reach even for people who are not tall? Is the sound system placed so that those far from the front can still hear clearly?
Lastly, the room’s overall design can set the tone of the meeting. Is the meeting room meant for serious business discussions or relaxed conversations? Keeping the room design in neutral tones suggests a professional agenda, while bright walls with coffee table setups or bean bag chairs would encourage employees to feel more relaxed. Similarly, company branding is likely to be stronger in bigger rooms used to impress guests or inspire confidence among employees during a key company meeting. Regardless of intent, what’s important is to ensure that meeting goers feel comfortable in the room.
Invest in tech for virtual members
Some members who are essential to a meeting may not physically attend. Meeting rooms must thus also be virtual-ready for when important decisions and decision makers need it.
Virtual conferencing applications like Zoom are a tremendous low-cost investment that can bring everyone together in the same room. Make these applications adjustable to the big meeting room screen to involve virtual attendees easily. If possible, upgrade to premium versions to unlock unlimited meeting durations and utilize additional features like breakout sessions and side note chat boxes.
Barely making out what people are presenting or saying in a meeting can make a participant lose interest. Invest in an excellent audio-visual system solution to ensure that meetings stay productive even in hybrid work environments and that meeting applications play or function correctly when broadcast to a bigger crowd.
Regardless of size, efficient technical equipment is a must. The only difference is the degree of investment. Smaller rooms could do with a TV, some adapters, and a Jabra for conferences, while bigger rooms would need to fit a more complex setup to ensure that essential sound is heard from end to end. The use of wireless devices also saves the time that would have been spent navigating through wires and removes potential trip hazards that extension cords bring.
An efficient meeting room must be internet-supported. Fortify the internet connections of your meeting room to handle multiple call-ins because you would not want to miss a critical decision point just because the internet connection died.
Make privacy a priority
People need meeting rooms to share ideas, but it doesn’t mean that the entire organization must be privy to this information. Meeting rooms must have built-in soundproofing to prevent unintended leakage, especially of confidential conversations.
This also applies in a physical sense. A glass-lined meeting room might seem light and airy, but it also invites unwanted attention from passers-by. Assess how much of the meeting is allowed to be seen from the outside before deciding on the kind of meeting room wall to use.
A meeting room must both allow audibility and clear out background noise. Room acoustics would be responsible for that. The room shape and inner walls must enable sound to travel clearly without bouncing off the walls and ceiling during breakout sessions.
Equip with modular meeting tools
Because meeting rooms are essentially multi-purpose spaces, it’s crucial to place equipment that can fit changing requirements. Consider lining sections of walls with a whiteboard-like or glass material to write on, balancing both aesthetics and functionality for brainstorming sessions. When a digital output is to be used, provide a blank wall to serve as a TV or projector screen.
Utility purposes need to be considered as well. Allot space for a built-in cabinet to store AV equipment or writing tools. A table at the back of the room can serve as a “bar” for work snacks or as a space for featuring company products for guests. Meeting tables and chairs must have wheels to be easily connected or moved around for different layouts.
A meeting room is a place where big ideas and decisions happen. Be mindful when crafting such a space. Know which kind of meeting room would suit your organization and design with clear objectives in mind. Choose equipment that will engage members inside or outside the office while keeping privacy intact. Lastly, have flexible elements that can suit your changing meeting needs.