Is the environment you are holding your meetings in contributing to productive work? The room and its interior actually affects the way in which you are interacting, learning, listening and working together.
You probably already know the feeling. You step into a sterile room, where water and coffee are the only things that are presented on the otherwise empty meeting table. It is a room where you too often have glanced back and forth between the sad house plant and the dried coffee stain on the floor. It looks like it is going to be a meeting with the usual routines in the same neutral room where all creativity and excitement come to die.
Dependent on the meeting type, you should consider if the same old and grey meeting dungeon needs a replacement. Lighting, sounds, interior and surroundings are all behavior changing factors that either strengthens or weakens the efficiency of the meeting. This short guide gives you inspiration to how you – with a few changes in the settings – can create a more productive meeting.
The information meeting
The goal with an information meeting is to create motivation, interest, accept and a common ground. Therefore, the room must create a positive attitude and excitement amongst the participants. One of the most important things to consider is the lighting. According to the Danish National Research Centre for Working Environment natural daylight is the best light for working, because it affects the human in a positive way. If the daylight is limited, then a combination of ceiling light and light from lamps pointing towards the table is what makes the participants most satisfied. Furthermore, a big white table top can add a lot of light to the room.
Also consider: does the room have the necessary technology? And does it work? The goal of the meeting is to inform, and by collecting relevant props, the overall comprehension among the participants can be increased. Don't be afraid to combine projectors, whiteboards, blackboards and other visual elements if it makes sense in the specific meeting.
The customer meeting
In a customer- or sales meeting the purpose is to create a mutual commitment. The keywords are trust and curiosity, and for this reason it is an advantage to hold these kinds of meetings in familiar surroundings – ideally a place that both you and the customer are familiar with (and if that is difficult to find, then pick what the customer prefers). It creates a sense of comfort and being on "home ground".
Furthermore, it is an advantage for this particular meeting type to sit at a round table where all the participants are able to make eye contact and talk to each other. However, a more informal customer meeting can easily take place in a more casual environment with soft furniture.
The innovation meeting
In an innovation meeting the purpose is to generate new ideas and perspectives together. If you are planning to brainstorm, a good tip is to remove the table – and even the chairs, if it feels natural. The result is that the participants will come together as one organism, because they become less territorial when they don't have their "own space" that separates them from the rest of the group. Another positive consequence is that the communication has a better flow, when you can see the person as a whole – and it also prevents the participants from dozing off at the table.
Inspiration is the keyword in these meetings. Dependent of the innovation method you choose to work with, the meeting calls for different environments and inspiring props – it can be everything from PowerPoints and blackboards to post-its, LEGO and photos.
However, you will experience the biggest effect if you invite the participant outside the office, where you will find even more inspiration. Consider the kind of innovation that might grow from a forest cabin, a theatre or a photo studio? Instead of a boring meeting room.
Another beneficial outcome is that meetings outside the office work as a kind of employee care. It is motivating when something extra is being done for the work environment – and the participants will also get new experiences with their team. The result will most likely be better meetings and a renewed energy among the participants.
The decision-making meeting
The purpose with a decision-making meeting is – no surprise – to make decisions. There is no need for a room that explodes with inspiration and inputs. In contrast, it is often important to present numbers, graphs and other data that support a decision-making process. Therefore, also check if the technical equipment is working, and if you have remembered the necessary tools.
Are you a small group at the decision-making meeting? Then make it easy for everyone to make eye contact and maintain deep discussion. It is a good idea – just like in the customer meeting – to gather the participants at a round table, where they can sit opposite each other.
But remember: we are creatures of habits, and we often sit in the same seat or sit next to a friendly colleague – and furthest from the people we care less about. This seating structure can have a psychological impact on the efficiency of the meeting. Therefore, it is a good idea to consider how you can change the table- and chair line-up to scatter people. Do you want to create the best discussions? Then also experiment with placing the people who have conflicting views opposite each other.
To sum up: Don't be afraid to try something new! What you consider as a good meeting environment is very individual and dependent on the specific context. Try different rooms and surroundings instead of being stuck in the same old routines.
Are you interested in how you can make your meetings even more productive? Learn more about our digital meeting solution here
The Danish National Research Centre for Working Environment
Meetings Imagined: 5 room setups that foster decision-making.