No matter how many times you Google “room setups for meetings” your results will probably not stray too far from a block-o, u-shape, or classroom style setup. Our brains have been conditioned to think these are the optimal room setups for every meeting type, but are they?
Picture this: You are planning a brainstorming session on how to launch a new product. You have scheduled an offsite to ensure your team will be fully focused. You envision a distraction-free space in which your team can think creatively. You walk into the rented space to find the room is set in “classroom-style” setup which is facing a projector screen. No whiteboards or flip charts. How will this setup impact the outcome of your meeting?
The participants are each closed off from most of their peers. There’s nothing provided to capture thoughts and ideas. It’s hard to move around in a classroom style setup, and why is there a projector screen? Is this setup sparking creativity or innovative thinking? You’re in need of an environment where your team feels comfortable enough to think differently and be open to new ideas. Classroom style or U-shape setups aren’t going to cut it.
Instead, ask: What room setup would be most conducive to a brainstorming session?
Now, imagine walking into a room setup with a mixture of comfy seating in one area and tables and chairs in another area. There’s space for breakout conversations. Flipcharts and whiteboards available in every area of the room. Tons of post-its and colored markers to capture every idea. Fidget toys laid out on the coffee table and natural light pouring into the room. How will this setup impact the outcome of your meeting?
We know we need an agenda, we know we need the right people invited to the meeting, but how much thought are we putting into the setup of the room and how it impacts the outcome of the meeting? I just gave you one example. If you were planning a training session with workbooks and tons of note taking you wouldn’t want a room full of soft seating. For training, a classroom setup is often more appropriate.
Here are some guidelines we use at sparkspace to determine what type of room setups to use:
When should a team consider using a more casual setup (utilizing more “comfy” seating, etc.) ?
- team retreats
- brainstorming sessions
- informal/casual presentations
- deep or uncomfortable conversations with team
When should a team use a more formal table/chair setup (classroom, theater style, etc.)?
- formal presentations
- training sessions
- lots of note taking or electronic plug-ins will be used
Start thinking intentionally and proactively about your setup and watch how it improves the outcome of your meetings.