You may remember that the right environment for your business meeting was number four on our list of keys to a successful meeting. Many people make the mistake of choosing the place they want to meet before they understand why their meeting and what type of event experience they will design.

You should have already determined why you want to bring people together, who you want to invite (hint: the right people), and drafted an agenda to know what you want to accomplish.  Now you can tackle the fun part of the process.  It’s time to look for the right environment for your business event.

The space your participants us influences how they will feel, think, and act.  The right environment can significantly increase your ability to hold a productive meeting and a space that doesn’t support your objectives and process can derail the event before it ever starts.

A few things to consider when choosing your meeting venue are:

  • Location
  • Flow and Layout of Venue
  • Room Size
  • Room Setup
  • Lighting
  • Décor
  • Service / Staff Responsiveness
  • Amenities

Location

First determine whether you want to hold the meeting in your office or off-site.  Distractions can be reduced by holding events off-site (no sneaking up to the office on breaks and not coming back or having people stop by to “borrow” someone for a few minutes).

If you’re going to hold the meeting off-site think about the physical location and whether it needs to be close to an airport or hotel.    It should be a reasonable distance for your commuters and easy to find for everyone with ample parking.

Flow and Layout of Venue

Looking at the floorplan of the venue you should be able to get a feel for how it is laid out.  Will you need to print out directions to your room(s) so participants don’t get lost?  Is there enough room in the common areas for your group to connect on breaks or will they be forced to hangout in the meeting room and restrooms?  Do any of the meeting rooms have obstructions that you need to be aware of?  Nothing breaks up the flow of a meeting like a large pillar in the room.  The right environment will have rooms the size you need and plenty of room for your group to connect.

Room Size

This is one time size does matter.   You need to be like Goldilocks and find a room that is the right size for your group.  If it’s too big your team will be overwhelmed or think that there are a lot of no-shows.  Too small and they will feel cramped and uncomfortable.  If you’ve done at least a rough draft of an agenda you know what types of activities you’ll be doing (icebreakers, presentations, etc.) and can get a feel for what the right size is.

Room Setup

Seating arrangements psychologically influence participants’ behavior and, ultimately, the overall meeting effectiveness.  You will want to consider your reason for meeting and the activities you’re planning when you determine your room setup.

There are five main types of meetings:  decision making, problem solving, information sessions, lectures/speeches, and brainstorming.  Different seating arrangements support each type.

In Decision Making type of meetings participants are working toward defining an action and there is generally a leader facilitating the discussion.  The leader / facilitator should sit in a power position where they can direct the agenda.

Problem Solving meetings usually consist of teams or clusters of participants and a facilitator overseeing discussions.  Participants offer ideas, give feedback, and contribute solutions toward specific issues.  The best seating for this type of meeting will promote eye contact, conversation, and a feeling of shared purpose.

Information Sessions can be teaching / training meetings where information is shared.  They require large spaces with seating configurations that provide clear sight lines to speakers and comfortable chairs with space for taking notes.

Lectures / Speeches usually involve many audience members who are there to hear and absorb a message without actively working on any information that is conveyed from the speaker.  Tables are usually not required for this type of event.

Highly collaborate and creative meetings, such as Brainstorming sessions, come in many sizes and require seating arrangements that encourage an atmosphere of participation.  Eye contact and emotional energy enable a high level of interaction, so the layout should accommodate accordingly.

A few seating terms you will become familiar with are:  Rectangle (or Board Room), U-Shape, Round/Circle, Semi-Circle, Fishbowl, Classroom, and Theater.  Each arrangement has its own seating psychology, power distribution, ideal participant size, and best use case.

Lighting

This is another Goldilocks item.  The lights should be bright enough to keep the team engaged but not so harsh it hurts the eyes.  Natural lighting is great, but be careful of the distractions that windows can pose.  If there are windows you will need blackout blinds if you’re projecting on a screen.  The room should also have adjustable / dimmable lighting so you can turn off the lights above the screen.

Décor

Really?  Yes, I’m asking you to think about décor.  With three to four generations attending a meeting you want a venue that doesn’t feel outdated or extreme (unless you can make that work with your meeting).  You definitely want a clean facility.

Service / Staff Responsiveness

There will always be last minute needs during the meeting.  Don’t forget to evaluate the service and responsiveness of the venue staff.  If they are slow and unresponsive when their trying to win your business, you can bet they will be that way or worse once you’ve committed.

Amenities

Understand what the venue has to offer in terms of technology, supplies, tools, food and beverage, etc.  Ask what’s included and what is an extra charge.  Some facilities will not let you use outside providers for food / beverage, technology, and other items.  There may also be minimums on food & beverage.  Understand these items as well as additional charges (service fees, gratuities, taxes, etc.) before you decide on a venue.

There is a lot to think about when choosing the right environment and it’s directly related to how much of an impact this choice has on the outcome of the event.  Don’t rush through the process.  Make sure you know what you want to accomplish and what you need to be successful.

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