How to Set Up an Effective Meeting Atmosphere

Posted by Kristin Arnold on November 7, 2007

What’s the overall atmosphere of your meeting room? Does it invite participation or stifle creativity? Although a subtle contribution to team success, meeting room set up is an important, but often forgotten, element to team success.

As you set up your next meeting, consider the following:

To sit or not to sit. If you are having a quickie meeting (less than ten minutes), keep standing. If you sit down, arrange the chairs in a u-shape or semi-circle. Flipcharts can be placed at the opening so all members can focus on the task at hand.

Table it. Consider having a meeting with no tables or barriers to communication – just people talking to people.

Just right. Have just enough space so team members aren’t crowded and not too large that the empty space sucks all the energy out of the room.

Seats, everyone. If your meeting will last over an hour, take a look at the chairs. Wheels on chairs are nice, armrests are good, extra padding is great. Otherwise, schedule breaks often!

Something to drink? Water on the tables is a nice touch and costs nothing. Coffee and juice in the morning and sodas in the afternoon as well as snacks are a real treat. Donuts are a classic meeting food but include healthy alternatives such as bagels or bran muffins. In the afternoon, try cookies, cheese, and crackers, or a vegetable tray.

Location, location, location. Have the meeting centrally located, so that no participant is inconvenienced. The room should be close to the restrooms. The entrance/exit doors should be at the back of the room so that participants are not interrupted.

Paraphenalia. Flipcharts, pens, pencils, markers, notepads, post-it® notes are useful during most meetings. If you can, use your company’s imprinted items – they boost morale and remind everyone of the organization’s common goal.

Lighting and Temperature. Know how to adjust the lights and temperature. If you know that the location is usually at Ice Station Zebra, advise participants to bring a sweater.

Technology. Overhead projectors, LCD panels, copyboards, and notebook computers are being used more and more frequently. Will someone need technology on site? Who will bring it, does it work, and is there electrical and internet access? Whatever your plan, do a dry run. Murphy’s Law prevails: What can go wrong, will go wrong!

Visit the room prior to the event. Make sure it is the best possible environment. Run through the agenda and ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do which will enhance the team members’ contributions?”

Attention to these small details can make the difference between a dull, unproductive meeting and one that is upbeat, enthusiastic, and really gets results.

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.

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