Most meeting professionals probably agree with Patrick Lencioni, author of “Death by Meeting,” who says that a table is still the most important piece of technology for groups of people who want to get things done. “There is simply no substitute for the basic idea of people sitting down together around a table to resolve the critical issues around their business,” the mission statement of Lencioni’s consulting firm The Table Group says.
But does it matter what that table looks like? Does it need to be tall or long or come apart? Or should it be flat on the floor with beanbag chairs? Does one table facilitate better discussion than another?
With so much talk about changing meetings to create more conversation and stimulate more dialogue, how important are the chairs we sit in or the table we sit at?
Environment and experience designer Carrie Allen, who was one of this year’s 40 Under 40 in Rejuvenate magazine, says the sight, smell, look and taste of an event factors into attendees’ mindsets. When we’re brainstorming big-picture ideas for our magazines, our editorial staff likes to gather around a big table at a coffee shop—preferably with a giant, shared piece of chocolate cake. But when executives meet, a boardroom is certainly more appropriate.
In the next issue of Connect, the third article in our Rethinking Meetings series explores the creative ways planners are using space, furniture and technology. Here are a few things we’ve learned planners should consider when creating the perfect environment:
- Function. Do your attendees need to think creatively, collaborate with one another and get outside their normal routine? Comfortable furniture that makes it easy for them to move around and relax might be worth trying. Or do they require a tabletop to take notes during an education session?
- Image. Is a modern look and the latest technology important to your attendees? Will adding colorful chairs, chalkboard walls and interactive kiosks say something about your organization? Or do you have a traditional audience who might be more distracted by things you’ve changed and prefer to get down to business in a professional setting?
- Investment. Small changes can affect the entire dynamic of a meeting. Are there things you can implement to make your meeting more collaborative with the furniture available? Can the same conversation be held around a roundtable as on beanbag chairs?
By answering these questions, you can identify the changes you should make to your event—and table the rest.
Image from Steelcase