I have used a lot of office meeting rooms, ranging from a storage closet stuffed with cast-off furniture, to a facility so high-tech that access was only granted to staff who had taken a training course. I actually preferred meeting in the little room full of junk. So, here are some tips for office designers on what makes a boardroom comfortable and productive. You might save some money too.
Quantity: A typical office building floor needs at least two meeting rooms, one large and one small.
Decor: Fancy if you really need to impress clients or visiting dignitaries. Plain for getting internal work done. Either way, original artwork relieves the boredom of meetings, more than earnest promotional posters.
Windows: If your people spend most of their day in meetings, give them natural light in the meeting room rather than the cubicles. (Basement conference rooms are particularly cruel places to spend a day.)
Table: I prefer a plastic table with electrical outlets in the middle, over a shiny wooden table that requires coasters for water & coffee. Exception: the large, antique, circular wooden table with a lovely inlaid design around the edge, at an Ontario ministry office at College Park.
Chairs: Height-adjustable, so us short people can feel equal at the big table. Wheeled, for easy rearrangement. Narrow armrests, to fit more people in a busy meeting. Ergonomic and comfortable, because meetings are long. A variety of mismatched chairs gives people choices, but do remove the broken chairs. Avoid those wide, tall-backed chairs that make big men look powerful and small women less so.
Other furniture: A sideboard is useful for catered meetings. Otherwise, use the space for a second row of chairs. Remove unused clutter annually.
Whiteboard: As large as possible. A staff person should be assigned to clean it regularly, supply markers in multiple colours, ensure the eraser is available, and remove any dried-up markers.
Not electrified. Instead of a printing whiteboard, capture with a smartphone camera. And please no newfangled devices that require laptops and software, but cannot accept regular markers – I’ve seen many SmartBoards go unused.
Flipchart: If this is needed, keep it supplied with blank paper and functional markers. Differentiate the flipchart and whiteboard markers. Allow users to pin or tape papers to the walls. Remove the flipchart from a crowded boardroom, when not in use.
Projector: Best to hang a projector from the ceiling, so it is always focused on the screen. Provide a computer attached to the projector if few employees have laptops.
Telephone: An easy-to-use teleconference unit, with extra microphones for large rooms. The boardroom’s telephone number should be posted at the security door in the lobby.
Video conferencing: Bah humbug.
Outlets: Lots of electrical outlets and phone jacks, placed conveniently for laptops and other equipment, in the table as well as at floor level. If WiFi is not available, provide Ethernet jacks too.
And last but definitely not least:
Booking: List the boardroom in the group calendaring system, so people can book their own rooms! Don’t use separate software for room booking. Don’t rely on a paper schedule taped to the door. And please don’t require all bookings to go through an admin person. These are aggravating inefficiencies, and they don’t help to cancel room bookings when the meeting is cancelled.