We’ve all been in environments that just didn’t work. For many, this is the norm. Yet it can be one of the simplest things you do to make a positive impact in outcomes of your conversations and work.

When we arrive into any new space, whether on a client site, a new event venue or a space we’ve used many times, we take a moment to think about our intention for the space – the why behind what we’re there to achieve – and consider the dynamics we want in the room.

Three simple tips to get the most our of common meeting rooms are:

  • Remove any clutter. Clutter in the space lends to clutter in peoples thoughts. Clutter creates an unnecessary distraction. As much as possible remove entirely from the room and what you cannot, organise as neatly as possible. This includes walls and whiteboards.
  • Set only as many seats as people expected. This is part of a broader goal of fit-for-purpose space. Subtle elements such as this not only make the space cleaner (and therefore more focused) but remove the number of choice attendees have (shifting focus to what really matters, the subject) and therefore accelerate the arrival process. Take this further by…
  • Consider where you want particular people to sit. If you are presenting content consider who really needs to see the content and guide them to the seats with the best visibility, you may want the creators of the content to be able to see the audience reaction, so place them accordingly. If there are key decision-makers or influencers you need to directly connect with (read, eyeball), try to set them opposite to you.

Following are a few space setup photos of larger workshops however the concepts still apply from groups of 6 to 600+.

small group breakout

Small working session

Chairs arced around working walls that encourage people to stand and interact with.

multiple small working groups

Multiple working groups in a single room

Individually similar to above, however, consider noise bleed between groups and whether visibility from one group to another is helpful.

cabaret with shared work wall

Working tables around a shared artefact

This allows for sub-conversations to be reflected and shared in ways that ultimately create a shared perspective. This group is mapping the current state of a process across multiple teams before springboarding into a redesign.

individual work wall in shared space

Individual Perspective

Too often group sessions do not allow space for reflective thought. Here participants take time to capture their own perspective around a question set before the opportunity to share and discuss.

learning immersion table

Learning Immersion

When a group would benefit from outside thinking or inspiration it is not always necessary to bring in keynote speakers. This group is immersing in curated research on topics through short articles, case studies, video and audio files. They capture thoughts on what stands out to them before opening a conversation about how this might apply to their context.

panel conversation

Panel Conversation

Often leading to richer perspective than single presenters, a panel conversation can allow an audience to witness a collection of senior leaders or experts not only sharing their views but sometimes debating them or building on each others’.

plenary session

Plenary

When you want everyone to hear the same information this is often the best set up. Note the subtle differences from your standard ‘theatre style’ setup – arced seating creates a sense of shared space. Close enough to the presenter to connect with them and their content yet far enough not to have to turn your head. The arc also allows you to see more of what’s happening in the audience.

Timeline

Timeline

Visualising something together is a powerful experience. Timeline takes a contextually relevant period of time, forward, backward or both, and allows participants to co-create meaning around that time period.

We will be adding to this collection of work environment design and in the meantime, if you have any questions, feedback or would like to see anything in particular on here please get in touch.