Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > does your meeting space facilitate good decisions

does your meeting space facilitate good decisions

Meetings are a fact of modern business life; they are one of the catalysts that help move business forward by getting people together sparking ideas, planning strategy and similar dynamic activity, or at least they should be, but all too often they are nothing more than a waste of everyone’s time.

Some of the reasons for meetings failing are in poor planning, preparation, chairing and team issues, but what I want to look at here is the room itself because that is something that facilities teams can influence and make a bigger contribution to business success that we might realise.

Often meeting space is fitted in around the office as best as we can rather than consciously designed and I’ve seen some horrors over the years. As an example, let me first set the scene: We were bidding to win the outsourcing of a service for an international business. On offer was a 3 year deal with options for extension, but the basic contract was worth around £5m. We were invited to present for 40 minutes plus 20 for questions, told we could bring 4 people and use an SVGA presenter. All pretty standard for such a session and we turned up prepared and rehearsed.

We were taken up to the room on an upper floor and on the corner of the building. As the door opened we could see that it was long and narrow. Three tables were end to end down the middle with 6 chairs either side and one at each end, and 11 of these were occupied. The door was in one of the short walls and one long wall and short wall opposite the door were windows through which the low winter sun streamed.

So basic maths will show that there weren’t enough seats, and common sense will tell you that we couldn’t project onto the door with any degree of success and to project on to the one possible wall meant that half the people would have to turn around and, in any case, the sunlight would wash out the slides.

As Bid Director I had covered for not being able to run the presentation; it’s always a risk, so you prepare for it. I’m also used to standing to present, so standing against the door for the hour that we were there was not really an issue even if it was unusual. As for the outcome, well, we got into the final two, so we did OK in difficult circumstances, but what was the point in making use of such a room for the buying team? The people facing the windows were covering their eyes a lot of the time to avoid being blinded and the solar gain was making the room like a sweatbox. We were only there for an hour, but they had five presentations to sit through and debate on, and I would question the quality of the decision making under such conditions of discomfort.

This is an extreme case, but I’ve encountered poor facilities in many offices and hotels that I have visited over the years. The point is that meetings are about human interaction, so having the right sort of space for people to interact in is crucial to making meetings successful. As FMs we can look at providing spaces that can be used flexibly and provide an environment in which people can be productive and contribute.

Decent meeting space is an investment, but it costs about the same to do it right as to do it wrong, so it’s well worth looking at if you can.

  1. November 28, 2011 at 9:02 am

    I have seen many meeting rooms over the years. The worse ones had become storage space for the junk that had accrued. Old computers, printers and the odd box or two piled up in the corners. Meeting in such a room is not impressive to any visitor and for regular staff meetings does not elevate the meeting to any level of importance. Would you take seriously any meeting held in a “broom cupboard”?
    Thanks for another good post.

  2. November 28, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Hi Roland

    I agree. Many thanks for your comment.



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