Ultimately, the location you select for a meeting should help you reach your goals.
The choice can create a certain mood. It might also address a particular constraint.
Imagine that a member of the executive team wants to sit in on a problem-solving meeting you are going to have. You aren’t crazy about the idea, because you fear he will dominate the discussion, but that doesn’t matter. He’s going to be there. He was even good enough to offer the use of the executive conference room.
You probably can’t keep him from attending, but you can and should turn down his offer for the executive conference room.
That room is going to put people on edge, with the exception of the executive for whom that room is the usual spot. If everyone’s jumpy except for him, it will be even easier for him to dominate the conversation, which is exactly what you want to avoid. Thank him for his offer, and tell him you’ve already reserved space that will work best for what you want to accomplish.
When considering space options, my requirements change depending on what I want to do during the meeting. Still, it’s safe to say there are some generic requirements that don’t change much. Add these to your list of considerations.
Public relations (PR) people use an old trick. They undersize a room, because they want to create the appearance of a crowd. In most cases, that’s not your goal.
For meetings where the goal is collaboration, you want the room to be large enough that everyone has the space necessary to feel comfortable.
Stay away from too large, though, because the group might feel small and insignificant. I can’t imagine a reason you’d want the participants to feel this way.
I like rooms where I can rearrange things the way I want them. I particularly dislike rooms with tables in classroom style rows that are wired together to support computers. Meeting facilities showcase these rooms for their tech readiness. Mostly they make my job harder.
If I anticipate there’s going to be a lot recorded on flip charts, I want blank wall space to hang the paper.
Once I did a meeting in an ornate B&B. It was a lovely room that created a warm feeling. It also had every inch of wall space covered with art. Beautiful, but not functional.
In order for people to effectively collaborate, they need to be able to hear one another. For small groups of five or fewer, you can get away with sitting at a small round table or in a booth at a coffee shop and still be able to carry on a conversation.
For groups in which people are going to be more than a couple of feet from one another, I look for a space that will be quiet enough so that everyone can easily hear what’s going on.
Limited visual distractions
A beautiful setting can enhance your meeting environment. One with constant visual distractions is going to cause problems, as people lose their focus on what is happening within the meeting.
I once led a meeting at a lakeside resort. The conference room had large windows facing the lake. Between the room and the lake was some lawn. At one point during the meeting, a family reunion staged a tug-of-war contest on the lawn.
Lakes, grass, and trees are okay for maintaining a group’s attention. There’s no way you can keep the meeting more interesting than the outcome of a tug-of-war contest.
Assess your options
Take a look at your onsite meeting rooms, and consider some offsite possibilities as well. If they don’t meet these five requirements, find another place.