"Excuse me, can you push your chair in? Sorry, just trying to get to the seat over there.""Can you please move like...6 inches? Thanks! Couldn't see the screen."If company meetings sound like a crowded movie theater, it's time to rethink your conference room design. As part of a recent office move, that's exactly what we did.
The Problem with Big Rectangles
In conference room design, only one question appears to matter -- who has the biggest rectangles?The TV and the table own the space. The size of these rectangles is a display of status and a rationalization for a generously sized conference room.Standard meeting room packages have limited means of scaling beyond bigger tables and more chairs.
- One big table lined with chairs on all four sides
- A wall covered with televisions and video conference equipment
- Whiteboards cover any remaining walls
When a conference room is filled with furniture, there's no flexibility to reconfigure the space based on the meeting.
3 Rules for Better Meeting Room Design
- Don't block the view
- Full shouldn't feel crowded
- Let multiple types of meetings happen in a room
#1: Don't Block the View
- Pick a TV the width of your table (roughly): If the TV is wider than the table, part of the screen is likely blocked by someones head. When a meeting kicks off, attendees fan out to see past each other.
- No chairs directly in front of screens: Remove the chairs between the table and the TV. They are the last seats to be claimed and first to be relocated when the screen is in use.
- Two screens? Vertically stack them and put the camera in the middle: Side by side extends screens outside of most seat views. Stacking improves eye contact with the camera as attendees don't have to choose whether to look at the presentation screen or the video attendee screen.
- Get a curved or teardrop table: Big rectangular tables are tricky for line of sight. A curved table helps reduce the chance of someone's head getting in the way of the screen, as you don't need to move your chair to see past your neighbor.
#2: Full shouldn't feel crowded
Pick a table "small enough" for the room: The table doesn't need to fill the room. Leave some room for secondary seating (like outfield table) or whiteboard areas.
Don't crowd your whiteboards: Allow space for movement, make sure key features of the room are usable if every invitee shows up. When our last boardroom was at capacity, chairs blocked the whiteboard and made it inaccessible.
Standing height table and stools: Stools allow people standing or sitting to be similar heights. When someone stands up, they don't automatically dominate or interrupt the conversation. This allows people to move around and use whiteboards mid conversation.
#3: Let multiple types of meetings happen in a room
- Add a small table to the "outfield": Not everyone needs (or wants) to sit at the main, "big kids" table. A secondary, smaller table helps fit extra people, and provides an area for notetakers, breakaway convos, or an area for tardy team members to sneakily sit.
- Roll in a whiteboard cart: Flexible for breakaway convos, visibility, and allows work to leave the room post-meeting.Our whiteboard carts have panels that can hook onto railings on the wall (Part of a product called Exclave).
Bonus: On time meetings and accurate calendars
Add space outside the room for pre/post-meeting conversation: Throw a set of chairs or hightop table right outside a meeting space give a place to warm up and cool down. Pulls people out of the room and gives introverts a place to share their thoughts post-meeting. Without a place to go, people may linger in the meeting room to debrief, which delays the next meeting.
Mount a room display tablet, keep schedule visible: A scheduling system helps prevent stolen rooms and remove no-show meetings with meeting check-ins. Smart office coordination is what we do at Robin.