Designing meetings with the furniture

Yesterday I had a conversation with a client of mine, about the venue for a meeting we have coming up. Our discussion was about how we use the layout, lighting and general set-up of the venue, to support symbolic transitions in the meeting. I was interested to hear that, in her past experience of working with other facilitators, they have not got involved with the venue layout for the meeting.

This conversation made me realise how much attention we pay, in Meeting Magic, to all aspects of the environment in a meeting. We do this to support the design of the meeting, in service of the overall meeting objectives.

Sometimes it feels like we manage to achieve a productive meeting environment, despite the venue. This means we have to improvise with what we find. Some examples include…

  • Hanging a large piece of paper under the bar in a pub meeting room. This enabled us to work visually even in an environment without good wallspace.
  • Changing the layout of a boardroom from portrait to landscape. To create a more open environment, conducive to conversation, rather than the traditional ‘presenting at participants’ format.
  • Removing all the tables in the room, and forming clusters of chairs. To enable small group discussions in a room that was very cramped.

When we talk about improvising, as facilitators, we tend to think about the moves we make with the group we are working with. But I guess we are also expert improvisers with furniture too :-)!