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Conference Room Design Essentials

Every business needs a space for employees and clients to gather to work effectively and to foster its sense of community, so conference room design is critical to ensure that it can serve its many purposes. Thinking through those purposes at the outset will promote efficiency and save time and money in the future. Consider these factors to guarantee that the room will serve its needs and grow with the company.

Budget

Budget will inform every aspect of design to some extent, and it will help clarify priorities. The more uses the space can fill, the more value it will add.

Technology

Technology’s contribution to collaborative productivity cannot be overstated, and it continues to increase exponentially over time. Once a budget is established, the room’s audio/visual needs must be determined so that its components can be hidden from view but accessible for repair and expansion. There are several things to think about.
  • Uses: Will there be teleconferencing? Power Point presentations? Landline phone conferencing? Does the CEO prefer writing on a white board that can print his words or diagrams? Should any participant be able to mirror his laptop on the main screen? The possibilities are endless, and any technology package must allow for future improvements.
  • WiFi: WiFi is simply ubiquitous today. Especially if the room is used for training, the WiFi may need to serve every single person at its maximum capacity, at the same moment. And the question will come—what’s the WiFi password? Plan your answer.
  • Power: Busy professionals are constantly charging a phone, a tablet or a laptop. To avoid scrambling for wall outlets and stepping over cords, think about providing power to everyone in the room, in whatever configuration the room might take for a given event. And all of that technology and the HVAC to cool both it and the occupants will need electricity as well.
  • Access: Who needs to control the technology in a meeting, and where will that person or people be located? Don’t forget to account for the sometimes technologically-challenged executives!
  • Telephone: Many companies employ more sophisticated technologies, but a landline can still connect many people easily. Does your room need phone lines and the equipment to amplify the callers?

Size/Capacity/Shape

Taking future growth into consideration, what is the largest group the room will need to hold, and will each person need a seat? Whatever the furniture configuration, leave a three-foot walkway around it. Will everyone need a surface for a laptop, note-taking, a meal or water? Parallel walls can generate acoustic issues, so don’t just assume that four basic walls will suit your purpose.

Furnishings

Comfort is key to focus—an employee counting the minutes until he can leave is not concentrating on the issues at hand. Furniture should be reasonably adjustable to fit different sizes and body types and offer enough elbow room. Furniture should also be durable enough to handle its use without showing stains or wear. The space should be arranged so that everyone can see and hear what needs to seen and heard. Will the tables and chairs be easy to reconfigure for the room’s varied uses? Do participants need the space and ability to swivel to see a screen? Will the color scheme evoke the appropriate emotions?

Lighting

Bright lighting can cause headaches and eye strain, but soft lighting can make people drowsy. Natural light can be a nuisance and a distraction, but it can also relieve concerns about energy consumption. A/V integrators can help you determine the right balance and account for video presentations and note-taking.

Acoustics

Nothing makes the mind wander faster than not being able to hear the presentation. A room’s acoustics can be effected by its size and shape, whether the surface materials absorb or reflect sound waves and the efficiency of audio/visual aids. Will everyone need easy access to a microphone? When teleconferencing, does the shape of the room create an echo? Is soundproofing needed to eliminate outside distractions or ensure privacy?

Location

Consider who will need access to the space when determining its location. If outside guests will regularly visit, the room should be isolated from confidential or proprietary work. If it isn’t soundproofed, a low traffic area would be preferable. If sensitive matters will be discussed often, locating the room behind controlled-access barriers makes sense.

Doors and Windows

Remember that direct sunlight causes glare, outside events will be distracting, and glass is not soundproof. Many conference rooms therefore minimize its use. If glass is nonetheless an element in the design, think about options like blackout shades or another means to offer privacy and to promote efficiency.

Storage

Once you have determined all of the room’s possible uses, chosen appropriate furniture and technology and created a design that will support your goals, don’t forget storage solutions that will keep clutter to a minimum, and secure expensive components. Dry erase markers, notepads, disposable plates and cups and carts to move all of these items will eventually find their way into your lovely new conference room, so plan ahead. There is a lot to consider for conference room designs, but working with a reputable A/V integrator is the best way to make sure your investment is put to good use, comfortably and securely.