9 Essentials for Selecting a Meeting Room

Your meeting or event location can help make or break your success. The location you choose sets the stage and creates the right environment for the action to happen. Budget, of course, plays a major role. Using your own internal conference room saves money, but ask yourself, is it really the right place to meet? In essence, you need to think about a place that minimises disturbances, offers comfort and convenience, meets your equipment and space needs, and projects the right image.

Susan Friedmann

When it comes time to pick that right location for your meeting, pay attention to the following nine characteristics of the room or rooms you're considering and use the questions as a checklist so that you make the best possible decisions.

  1. Space: Will everyone be able to fit comfortably into the room after you set up the chairs, tables, aisles, a stage, or other presentation area, and any audiovisual equipment you need? If you're a novice in this area, definitely ask for advice from your venue contact.

  2. Temperature: Does the room have air conditioning or heating? What control do you have during the meeting in case body heat causes temperature to rise uncomfortably? Unfortunately, windows aren't a good substitute for air conditioning because they let in outside noises and distractions along with fresh air. Many large facilities have temperature controls that are centrally located, and you may be hard-pressed to find a happy medium between the Artic and the Sahara in the individual meeting rooms.

  3. Lighting: How much control do you have over the room lighting? Can you make the room dark enough for the audience to see images projected on a screen? Can you make it light enough for participants to take notes and not fall asleep?

    Ideally, you should be able to control and dim individual lights in the meeting room. If you can't control the lighting, you can arrange to have venue management unscrew specific bulbs ahead of time to achieve the desired effect for your event. This is particularly important for bulbs that shine directly above or onto a screen and wash-out images.

  4. Sight lines: Will you be unable to seat participants in any areas of the room because of a column, low ceiling, or other impediment obstructs their view? You can best glean this type of information from a site inspection. You can't rely on room specifications to give you this data. However, if a site visit isn't possible, grill your contact with specific questions so as to avoid any on-site surprises.

  5. Potential distractions: What potential distractions make the room a less-than-ideal setting for your meeting? Is the air conditioning too loud? Is the room situated on a busy street? Does noisy foot traffic intrude from the hallway outside? Is the room located adjacent to the kitchen or above a general session auditorium where dress rehearsals may be taking place? Are the walls thick enough to block out distracting noises? How about the sound system – can you hear feedback from one room to another? The only way to know the answers to many of these questions is to test things out.

  6. Seating and tables: Does your room have all the tables and chairs you need, or will you have to rent them? Are you required to rent them from the venue, or can you use an outside provider? If the room has any furniture that in inadequate or inappropriate for you meeting, will you have to move it out and store it? Will the venue provide this service free of charge, or is there an additional fee?

    To make your life a little easier, get a copy of the blueprints for the room you are using. These will help you immensely to figure out how to arrange seating, the stage, and equipment.

    Realise that if you're planning to use the same room for several presenters or meetings, you need to decide the best configuration for all the different presentations. You want to avoid the expense of having the room reconfigured for each separate meeting.

  7. Rental time: Be sure you have access to the room early enough to set up and troubleshoot any unanticipated problems before the meeting begins. Build in time for audiovisual technicians, lighting specialists, chair and table suppliers, caterers, and any other service providers to do their thing before attendees arrive. You may also want to give presenters rehearsal time in the room to become familiar and comfortable with their environment, and to run through their presentations in search of potential problems, such as sight lines.

  8. Room capacity: Find out about the legal capacity of the room you are renting, and do not exceed it. Also check out all emergency exits, and work them into your planning, being careful not to obstruct them with a stage or seating. Make sure that all the exits are clearly marked and illuminated.

  9. Essential items: Find out in advance whether you venue provides the following essential items either free of charge or for an additional fee. Any of the items not included, provided, of course, you need them, ought to become part of your contract negotiations:
    • Coverings for any tables you're using, such as tablecloths and/or table skirts.

    • Water and glasses for attendees.

    • Notepads and pencils

    • Dishes of sweets at each table.

    • A stage and stage props, such as a lectern

    • Easels or sign holders and signs to direct attendees to the proper room.

    • Flip charts or other props for presenters.

    • Extension cords, power strips, and extra tables for projection equipment.

    • Extra lighting, should it be necessary.

    • Audiovisual equipment, such as a microphone, projector, screen, and so on. If the venue provides these, does it also provide technical staff to set up and handle any problems with the equipment, should they arise?

    • Stanchions and ropes, if necessary.
    Find out early which items you'll need to rent from an outside supplier to give yourself enough time to make the necessary arrangements.

Site Visit Checklist (pdf)
Checking out a venue for your event? To help you get the most from any site visits and to act as an aide memoir, we've got the ultimate checklist to record everything you need to know about your potential venue. Click Here to download it now.

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