The primary purpose of meetings has always been to provide education as well as business and social opportunities. In recent years new formats are emerging in order to adapt meetings to the new business and consumer reality. The new generation meeting space is all about interactivity, connectivity, collaboration, privacy and comfort.
The setting is an important element which prepares the participants for the objectives and influences the dynamics and outcome of the meeting. The type and orientation of furniture as well as the density of space play a crucial role in supporting the chosen activity – networking, lecture, discussion, brainstorming etc. The setting depends on the culture and the hierarchy of the organisation as well as on the purpose of the meeting and its agenda. According to Dr. Marla Gottschalk, an industrial and organisational psychologist who analyses how workspaces can influence behaviour, “[a]n often overlooked driver of organizational change – our visual surroundings can energize us to become more creative, innovative and engaged.” Even though creativity is a subjective matter, existing studies support the idea that environments which are perceived as creative inspire and motivate individuals. In this context, creative meeting spaces can help planners prepare participants for the experience to come and inspire particular behaviours.
New standards for best practice
The standard requirements for space, setting and design for meetings are changing – many companies are moving away from the sterile corporate environment in favour of creative or unusual spaces. New standards for set-up and interior design aim at making meetings more casual and interactive. The traditional meeting room is being replaced with a residential look, dynamic spaces and customizable workstations. There is also a growing trend of incorporating outdoor elements into events or holding meetings outdoors. All these approaches are intended to enhance the dynamics, provoke unusual discussions and create memorable experiences.
Another major consideration is the need to accommodate various behaviours, learning and working styles within the same meeting environment. Generally, the architecture of meeting space provides common areas for lectures, collaboration, networking and entertainment. These activities usually involve high density of people and dynamic communication, and such surroundings may have an adverse effect on some participants. Open spaces are ideal for collaboration but providing niches for private conversations and individual work is also very important. Modern meeting design solutions propose a balanced space with zones for working, networking and privacy.
Research shows that people engage in activities as a result of their surroundings. Experts recommend dynamic environments with sufficient circulation space which allow free movement. Taking it a step further, flexible furniture allows participants to transform and adapt the space to the changing dynamics of the meeting. Modular and manipulative design elements make the space adaptable to different companies, audiences and meeting objectives. Furthermore, appealing to the creative mind of participants can lead to the creation of truly meaningful experiences and much deeper engagement.
Nowadays, the meeting experience is increasingly being shaped by media and technology, and digital devices have become an integral part of all stages of the visitor journey. Advanced display and networking technologies are said to fundamentally change the meeting design, dynamics and culture. Interactive meeting spaces and art installations with cutting-edge technology accommodate the growing participatory culture and the demand for experiences.
In recent years, a new class of materials is gaining popularity. Smart materials include plastics that change shape, paints that conduct electricity, pigments that change colour and fabrics that light up. Smart products are already being used in architecture and interior design, however, introduction to mass markets could have a huge impact on experiential design as they allow participants to come into direct contact with objects and equipment and manipulate their properties through external stimuli. Smart materials have the potential to drastically change the meeting experience as they appeal to a more basic form of interaction between humans and technology.
It’s all about… multi functionality
Meeting space design is inextricably linked to the meeting format and vice versa. In order to inspire involvement, learning, networking, productivity, interaction and creativity, modern meeting planners need to look beyond monofunctional design solutions. The multifunctional design approach is aimed at satisfying the needs of always-on connectivity, various personalities, different generations and workstyles. Moreover, the space should be designed to fit the needs of users, whether privacy, networking or relaxation, and the design should be focused on crafting a holistic experience.
Meeting participants are often people from different walks of life, and therefore, creating the optimal space and design features can be a challenge despite the common purpose of the meeting. The recipe for success: know your audience and try to envision how they would respond to subtle or subconscious cues, but above all, always try to innovate while keeping the greater context in mind so that the meeting achieves its ultimate purpose.
Below we offer you examples of new generation design furniture and meeting spaces, suitable for all types of events. Which pieces would you use for your event and why? Do leave a comment below.
King Arthur Swing Table
Meetings or dinners can become a fun and inspiring experience by adding a playful design element.
Design: Duffy London
Photo: Tom Oxley Photography
These designs have a visual effect on flat planes and can be unfolded into real-life furniture pieces suitable for impromptu meetings at conferences and trade shows.
Inspired by 1956 ‘The Red Balloon’ short film, this concept creates the illusion of floating and has the potential to inspire unusual conversations.
Photo: Ikunori Yamamoto
Gaia is transforming the traditional cubicle into a roundabout for individual working space or group meetings.
Ø Modular Sofa
Referring to the Danish word for island, this 3-piece modular set can accommodate both socialising and collaborative work in informal meeting spaces.
The Brain Cube
This collaborative set includes five different seat designs symbolising different individualities and different points of view.
D & A Seating System
This modular seating system imitates natural elements and thus encourages various types of behaviours, be it interaction, contemplation or relaxation.
Inspired by the bottom of a plastic bottle, the Bottlebench, intended for young and young-minded people, enhances interaction in both private and public spaces.
Design: Maarten Pauwelyn
The light of each tree is autonomous, shining brightly and then fading. When people pass close to the trees, the light changes color and a tone color resonates out. Then, the light of that tree radiates out and is transmitted to nearby trees. This magical spectacle is ideal for galas, celebrations and entertainment events with outdoor elements.
Unique furniture pieces sold at the ‘drINK’ Exhibit created a fun and immersive atmosphere in which the participants became a part of the creative process by decorating the pieces with permanent markers.
Part of a collection of high-end furniture pieces covered with chalkboard paint creates a playful atmosphere for brainstorming sessions, project planning and pitches.
Design: kplus konzept
Photo: kratz photographie
Positioned somewhere between furniture and room, this product provides the much needed privacy at mass business events.
Design: Coudamy Architectures for faberNovel
Photos: Benjamin Boccas
This series of modular meeting capsules accounts for various meeting contexts by providing areas for team- and individual work while incorporating a lounge feel and digital technology.
Inspired by trade fairs, these reimagined umbrellas create an improvised meeting space
Design: Goncalo Campos for Kvadrat
Photos: Casper Sejersen
User Interface Technology
Fujitsu UI technology converts an entire room into a digital meeting space allowing participants in a workshop, brainstorming or collaborative sessions to share content from their smart devices and display it on walls and tables.
Design: Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd.,Fujitsu Design Limited & Fujitsu Social Science Laboratory Limited
Photos: Fujitsu Limited
CORING, which stands for Communication Ring, provides an innovative meeting space with integrated technology in order to enhance collaboration and productivity. It is a meeting point for dynamic brainstorming sessions, presentations and informal networking.
Design: Athanasios Kyratzis, ubisapdesign
Light points form a sculptural body which allow viewers to enter and walk around within the three-dimensional light space. The movement affects the light particles and creates changes in the installation. Viewers can also interact with the work by using their smartphones to select elements that make up the Crystal Universe. This mesmerising art installation offers an immersive, memorable experience suitable for all types of events and meetings.
Linger a Little Longer
This thermochromic furniture piece reacts to the body heat by bringing out colour markings.
Design: Jay Watson design
The main property of this future material is its programmable feature – a smart material which would need a little help to take shape. This type of material could be used in a variety of interactive meetings such as workshops and brainstorming sessions allowing participants to manipulate the environment to accommodate the dynamic needs of the meeting.
Design: Sergio Scotta
Catarina Mota: Play with smart materials by TED
Creative workplace: instrumental and symbolic support for creativity by Yuri Martens Cultural space and technology enhance the knowledge process by Dimitris Lamproulis
Environments for successful interaction by Nigel Island et al
How to create more productive, creative meetings: Interview with Johnnie Moore by Kristi Casey Sanders, Plan Your Meetings
Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration by Scott Doorley & Scott Witthoft
Spaces for Creativity and Innovation in Two Established Organisations by Udo Ernst Haner
The new I.Q. 360° by Steelcase
The office wall makes a comeback by Dr. Marla Gottschalk