How to Set Up Your Company's Meeting Rooms

Colin Duff

Colin Duff | August 26, 2019

With executives spending up to 23 hours a week in meetings, according to Harvard Business Review. Lower level employees don't have meetings as frequently, but research still indicates that 15% of a company's time is allocated to meetings.

Meet the top-rated Meeting Owl conference camera! See it in Action →

Over the course of a year, that adds up to a lot of time spent in meeting rooms, huddle rooms, conference rooms, or whatever your company calls them. And with changing workplace attitudes towards mandatory in-office work and the rise of remote work, meeting rooms have come to a crossroads. Before constructing, remodeling, or giving your meeting room a makeover, here are a few things to consider.

Meeting Room Scenarios

While meeting rooms have come a long way in modern workplaces, there is an additional consideration for hybrid teams, those made up of both in-person and remote members. Meetings with remote team members are usually conference calls or video calls.

Many meetings with remote team members look like these scenarios.

Hybrid Team Meeting Scenario 1

Three or four team members arrive and try to call in to the conference line. One team member texts or instant messages the remote team member to see if they're on the line. The remote team member claims to be on the line but the in-person team can't hear them. This goes on for 10-15 minutes and an in-person team member finally submits to calling the remote team member on their cell phone and putting the phone on speaker phone and leaving it on the table.

This scenario isn't ideal for either side of the team. The in-person folks can't hear the remote member well, the remote team member can't see if there is a brainstorm or anything written down, and the time wasted trying to set up the meeting takes up half of the allotted time in the conference room.

Hybrid Team Meeting Scenario 2

In this scenario, two or three in-person team members arrive at the conference room. They call the remote team member for a video call and sit on the same side of the table to try to squeeze into the laptop camera of one team member. The remote team member can't quite see the team and they often forget about the person on the video call. Eventually, they are writing on the whiteboard and the camera is facing another wall while the remote team member stares at nothing, straining to hear what is going on.

This is not ideal for the remote team member. They aren't able to fully participate and aren't considered to be an integral member of the meeting. They can't see what is happening, read the whiteboard, or contribute ideas with the team.

Adapting to a Remote Workforce

In order to have effective hybrid meetings (those with both in-person and remote members), you'll need to adapt your conference rooms, meeting rooms, or huddle rooms, to fit this purpose.

Meeting Room Setup

Think you're ready to plan out your meeting room? Answer these questions before diving in and designing your meeting room setup:

1. What does the meeting room need to be used for most often?

This will vary with the nature of your business. Do you have meetings that attempt to foster creativity and discussion? Meeting where ideas need to be mapped out organically, and people are up moving around throughout the meeting? Your room setup needs to reflect this by being more dynamic.

Perhaps the seating arrangement is circular, and whiteboards make up every wall. Engineering and product teams often like to use sticky notes during product roadmapping and design, so ample wall space is necessary. While that may be great for think tanks or product teams, if you'll be using a meeting room mostly for presentations and knowledge transfer, it would not be the best setup. That kind of room would be better served to have employees seated in rows and feature a capable projection system to deliver your important information.

Is your conference room going to be used strictly internally or will clients be using the facility as well? Will the room host quick meetings, or is this a place where you could be staying for hours? These are the types of questions that should inform your design decisions.

It really shouldn't be a cookie cutter, one size fits all kind of process. You should know what kinds of meetings will be held in each room and configure them accordingly in an effort to make every meeting more efficient.

Efficient meetings are faster meetings. Your employees can then spend that extra time doing more productive work.

2. What's the maximum number of participants that need to be supported?

This is another crucial question. Whether the maximum expected attendance is 10 or 100 will result in two drastically different rooms. Research suggests that the most productive meetings consist of 8 or fewer people, so if you decide that you want to hold smaller meetings, you could focus on many different "huddle rooms" as opposed to a couple larger rooms.

A huddle room is a small room featuring seating for less than 10, a central desk, a display such as an LCD screen and any audio-visual equipment needed to host remote attendees or conference calls. Having multiple such huddle rooms can result in more flexibility than what a bigger meeting room provides. Some companies even choose to make huddle rooms "un-book-able," meaning they are exclusively for ad hoc chats and allow for flexibility on hybrid teams.

Large meeting rooms tend to be in demand and can be booked up for days, or even weeks. Having many meeting rooms in your office can lead to easy impromptu meetings when they are necessary. Fewer attendees also mean each individual can contribute more to the meeting and will have to be more attentive. This leads to a more engaged workforce with more intimate channels of communication.

If you still do need a larger room for department or company-wide meetings, these rooms will need to be outfitted with more robust projection and audio solutions. You will need high quality microphones and a clear speaker system. The projector will have to be significantly brighter than what you would need in a smaller room. The seating arrangements will have to be different. Most of these kinds of rooms opt for classroom or auditorium style seating where the speaker has the front and is speaking to a large group. It tends to get expensive pretty quickly, so we'd recommend only having as large of a meeting room as you absolutely need. These rooms also allow for multiple uses at small to mid sized businesses. Choose chairs that can be moved around for different uses and if possible, install walls that can separate larger meeting rooms into smaller ones. This will open up more space if you have limited options for rooms.

3. What technology do we need?

In the modern business world, working technology is essential to conference rooms. Your meeting rooms need to include the most optimal technology for their intended purpose. If your rooms are fully equipped, you'll save your employees a lot of wasted time trying to set up conference calls and videos. We've covered some of the necessities of large meeting rooms, but what kind of audio-visual technology will smaller rooms need?

Since 52% of U.S. employees work remote at least once a week, you're going to need to account for this growing portion of your workforce. To accommodate remote employees and teleconferencing clients, you will want clear microphones with a speaker system, and a high-resolution camera with a wide viewing angle.

The Meeting Owl has combined all of these into one fantastic product. It features eight omnidirectional microphones, high-quality speakers and a 360° camera. Each participant's voice is clear and your remote attendees can see everybody in the room. Combined with your favorite video conferencing software, it will result in more engaging, inclusive remote meetings.

The Meeting Owl Pro makes Smart Meeting Rooms Possible

How to Set Up a Meeting Room

1. Include a high-definition television.

To best include remote folks and the ones in your office, it's best practice to have a sizable, high-quality television or monitor mounted within everyone's view in the room. Those meeting in-person will value participating with their coworkers in high-definition, so they can easily understand complex designs and data presented on screen. Invest in a TV that fits your room well; you don't want team members straining their eyes to see a screen that's too small or seeing every pore on the face of those on a screen that's too large.

2. Sit at a round or oval table -- it's science!

When King Arthur convened his court around the famous "Round Table", that wasn't by accident. This move gives everyone seated equal status as no one as at its head. Breaking down barriers like this encourages sharing and fosters collaboration according to research from the University of British Columbia. Meetings for brainstorming or other activities where this is a priority are best suited for round table shapes.

However, the shape of your room can dictate what table shape you need. Using a round table in a rectangular room feels off, which you'll want to avoid if you're focused on getting work done. For square rooms, a round table is best, while an oval shape is best for rectangular rooms. You'll reap some of the increased collaboration benefits from a rounder table while filling the room properly.

3. Evaluate the size of your room before setup.

Whether you're looking to make a meeting space for three to five or 15 to 20 people, you'll need to take into account how space is or will be divided and what your company is looking to use the room for. Do you need a space for quick one-on-one meetings, or for a conference room hosting external visitors? Smaller rooms don't need as large of a TV or monitor in them, and large conference rooms will most likely need a speaker system so everyone can hear well. Poll your office to see what people want to use the meeting rooms for, and use their input into selecting features for each space.

4. Install a whiteboard for brainstorming and clarity.

A whiteboard or smartboard is a tool that creates a space that's incredibly useful to meeting attendees. Engineering teams can use it for flowcharts and component diagrams, marketing for creative brainstorms, and product teams for lifecycle road mapping.

Digital smart boards such as the Google Jamboard allow concurrent editing, saving of your virtual writings, and easy export to the Google Suite. Including one on your meeting room wall or as part of a window will raise productivity and make the meeting room an ideal space for sharing ideas. Find the best whiteboard option for your space using this guide.

5. Have the right A/V equipment and software.

Your meeting room won't be very successful if you can't do anything besides talking to those in the room. To integrate remote team members and impress external clients, the right A/V technology is required. A full checklist can be found here, but below are a few highlights.

First, buy a video conferencing camera that allows you to see everyone in the room. A webcam could work, but we would recommend a smart camera to really excel and bring collaboration to your team.

Speakers and microphones are also essential to properly hear everyone involved. A single high-quality microphone in a meeting room will take away annoying ringing and echoing from multiple laptop microphones, and a proper speaker brings sound crisply and clearly to everyone in the room.

Video conferencing software is the last piece of the puzzle for equipment needed in your meeting rooms. From Zoom, to Skype, to Bluejeans, there are plenty of free and low-cost options that easily integrate into the workplace and boost productivity.

6. Use a room booking system to avoid headaches.

One common mistake in setting up meeting rooms is the lack of an effective booking system for employees to use. Without one, rooms go unused, people scramble for space, meetings for two people are conducted in huge conference rooms, and no one knows when rooms are in use. A room booking system gets rid of all these headaches.

Services like Robin help mitigate these issues, by linking its booking software to Google and Outlook calendars. Robin allows for easy viewing of available rooms and displays suggestions for rooms that meet your meeting requirements. This cuts down on wasted meeting space, creating a more efficient use of your office space.

7. Make sure you're equipped with a great Internet connection.

Regardless of how elaborate your meeting room setup is, it relies on the Internet for everything to work well. With smart TV's, laptops, video conferencing software, and other Internet-connected devices running in meetings, there are a ton of devices that will be operating on the same network.

To eliminate lag and freezing screens, you'll want to optimize your WiFi based on the number of devices you expect to have on your network. Devices like Eero can spread your network to areas of your office that lack great connection to a central router, ensuring a seamless connection no matter where you're working.

8. Try out an all-in-one 360° video conferencing solution.

To complete your conference room, consider integrating an all-in-one video conferencing solution with a 360° view of the room. The Meeting Owl allows for a natural view of the room, with autofocus on speakers in the room, making you feel like you're right in the action. Built-in microphones will pick up your voice and broadcast it on the speaker system inside the device, making it the perfect solution for keeping costs down by using only one product. With a device like this in every room, you'll be ready to host the perfect meeting in no time.

We hope we've given you a few things to consider before deciding on how to set up your meeting rooms. Meetings are an important part of a business, but making them as efficient and optimal as possible will let your employees focus on putting your initiatives into action.

Analyze each department's normal meeting routine and tailor rooms to their needs rather than slapping a projector in and calling it a day. Put a bit more thought into it and you will be sure to reap the rewards.

For more ideas on hardware to use in your meeting room, check out some of the best video conferencing hardware tools next.

Kickoff Meeting Planning Guide from Owl Labs