What makes a Great Conference Room?

What makes an office space a success?

Often it’s a well-designed conference room. A great conference room, along with the lobby and private executive offices, frequently create a company’s best and longest-lasting impression. They are some of the most elaborate rooms in an office regarding decor, technology, and furniture. A well-designed conference room creates a solid first impression that puts your business above others. It should convey the brand, strength, and confidence of the company. Only companies of a distinct size or maturity will truly need a formal conference room like a boardroom, but all businesses want a room to convey their success and prestige. 

Often a conference room is allocated to client-executive meetings, board meetings, management discussions, and other significant decision-making situations. Due to the decor, refinement, privacy, and exclusivity, meeting “in the conference room” conveys a particular privilege. 

In addition to privilege, a couple of the best-loved traits about conference rooms are:

#1: Conference rooms are secret-keepers

The conference room’s design is to keep confidential information and conversations behind closed doors. Therefore, these rooms are ideal spaces for sensitive business, such as breakthrough brainstorming, new product launches, and other classified information. Unlike open meeting spaces, such as huddle rooms, collaboration spaces, coffee shops, and hallways, a well-designed conference room is sound-proof, giving you privacy for information sharing. 

#2: Conference rooms are perfect for collaboration

The best place for people to gather when working together on a business problem is in a well-equipped conference room. When you put people in a defined space, removed from their cubicles or the chaos of an open floor plan, you physically unite a team of people. Conference room tech also contributes to a problem-solving session. A well-designed conference room includes tools that foster easy collaboration, such as a big-screen monitor, an all-in-one video conferencing solution, and whiteboards for impromptu writing, drawing, and more.

Conference Room Construction

When constructing a conference room, start by considering the overall size. The conference room table must be the correct size for the number of people expected to use the conference room. There needs to be enough space to walk around the table without bumping into walls or chairs. The placement of a monitor, projector, or credenza cannot detract from the overall impression of the room.

Example of a conference room that is too small for it’s furniture

The lighting and temperature controls are more important in the conference room than just about anywhere else in the building. Even the best presentation is ineffective when accompanied by insufficient or harsh lighting and a room that’s too cold or warm for its occupants.  

Traditionally conference rooms are drywall construction as it is reliable and hard-wearing. This type of construction lasts for many years and can exactly fit into various shapes and sizes.

Trade-off of Drywall construction

Unfortunately, there are many cons as well with drywall construction, including: 

Project Time: One of the most significant issues is the time it takes to build drywall construction. This construction method is not suitable for projects requiring a quick turnaround. In many cases, factors beyond your control can increase the project time, such as the coordination of trades, worker availability, or materials delays.

Disruption: Traditional building creates a great deal of disruption in the surrounding office; noise, dust, health, safety, etc. It also makes a great deal of waste, even when carried out by trained professionals. The disruption caused by these projects is simply unavoidable.

Cost: In addition to the high price of materials, the larger workforce required will significantly increase the project’s cost. The amount of disruption means the space around the construction is not usable, so you need to provide an alternative working location.

Inflexible / Non-Adaptable: Traditional construction is challenging to adapt once they are in the process of being built. Making changes while adding a meeting room or re-locating the meeting space can be a relatively large construction project in itself. Additionally, when it is time to move, the cost of dilapidations to return the room can be just as expensive.  

Modular Demountable Walls: Due to the above, as well as the improvements in quality, acoustics, and style of modular walls, many companies chose to build their conference rooms with glass or panel demountable walls.

Conference Room Furniture

The primary use of a formal conference room is for key account, executive, and board meetings, so the furnishings are upscale, usually the best in the building.

Conference Room Tables

The table is solid, large enough to handle a sizeable group of 8 to 20 people, and has integrated electrical and data ports for all seats, either in the center of the table or along the edges. The size and shape of the table can range from circular to rectangular, oval, V, or even “boat”.

The surface can be made of wood, stone, glass or metal, but it must be solid in appearance and feel.  The edge of the table can have a great deal of variety and detail. Multiple materials can be layered to create a unique look.  Lastly the base of the conference table provides stability, a channel for wiring, and design appeal.  Of course, there’s plenty of room around all sides. 

In the new world of adaptable workspaces and multifunctionality, we are seeing conference tables that can separate into several smaller tables, have the ability to be moved by one person with embedded casters or sliders, and can tilt or fold for storage.  The most amazing part with these new tables is that when they are in place and attached to each other, they look and feel like a single unit with no loss of stability or impact.

Conference Room Chairs

The chairs must be comfortable, typically high-back, modern, leather chairs with multiple, intuitive adjustments and casters.

Conference Room Credenza

There usually is a matching credenza or server for refreshments and storage of notepads, utensils, and other items. These pieces can be stand-alone furniture or custom built-in millwork.  The atmosphere of the room is of success and excellence.

For lighting, an artistic lighting fixture that compliments the style and brand of the business will prominently display in the conference room. The conference room must make a statement to everyone who enters. Usually, this means the best presentation of the room is while walking in the door. With the rise in video conferencing, we also need to consider that the background for the camera is as important as the first impression when walking into the room. 

A significant change due to COVID is the focus of video attendees. Before COVID, most remote attendees would attend a conference room meeting to present to the conference room. Now, remote employees may participate in a meeting to hear from an in-person presenter. Therefore, since attendees are a combination of in-person and remote, incorporate video and microphones to catch all attendees equally.

Conference room for everything

Because of their prestige, confidentiality, and technology, conference rooms became the go-to place for almost any group interaction, especially in an Open Office environment.

  • Intimate one-on-ones
  • Casual brainstorming sessions
  • Formal presentations
  • Sales Training
  • New product launches
  • Interviews and personnel reviews
  • Team huddles
  • Departmental meetings
  • Collaborative work sessions
  • Training sessions
  • Client meetings
  • Quick status updates

Many of these interactions do not need the formality of the conference room but it is used anyway.

As a result, conference rooms often become over-booked and inaccessible for a meeting that needs the prestige of the conference room. There also may be excessive and unexpected wear and tear on the furniture and additional cleaning services required to ensure the conference room is pristine and ready for the next client or board meeting. As such, companies have added meeting rooms in addition to formal conference rooms.

Meeting Rooms versus Conference Rooms

What’s the difference between a meeting room and a conference room? While a cursory look suggests synonymous meanings and that “conference” and “meeting” are interchangeable, in practice, there is a slight, yet important, distinction. Most “meeting rooms” are for informal, unscheduled, and spontaneous collaborations compared to a formal meeting or conference with a set agenda.  

Another difference is the conference room’s style and atmosphere set the stage for the conference, where a meeting room focuses on convenience and accessibility. Conference rooms are showcased prominently and have permanence with solid walls and doors that separate and keep any discussions private.

Alternatively, meeting rooms are often independent yet part of the overall space. They are usually right off the main work area, perhaps behind a closed office-style door or simply separated by a divider.  Companies are creating huddle spaces, touchdown areas and media wall with appropriate seating to accommodate quick impromptu meetings.   A meeting room that needs a bit more privacy would incorporate a stand-alone meeting pod, a modular “room inside a room,” or a converted nook with curtains, partitions, space dividers  or glass walls. 

Since COVID, both rooms will have the technology for presenting and video conferencing, but a conference room’s technology may accommodate larger groups.