From a historical and sociological point of view, choosing the most appropriate places to convene has had, and continues to be part of, its own evolutionary process.
Cavemen had their, well…, caves, Romans politicized in forums, various tribes had their own versions of strategically and logistically apt gathering points to discuss trade, etc., and the post-industrialization period coined the term to which we still commonly refer to as the meeting room.
Towards the end of the last century, meetings mainly took place in one location. People would sit around a table, exchange information and present ideas. In the world of business, this would typically be done in an executive’s office or a specially designated conference hall. In the past, managers would meet separately, while nowadays businesses are moving from this top-down directing approach to a more inclusive, collaborative workforce that engages all employees and aligns them with the organization’s aims.
This change is impacting how companies design their workspaces, and, consequently, the meeting room itself is evolving. From the traditional 8-15 person conference room emerged the 3-6 person Huddle Room, which has become the standard in most corporations. Yes, the days of giant desks, corner offices and over-sized suits with suspenders have drawn to a close and new factors are emerging that need to be considered when planning meetings and the latter’s locations.
The meeting room is not passé, it’s transforming.
As Earth’s population is growing like billy-o, it’s not surprising for statistics to show that a staggering 55 million meetings take place every single day, and approx. 37% of work time is spent at these corporate get-togethers. Not all of the latter, however, are physical.
To meet the demands of this expansion, technological advancements over the last 25 years have triggered enormous changes. Global businesses have deployed video conferencing and telepresence technology to enable visual communications as well as to facilitate external collaboration.
Although virtual meetings, supported by various types of gadgetry, have made it much easier for people scattered around the planet to meet without a room, this has not resulted in a decline of the need for physical meeting rooms. Quite the opposite in fact. We’ve entered a Millennial-driven “people-centric era”, which means internal face-to-face meetings remain a definite must in any company.
Less to do with where we meet, more to do with when and how.
Regardless of whether they take place in huddle rooms, enclaves, collaborative open areas or any impromptu meeting location, conference calls, brainstorm sessions, high-level presentations; all require a common element that ensures the subject matter discussed is as fruitful as possible and that element is organization. The venues themselves, it seems, have taken a backseat to flexibility and the experiential component of their users’ demands.
To keep up with the number of meetings and the way they’re organized, the evolution of meeting rooms has thus taken on a new IT solution, which is gradually becoming an indispensable tool for reserving and organizing meeting spaces: meeting room booking systems.
These paper-thin, frame-like digital signs allow people to book a room, any room, and make it into a private meeting space. This reservation-based style of office management is known as office hoteling. And as it’s more important than ever for people to schedule their meetings, booking rooms has become a key factor of an institution’s ecosystem.
Cutting down on large single offices means there is more room for spaces such as corner booths, small huddle rooms, conference rooms, and other private or semi-private spaces that can be reserved. These rooms must be available for booking in advance. With devices like Joan, the right office spaces are booked quickly and easily at the right time. It helps an institution manage space better and ultimately saves hundreds of hours of manpower, material and energy on the tedious tasks related to reserving spaces. This gives the word meeting an additional meaning and offers an entirely different perspective on where we choose to meet.
History tells us that meeting locations tend to change, evolve. So do we. And the places we meet in are predominantly determined by that very fact. It can therefore be concluded that the future of meeting rooms doesn’t lie in the design of the room itself, like where to fit the bean bag, pool table or VR helmet to ensure employee productivity and customer satisfaction, nor does it rely solely on high-tech communication or spontaneous trips to the local coffee shop – the future is in people and the way we organize ourselves. And meeting rooms are sure to follow.