Although the names may have changed, the meeting rooms looked the same. In California, Leland Stanford or Charles Crocker sat at the head of the table celebrating the completion of the transcontinental railroad. In New York, J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller managed the vast wealth of their banking and industrial empires. In North Carolina, James Buchanan Duke presided over the cultivation of countless acres of tobacco. During the latter half of the nineteenth century, these men and others like them defined business success in America and, coincidentally, established enduring fashions in meeting room design. A long, narrow table, elegantly crafted from a single piece of wood, dominated each room and focused attention toward the sole individual seated at the head of the table. Tall, straight-backed chairs, upholstered with luxurious hides, conveyed the status of all present and punctuated the formality of the proceedings.
Today, nearly 150 years later, meeting room use and practices have changed dramatically. Although some meetings still demand boardroom levels of formality, more often business meetings take place to engage, motivate, connect, and inform both customers and the workforce. Changes in meeting room design, however, have not kept pace with changes in meeting room use. Working as an organization development specialist and professional meeting facilitator for more than twenty years, Sharon J. Heringer has planned, conducted and participated in more than 1500 meetings, held in every conceivable meeting environment. In office buildings, resorts and hotels, restaurants and retreat centers, as well as private homes; from the penthouse to the basement and every nook and cranny in between; across North America, Europe and Africa, if a venue can host a meeting, Sharon has been there. Based on these experiences and related theory as noted herein, Sharon has distilled ten new standards for effective meeting room design to serve the needs of meeting participants, facilitators, and venue providers in pursuit of their respective goals. She has written an article that explains these ten standards, recently published in the practitioner's journal of The NTL Institute for Applied Behavioural Science
, Practising Social Change
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