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A Meeting’s Outcome and the Form of Your Conference Table


The form of your conference table can have a profound psychological effect on the tone, morale, and even the outcome of your meeting, yet most of us prefer to think it’s the people in the room that make all the difference.

Your meeting will revolve around the table, which serves as the group’s nucleus. For instance, in leading a disruptive group (a common occurrence in law firms), the leader must ensure and preserve order.

Contemporary arches without the traditional “foot of the table.”

Modern or custom-made conference tables can arrange the seating so that the most influential people sit at the head and the least effective people at the feet. There is no sign of the polarizing “yin & yang” energy. If you don’t have a contemporary table with this setup, you can always push the end of the table up against a wall so that there is no opposing seat.

Collaborative, rather than hierarchical, round tables

A round table is ideal for team-building sessions, working together toward a single goal, and generating a sense of intimacy amongst people since it signifies equality and teamwork.

The purpose of King Arthur’s table was to symbolize the equality and importance of all the knights seated at it. Since there is no clear leader, reaching a consensus may be more challenging.

Law students are regularly told the story of a jury room that temporarily housed a round table. More cases ended in a “hung jury” during this era than in any other. The juries were reaching more verdicts using the room when a rectangular table replaced the previous round one.

The ‘communication zones’ are created by a long, narrow table.

You’ve probably seen this happen at a banquet dinner with long, thin tables: one group is talking about one thing, another group is talking about something completely different, and the people in the middle don’t know what to do with themselves.

People tend to cluster around familiar faces at meetings. Their ‘head in the clouds’ look is exacerbated when they are seated too far from the head of the table (where the action is). People in the limbo zone often ignore the meeting to check their Blackberries and send emails.

Distance complicates attempts at mutual understanding.

A table with a massive opening in the middle is ideal for a room where bitter adversaries negotiate a divorce settlement. A more traditional conference room’s deep partitions and vast gaps would foster an atmosphere of isolation and hostility. In this room, everyone faces each other instead of the meeting facilitator. Given the potential for louder voices and fighting in this area, I recommend installing additional sound-dampening materials.

Traditional Method

A rectangular table with rounded corners (sometimes a boat-shaped table) would work well in most meeting spaces. Guests at your meetings will never feel like they are sitting too close to the ‘edge’ thanks to the rounded corners; this is especially helpful if you’ve invited more people than usual and had to relocate the seats closer together.

One crucial aspect to think about

Take care of the comfort of all the guests. This includes making sure the seats are suitable for people of varying heights and weights, that the table is well-lit, and that the table’s legs are at a reasonable distance from the knees of those sitting at it.

The founder of San Diego Office Design, Tamara Romeo, employs Environmental Psychology to design offices and meeting rooms that are effective for their users.

San Diego Office Design is an interior design firm run by Tamara Romeo, who focuses on the psychological effects of your office’s atmosphere.
Tamara collaborates with numerous San Diego high-tech, bio-tech, and communications organizations to design functional and unique workspaces.

Read also: Tips on Domestic Energy Conservation.