During our more than 35 years in the furniture business, National Business Furniture has helped thousands of customers find the perfect conference room furniture for their needs, their space and their budget. With this knowledge and experience under our belt, we’ve compiled this article to address everything you need to know about creating your ideal conference room, including the most commonly asked questions we’ve heard from our customers.
The Purpose of the Conference Room
Traditionally, a conference room can be either a large or a small room used specifically for meetings and discussions. Conventional conference rooms are also called meeting rooms and boardrooms, and they are comprised of one table in the center of the room with several surrounding chairs. Some conference rooms can be made more dynamic and serve more purposes, like that of a training room, interview room and/or a collaborative workspace, by using multiple, mobile tables.
Today, many companies with space constraints often elect to use their conference room as a multi-purpose space. Effectively using your conference room as a multi-purpose space all depends upon on how your conference room is designed. If the plan is to create a multi-functional meeting room, it is important to not max out your space. Flexibility and movement should be the two biggest concerns, and the best way to implement both is to invest in multi-purpose furniture. This not only will save space, but will also increase the efficiency of the layout.
You probably already have a general idea of how much space you are working with. Still, accurately measuring your space is important, and it is the first step you should take. Be sure to account for extrusions (like radiators, pipes, etc.) that could interfere with the layout. Take note of door and window placements and how the door(s) opens as it may affect furniture placement and layout. People often overlook how the door opens only to have a very tight and uncomfortable entrance to their conference room.
An example of an uncomfortable entrance due to the door not being taken in to account.
Once purpose and dimensions of the conference room are established, it’s time to think about furniture.
Type of Conference Tables
A conference table is a key component of any conference room. There are many different types available. Some common shapes include rectangular, square, oval/racetrack, boat-shaped, and round.
Rectangular and square tables: These tables are great for medium to large spaces and can be found with extendable or adjustable options allowing for better adaptability to changing needs.
Oval/Racetrack tables: Oval shaped or racetrack tables provide softened/rounded corners to allow for more seating capacity and easier movement.
Boat-shaped: The biggest benefit of this design is sight-lines. By being wider in the middle, people are not sitting in a straight line, making it easier to see screens, presentations and other meeting participants.
Round: For round tables, you need to allow for 3 foot walkway around the entire circumference of the table. Round tables can be huge space savers in some spaces, but they can be awkward in other spaces when there is just not enough room for the required 3 foot walkway.
Regardless of table shape, one thing to consider is a table featuring a power data module. By having a power source directly in the table; projectors, phones, computers and other electronic devices can be easily placed on the table surface without worrying about wall outlet placements and wire management. Depending on your needs, a table with a power data module can really simplify your conference room setup.
Size of Conference Room Tables
The size of your room will be a limiting factor when selecting furniture. As a general rule, you want to allow three feet of space around any furniture to provide a safe and comfortable walkway.
If you click the link above, you can see in the image how to subtract the space needed for the walkway. As in the example conference room image, if you have a 12’ x 12’ room, subtracting a 3 foot walkway around the entire room gives you 6’ x 6’. With that determined, if you only want a table and some chairs in this conference room, you would be able to select and fit a 6’ x 6’ table inside the room, but nothing larger. However, a smaller table could be more beneficial if you want multiple furniture options – keep in mind that the 6’ x 6’ dimensions must fit all of your desired conference room furniture.
Even though a 3 foot walkway is a good minimum to adhere to, more space may be needed depending on the layout of your room. The most important thing to keep in mind is the comfort and safety of anyone walking or sitting in the conference room.
If you have a certain number of people that you are hoping to accommodate in your conference room, there is another general rule that you can usually apply: the length of the table measured in feet is also the same number of people the table can fit. For example, a 14-foot long table can fit 14 people; six people on either side and one person at each end.
When it comes to standard sizes of conference room tables, know that the general width of a conference table is 48” or 60” and that it can be difficult to find options smaller.
Conference chairs are an essential part of every conference room. They are designed to be comfortable, but not complex with several ergonomic adjustments. Since these meeting chairs are used by so many people, their adjustments are typically limited to seat height and tilt. With many different styles, like leather, traditional and modern, meeting chairs also offer a way to define your space. Be sure to also consider how the conference chairs will fit at your selected table.
Many offices will occasionally need additional seating for their conference rooms. Stacking chairs and folding chairs are great portable solutions. These should be selected with care as they should still project a professional image and store easily when not needed. Another option, provided there is ample space, is to line the parameter of your conference room with guest chairs. This can accommodate much more people without overwhelming the meeting room with another table.
Whiteboards can be extremely helpful during meetings. Placing one or multiple whiteboards in your meeting room provides much needed visual space to share and capture ideas. Choose from several styles and sizes, including the increasingly-popular glass markerboards to fit your room’s needs. Some whiteboards and glass markerboards can double as projection screens for presentations. Be sure to consider your placement of a whiteboard carefully, as you will want to ensure that everyone in your conference room will have a clear view of the board.
Adding storage pieces is helpful to keep your meeting room organized. Consider storage furniture that is space-saving and dual-purpose like storage credenzas that allow you to store supplies behind cabinet doors while providing space on top for meeting materials. Also consider how or if your storage furniture will need to open. You will want to avoid having drawers and doors bump in to other furniture.
Conference rooms often host long meetings that can span over lunch breaks. If you are hoping to include a food and beverage area in your conference room, be sure to invest in a multi-purpose furniture piece. A simple table is fine, but don’t forget that storage and organization will also be needed for supplies and utensils.
Bookshelves can give an air of sophistication to a conference room, while also displaying important books, collections and company literature and awards.
AV Stands/Media Center
AV stands or media centers are necessary to hold TV screens and video/presentation components. Many AV stands allow you to easily adjust the height and tilt of your screen to ensure the comfort of all viewers. Media centers are a wonderful multi-purpose option as they include storage space in addition to creating space for your screen.
Podiums are ideal if your conference room will be hosting large-scale presentations with speakers. Be sure to plan for enough space to keep the speaker at the podium comfortable.
Consider the ideal placement of a projector – if you wish to place it on the conference table, purchasing a conference table with a power data module would be the best option.
Design and Layout
In regards to designing a conference room, we advise that you avoid trendy furniture. Stay away from fads. Instead, go for a clean, timeless look and you can avoid a costly upgrade for an outdated conference room a few years down the road. If you do want to add some trendy colors, decor or design, do so by adding it in the form of less expensive accent pieces. This way, you can still get the look you want while the conference room as a whole will stand the test of time.
If your conference room has windows, take advantage of the natural lighting. Good lighting, especially natural light, is proven to stimulate creativity and productivity. Install window treatments, like blinds, and use them to block out exterior distractions or when privacy is needed.
Finally, don’t overwhelm your space. An artificial plant is often a perfect finishing touch, as it can nicely tie a meeting room together without taking up too much space. Also, be sure to think about utilizing your wall space, either by hanging artwork or installing some storage furniture, as this can drastically improve the look and feel of a conference room.
Budgeting is vital. Budgeting forces you to decide what is absolutely necessary to have in your conference room versus what would be nice to have in your conference room. In order to make the most of your budget, invest in durable, high-quality furniture and take time to create a room that will stand the test of time.
Sometimes it can also be difficult to envision just what the conference room will look like. National Business Furniture Design Services uses software that gives an accurate 3-D rendering of what your conference room could look like, and there are many similar programs available. Using such software, of course, helps to ensure that your project will turn out how you envisioned it.