Meetings - are you in the right place?

Meeting in progressA phenomenal amount of time at work is spent in meetings but very little thought is given to the best place to have them. Here's a guide to the places that are good to meet in and those that definitely aren't.

Meeting Rooms
Pretty much the worst place you can have a meeting is in a meeting room. There's something about the energy of a dedicated meeting room that makes it feel like a waiting room. It's a place where you spend an hour waiting to get back to work. It's a place where you can recreate the feeling of being in double Geography at school (unless you really liked Geography at school). After a really bad meeting where issues have been pushed around the table like a bowl of cold brussel sprouts, someone will often suggest you catch up over a coffee. That's where the real meeting begins.

Service Stations
Regional managers and sales reps and anyone who has to travel much in their job will spend a lot of time on the motorway network. If you're meeting another road warrior then a motorway service station is the ideal place to do it. The trick here is to make sure you know your service station well. If you're coming from the North and they're coming from the South and there isn't a bridge over the motorway then you're both going to spend your meeting in the car park on your mobile phone waving at each other across six lanes of solid traffic. This doesn't quite have the bonding effect of a face-to-face meeting. If you pick the right service station the place to meet is the coffee shop. However tempting the 99p all day breakfast is, avoid it - it's very difficult to take another person seriously when they're spooning in baked beans. Also if you go to the loo during the meeting remember to wash your hands. There's nothing worse than shaking on a deal only to realise that the other person hasn't.

Big companies with big profits often have fancy new buildings and these fancy new buildings generally come with a plaza or atrium in the middle. These are lined with coffee shops and informal meeting areas to give the impression of a Mediterranean village with lots of friendly people bumping into each other, catching up on the gossip and swapping olives. This works quite well for people who work in the rest of the building. For a start it gives them an excuse to get out of their cramped little offices (they're cramped because so much space has been wasted on the vast air-filled atrium/plaza). On the other hand, for visitors to the building a meeting in the atrium, however leafy and airy it is, feels like you're being slightly short changed. It feels as if you're not quite trusted or liked enough to have a real meeting in a real meeting room in the real work part of the office. After you've left, you don't feel you ever really arrived at their office but were just held in some sort of quarantine area.

For a hotel the profit on two coffees ordered in their lobby is roughly equivalent to the profit they make on a weekend break for two. That's because many business people choose to meet in hotel lobbies and they need to pay for the privilege. By hotels we don't mean the Seaview at Margate we mean the branded international hotel chains that have swanky hotels in the middle of big cities. Just going through the front doors of these hotels make you feel as though you've achieved something in life and that you're a fast-living, high-rolling, deal-making executives. Choose your chain carefully though. Travelodge won't give you quite the same uplift as the Four Seasons. Hotel lobbies always have enough seats for meetings but these are generally big squidgy chairs. You can tell who's who in a hotel meeting because the person with the budget will be reclining at the back of their chair while the agency/petitioner/supplier/minion will be perched on the edge of theirs. Booking a meeting room in a hotel is an expensive business and you may actually save money by booking that weekend break for two.

Agencies spend a huge amount of their profits on their meeting rooms. This is where clients go to be met by 3D AV equipment, fresh Danish pastries, huge polished fruits, cold beers and glass boardroom tables with ergonomic chairs. If a meeting is ever scheduled for you in one of these meeting rooms you'll know that the agency is either pitching for your business or is about to show you some creative work, both highly stressful occasions for them. During one of these meetings, never help yourself to any of the delights on offers as this will give the impression that you're a relaxed soft touch. Sip your tap water, don't touch anything and look hard faced. You'll drive a better deal and the creatives in the building will thank you as, after you've left all the goodies intact, this is the traditional way they're fed in an agency.

Marginal Meetings
When you are absolutely desperate to meet someone and they absolutely don't have time to see you but you are so persistent that they're desperate to get rid of you, you'll sometimes find yourself having a meeting in the spaces between the meetings they actually want to have. You'll be given five minutes in the corridor, or one minute in a lift or thirty seconds in the neighbouring urinal. If you're given one of these opportunities, it's probably not the right time for a full PowerPoint presentation. Instead you need to do your elevator pitch as the Americans call it, which is getting your message over in the time it takes to reach the ground floor. Don't try this if you're British because we don't have high rise buildings and the lift/elevator will have reached the ground floor before you've cleared your throat.

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