Ton Soons

Trouble in the meeting room

How a layout determined the success of the reception of asylum seekers.

Mayor of Budel Marga Vermue has to guide the votes of her citizens in favour of the arrival of a large group of refugees in her village. Like in many other municipalities, the residents of Budel get no say in the matter. That is why the mayor does not choose a traditional theatre layout with a raised lectern that allows the administrators and experts to take up a safe and distant position towards the residents. Instead, an information market is set up with stalls, a coffee corner and standing tables. The stalls are manned by representatives of the town council, the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers, the Council for Refugees, the police and the Association of Mental Health and Addiction Care. The result: No rumbling and shouting but instead personal conversations with attention for everyone’s questions and concerns. What a brilliant idea!

Old formulas

Often enough people mindlessly stick to old formulas by choosing a layout that places two groups directly opposite each other, even though that set-up immediately sets back a lot of the invitees. Round or oval tables are used at political summits for good reason. Nobody wants to be made to feel less important by use of a hierarchic meeting room layout. Everyone should get the chance to be listened to.

Feng Shui

This reminds me of a management training in which I was taught you should purposely place employees, applicants or salespeople on a slightly lower chair and let them look up to you in backlight. I thought it was disgusting. It is unbelievable that something like this was taught.
It is also completely contrary to Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese philosophical system of spatial planning. I am a huge fan of Feng Shui. I have never applied this horrible strategy and I advise you to not do so either. This terrible set-up undoubtedly leads to so much displeasure that your guests will never ever want to maintain a relationship with you.

Giving advice

In case you design spaces or rent meeting rooms, it can be great to give your clients some well-thought-out advice and ask them what they want to achieve with their meeting. You might keep them from a lot of trouble in the meeting room.