A Room of One's Own

By Finkel, Coleman | Training & Development Journal, November 1989 | Go to article overview

A Room of One's Own


Finkel, Coleman, Training & Development Journal


A Room of One's Own

Setting the right mood for a training session can be as crucial as having the right materials. People react in different ways to different environments, often subconsciously. The trick is knowing the appropriate atmosphere for your objectives - and knowing how to achieve it.

An austere, utilitarian setup says to trainees, "Let's get down to business and get this over with." A cheerful, homey room with snacks, plush carpeting, music, and fresh flower arrangements sends a different message entirely: "We're here to learn from each other, so let's take the time to relax so that we can be open and honest and really communicate."

Of course, most training sessions fall between those extremes. In any case, an atmosphere that is business-like and free of distractions - while being upbeat and comfortable - helps people focus their attention on the course content, rather than on the construction noises outside the window, the heater that doesn't know when to quit, or the fact that the chairs seem to have been designed for users from another planet.

Ugly surroundings depress people. If you're stuck with walls the color of pea soup, concrete floors, glaring lights, and flea-market furniture, you should realize how that can affect the mood of your class - and maybe consider some ways to compensate, if you can't get another meeting place.

This month, "Training 101" looks at the trainer as interior decorator. No, we're not advocating a career change, just an awareness of your surroundings and how they may affect your program. The authors deal with the "look," size, and arrangement of your meeting room, and with the subtle and not-so-subtle effects of color.

Climate Control

Meetings are a common, everyday reality in almost every organization. They are held for many purposes, including arriving at decisions, resolving problems, announcing changes, receiving input on issues, assigning follow-up responsibilities, developing action plans, reviewing progress, conveying information, and, of course, training employees.

The quality of meeting leadership and the degree of preparation are of paramount importance to the success of a discussion meeting, but three other considerations are also important, although they are often overlooked: the "climate," the meeting environment, and the design of the meeting space. * Climate refers to participants' reactions to the stimuli of the meeting area. Such feelings are real, but they are usually subconscious. They represent an overall impression - good, bad, or neutral. * The meeting environment involves the physical parts of the meeting area: its decor, furniture, and other furnishings. * The room design considers such factors as size and kinds of spaces.

The trainer or meeting organizer must pay attention to those three factors, if the meeting is to achieve the greatest results and live up to the potential inherent in the dynamics of the meeting process.

Climate, environment, and room design contribute in various ways to the success of a discussion meeting.

As a springboard for the evaluation, the following considerations should be weighed: * What approaches can be taken to provide for the physical comfort and psychological ease of participants in the meeting environment? * How does room size influence the participation of attendees? * In what ways does the setup of the room affect the sense of equality among participants? * Participants may feel a lot of pressure in a meeting, especially if discussion is intense. What arrangements can be made in the physical aspects of the environment to reduce that pressure? * How can the meeting organizers keep participants focused on the discussion through control of the environment?

Physical comfort and

psychological ease

When participants enter a meeting room, their first impressions should be feelings of warmth, brightness, cheerfulness, and difference. …

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