Six Conference Space Properties To Transform Attendee Behavior

Grand Central Station Interior, NYC

As a meeting professional, you have the power to identify and manipulate the properties of a space to foster specific behaviors and attitudes.

These spatial characteristics can be fine tuned to create a unique attendee experience. And it all rests within the power of your planning.

Six Properties That You Can Adjust

Properties are the individual aspects of people or space that are altered to effect behavior. Each of these six properties, as defined by Make Space, can be adjusted to alter the mood or action.

1. Posture

Posture defines the position of an attendee’s body during an activity. It includes a wide spectrum of individual engagement from reflective to action.

A reclined or seated posture suggests a reflective, relaxed and passive engagement with an activity. While sitting is more comfortable than standing, it’s static. Stanford’s d. School researchers have found that the more comfortable people are in their seats, the less comfortable they seem to be with generating ideas, exchanging roles or moving to the next activity. However, reflective postures are good for critique, debriefs and deep discussions.

An upright or standing position indicates active engagement and participation. Standing encourages people to jump in to discussions, activities and change. It also leaves room for fidgeting and stretching to release tension. Use active posture to tap into deep communication channels by making it easy for everyone to get up, move and sit down again.

2. Orientation

Orientation is the relative position of people and things.

Singular orientation directs all attention on a single person, such as the speaker or television. Multifaceted orientation supports that all things are equal, such as a group sitting in a circle.

Orientation is one of the easiest to manipulate because is usually requires adjusting the direction in which people are sitting or standing. It is also the principal way to direct visual attention as well as nurture human connections within the experience.

3. Surface

Surface describes the flat plane that attendees work on such as flip charts, tables, walls or floors.

Simple changes in surface orientation can have profound impact on moods and behavior. Horizontal surfaces usually support individual activity. Verticals emphasize work for groups.

Most people are used to small, individual-size surfaces such as desks, laptops, smartphones and tablets. They create a private experience. Transitioning to vertical spaces enhances collective visibility.

Using highboys for horizontal collaborative work causes people to stand around them. The experience is different than sitting at a round table.

4. Ambiance

Ambiance is the character and atmosphere of a space. It describes the features of the environment like color, lighting, smells, sounds and textures.

Ambiance is the expression of emotional tone. It can be customized to cultivate specific emotional responses from attendees. Attendees experience ambiance fully yet they don’t always explicitly notice it. Creating the right ambiance is often overlooked or forgotten by meeting professionals.

For relaxed spaces, use plush seating, warm or dark colors, soft music and a variety of lights. For active spaces, use bright light, upbeat music, saturated colors and open windows.

5. Density

Density is the degree that people and things are compacted into a space.

Tweaking that density allows you to influence attendees’ impressions and control the energy level of a space. It can also foster or harm creative, collaborative potential.

Sparse environments allow attendees to freely move about and encourage reflection. Concentrated spaces connect people more closely within a cozier environment.

Density is actually a paradox. Both sparse and crowded spaces can achieve similar results. Large, open spaces can result in creative ideas. Environments with jam-packed points and stimuli can also foster creativity. Meeting organizers can resolve the paradox by helping the attendee focus on the intent of the task.

6. Storage

Storage is about accessibility of artifacts, social objects and information.

It spans the spectrum from protected, only accessible to those that know its secrets, to available, out in the open and easily shared. This is an important issue for digital and physical resources. It is balanced with the necessary collaborative context.

The ability to store things in a space directly connects to how that space is experienced. Creating collaborative environments where materials are easily accessible and available requires a place to store those materials.

These six properties can encourage or discourage specific behaviors and moods. They relate to not only the space but the positions of people and items within that space.

How does density affect the ambiance and posture of your conference attendees? Which of these six properties will be the easiest or most difficult for you to use at your next conference and why?

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