Hosting Workshops? Environment Counts.

This month I spent a day working with a group of world-class data visualization architects. Who even knew there was such a profession! Nor that the best in the world were based in Toronto. Ironically, being Canadian, I have very little business in our nation’s business capital so it was doubly nice to be working with such a smart group so close to home.

The learning environment you choose for your events can either be attractive and inspiring, or depressing and repellant. An attractive environment puts everyone at ease, sparks conversation, and creativity. It’s simply more difficult to be closed minded and cranky in a gorgeous environment. Today’s meeting space at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club on Toronto Island was one of the top spaces I have worked in. Lots of natural light, a view of the lake, high-class furnishings, a building steeped in tradition, well-dressed attendees, and of course, away from their offices. The environment definitely made a difference in the culture of the workshop. While we can’t always have meetings at locations such as the RCYC, we can create the best environments for our attendees to learn and communicate.

I notice that the best workshop environments (gauged from participant engagement and implementation) include:

  • Ample space to stretch out and be comfortable.
  • Seating arrangements where people can see each other.
  • No chairs that face backwards to the front of the room.
  • Space to move between tables without people having to “squish in.”
  • A bright space with ample light and natural light.
  • High ceilings. Avoid basements.
  • Sitting areas adjacent to your meeting space for private conversations.
  • A meeting space away from your office or campus.
  • Comfortable temperature, on the cool side.
  • Event location staff that can provide services such as good food and lots of coffee and water.

When you upgrade your learning environment you upgrade participation, engagement and implementation. You also increase your ROI on the event, and improve the team culture.