Meetings & Conventions
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Seeing Eye to Eye
The opportunity for in-person meetings at coworking spaces
By Luanne Urfer

verwhelmingly, employers and employees agree that in-person meetings are important for collaboration, improved relationships, production, and communication.

Within Alaska, it is common to hold a meeting in a location away from your office. This provides a way to assemble a work team, introduce new members in person, assist with building interpersonal networks, and strengthen relationships.

Small and home businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers, community leaders, and even businesses located out of town that want to hold an in-person meeting to help grow their business have a variety of venue options. Hotels, event centers, and other professional meeting room spaces have traditionally provided meeting spaces, but they may not be a viable option depending on cost or availability. Coworking conference rooms and open spaces can fill the meeting room gap, accommodating a variety of in-person meeting needs.

In-person meetings can have multiple purposes, from board meetings to project work. Flexible meeting rooms provide venues for presentations, training sessions, conferences, retreats, and workshops. Smaller meeting rooms can accommodate private meetings for interviews, mediation, focus groups, and testimonials. Larger meeting rooms offer options for team building, events, and activities.

The first step to a successful meeting is identifying your goals and expectations. With those in hand, you can determine what kind of room and amenities will best facilitate your meeting while ensuring the comfort and engagement of your guests.

Accessibility and Amenities
Ideally, safety and location are the most important qualities of the meeting space to consider. Most coworking spaces have information about their location and rooms online. If you cannot visit the site, check out the actual location using Google Earth or other online sites where you can see the neighborhood and street views of the building.

Ask coworking representatives about both inside and outside access options for attendees with disabilities. Determine if nearby parking is available and what the local restrictions might be. Winter and summer lighting conditions are extremely important in Alaska. Make sure accessibility includes safe, well-lit, secure, and comfortable accommodations for all attendees.

Successful in-person meetings also require specific amenities and technology. Most coworking spaces have available WiFi. If your meeting is to include video attendees, make sure the internet provided can accommodate your needs. Other amenities to consider include TV and DVD, projector, printing, and whiteboards. Availability of simple items, such as electrical outlets, can make a significant difference in an effective meeting.

It is common to hold a meeting in a location away from your office. This provides a way to assemble a work team, introduce new members in person, assist with building interpersonal networks, and strengthen relationships.
Three individuals (a man and two women) are glancing at a laptop screen with one of the women clicking on the touchpad as they smile and laugh with a few paper documents around them and books also; Coworking conference rooms and open spaces can fill a gap where hotels or event centers might not be a perfect fit.
Coworking conference rooms and open spaces can fill a gap where hotels or event centers might not be a perfect fit.

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The right room can broaden perspectives and escalate problem solving. Productivity will increase and focus can be concentrated. With minimal distractions, a meeting room provides a change of scenery that becomes a morale booster.
Personal comfort for all in attendance is an essential part of any in-person meeting. Make sure lighting and room temperature is appropriate for your venue. Check on the number, availability, and accessibility of restrooms.

To ensure a quality experience, some coworking spaces provide greeters who make attendees feel welcome and oriented. Kitchenette facilities and eating areas can be a benefit or a distraction, depending on your goals, so make sure to get details on their locations, visibility, and availability. Beverages, such as coffee, tea, and water, may be provided by the coworking space. If your meeting requires catering or beverages, makes sure to notify the coworking management team so they can accommodate you.

If your meeting requires flexible space, check with coworking management about moving furniture in a way that supports your agenda. Most coworking spaces support organizing the meeting room and equipment in a way that supports your goals.

Coworking spaces can usually support in-person meetings that require privacy. Let the coworking management know that your meeting is to be held to resolve conflicts, solve complex issues, record testimony, or discuss sensitive subjects. Along with an appropriate room, other accommodations may be available by the coworking management.

How Does the Space Feel?
If possible, visit the space to get an understanding of the setting and feel of the space, which allows you to determine if the space is appropriate for your purpose, if it is comfortable and large enough, and if it has the amenities that your meeting requires. Many meeting organizers and facilitators seek out meeting rooms that are professional yet warm, inviting, and relaxed. This atmosphere allows for one-on-one interactions with the speaker and other attendees while creating a setting for open participation.

The right meeting space allows attendees to generate new concepts and ideas, broaden perspectives, and escalate problem solving. Attendees will increase their productivity and concentrate their focus. With minimal distractions, a comfortable meeting room with quality amenities provides a change of scenery that becomes a morale booster.

Communicate Your Needs, Learn the Requirements
As early in the meeting room rental process as is possible, you should have a firm idea of the number of attendees, the date, and time for your meeting. Share these details to the coworking management team. This will assure you that the space is available when you need it. Coworking spaces have different processes for reserving the meeting room, so be sure to familiarize yourself with their requirements. When you are ready to reserve the space, communicate your meeting needs and determine what amenities are included in the rental. If you have any specialized needs for your meeting, be sure to discuss these with the coworking management.

Each coworking space has a different policy for renting their space. Ask to see a copy of their rental contract to get an idea of what is included and what your responsibilities are. Most contracts will confirm the amenities that are provided along with how and when payments are to be made. Generally, a down payment to reserve the space is required. If the contract does not specify methods of payment, ask what options they accept.

Coworking spaces generally have hourly rates for meeting room rentals. If your meeting is longer than a few hours, ask if they have rates for daily rentals, multiple day rentals, or even repeat meeting rentals. If needed, ask if your meeting can be accommodated outside standard business hours or on weekends. Be sure to confirm your meeting well before the date to make sure everything will be in place at the start.

Finding and renting the right meeting space for your in-person event can improve the meeting’s outcome and will reflect positively on your company or organization—so make sure to research all of your options.

Luanne Urfer is the owner of The Valley Annex in Palmer. The Valley Annex offers a professional yet homey and relaxed atmosphere, with conference rooms, a teaching room, private offices, and open flexible space. A concierge greets attendees upon arrival, and a kitchenette is available for beverages and food preparation adjacent to open space seating. The Valley Annex offers secure internal bike racks and dry storage. Meetings can be held during normal business hours, evenings, and on weekends.