Where do you hold your Forum meetings? The meeting location is an important part of the overall experience of your Forum meeting, so it’s worth some thought.
Three most common venues
- Rotate offices – many Forums rotate from one member’s office to another each month. An advantage to this method is that everyone gets to see each other’s businesses, which provides perspective and is informative. The rule on this venue is that the member must be able to provide a suitable meeting space where doors can be closed and confidentiality can be maintained. The hosting member should be sure their office staff knows not to interrupt the meeting for any reason. Also, it is recommended that the hosting member does NOT give a presentation when they are hosting the meeting. This is due to the psychological aspect of presenting in your own backyard – there is more of a risk that something might be overheard and the member may not be as open.
- Central location – Some Forums select a central location that becomes the location for every meeting. This option can be handy when the Forum members are geographically disbursed over a wide area and a central location works better for everyone. It also works well when a particularly desirable meeting space is available to the Forum. The location could be a member’s office, a hotel meeting room, a private room at a restaurant, or a professional meeting space. Again, the facility must be able to provide a room where doors can be closed and confidentiality can be maintained. Staff should be made aware that they should not open the door or interrupt the meeting for any reason when the doors are closed.
- Rotate homes – Some Forums allow the hosting member to host at their home instead of their office. This option provides a different view of the hosting member and it’s generally a more casual and more relaxed setting. The main rule here is that nobody can be at home. In regions of the world where there are shared family homes, this is not a feasible option. Keep in mind that you may need to bring in a flip chart or A/V equipment, depending on the needs of the presenter and the activities that are planned for the meeting.
Want to mix it up? Consider some of these alternative locations for a forum meeting. It’s kind of like a field trip, which can be both refreshing and informative!
- A large, recognized local business – arrange for a behind-the-scenes tour, have lunch with the CEO, and then conduct the Forum meeting in one of their conference rooms.
- Sailboat – located near a lake or the water? Bring your boat shoes and sunscreen and enjoy a meeting on a sailboat or motorboat.
- Museum, sports arena, concert hall or theater – arrange a private tour, then hold the Forum meeting in one of their meeting rooms.
- Hospital – bring in a physician to talk about stress management, arrange for a couple of stress tests, then hold the meeting in one of the hospital meeting rooms.
- Sponsor’s office – many sponsors are happy to provide meeting space in order to get the exposure.
- Soup kitchen – Feel like mixing volunteer work and Forum? The Forum could meet at a local soup kitchen, feed the homeless, and then meet at a nearby facility.
- Children’s hospital – bring gifts to the kids, tour the facility, and meet in a hospital meeting room.
These types of alternative can provide a refreshing change of pace once or twice a year. Get creative! One Forum went to the county jail, got a tour from the prison warden, and held their Forum meeting in an interrogation room. Although your Forum may not want to go to jail, with a little creative brainstorming the possibilities are endless!
Keep in mind…
Regardless of the location you choose, be thoughtful about the meeting room itself. Glass walls are NOT recommended as they can be distracting and diminish openness. Be sure the room is large enough for people to sit comfortably. Also, be sure the walls are soundproof so that outsiders can’t hear your conversation… and you don’t have to listen to theirs! Finally, provide plenty of water for hydration throughout the meeting, and optionally provide soda and light snacks for breaks.
As with all aspects of Forum, it’s ultimately up to your Forum to decide how you want to handle the meeting location. Discuss the options and consider mixing it up. Give it a shot – and see how a change of location could spice up your Forum meetings!