The Huddle Space: Collaborative Discussion Facilitator
Your mind begins to wander as you sit in the back row of what feels like a nearly vacant conference room. You’re short on coffee while a manager is going over next quarter’s initiative. Your eyes begin to grow heavy because of the lack of visual stimulation. There have been no visual aids today. No one has been able to locate the remote for the projector which has been missing for two weeks. Not only are you lacking any engaging visual content, but it’s been nearly 20 minutes since hearing anyone else’s voice. The repetitive tempo and tone are doing anything but keeping you engaged.
As hard as we may try to give our undivided attention to colleagues, sometimes it’s not as easy as it seems. Besides the fact you obviously need to catch up on z’s, the setting it was taking place in may not have been the best fit. Let’s take a minute to discuss and consider how a huddle space could help address the situation.
“Your mind begins to wander as you sit in the back row of what feels like a nearly vacant conference room.”
I’ve seen far too many meetings being held in rooms that don’t even reach 50 percent capacity. Think about the waste when a room being reserved is regularly less than half full. Not only are you wasting costly physical space in your office, but that meeting is tying up all the equipment located in that room. This can make scheduling an impromptu meeting almost impossible less than a week out. On top of all that, an oversized room for the attendees can lead to a very impersonal feel to the meeting. This can be reminiscent of large college lecture halls where there is no discussion, rather you’re being talked at for hours on end.
These days many businesses are finding it beneficial to focus less on the idea of one main conference room. Instead they are looking to invest into several smaller huddle spaces. This can help keep areas open for ad hoc meetings and minimize double bookings. With multiple huddle spaces, a sales rep and engineer could hold a web conference with a potential client without getting in the way of marketing’s weekly meeting.
These huddle spaces are usually designed to fit 4-6 people comfortably. Because of the smaller room size, a discussion can feel more natural versus a standard conference room. With the proper choice of furnishings and layout you exponentially increase the collaboration ability of the team. Think less boardroom and more café lounge in most instances.
“There have been no visual aids today. No one has been able to locate the remote for the projector which has been missing for two weeks.”
The point of a well-designed huddle space isn’t to showcase the latest tech you just purchased or over complicate it. Instead it’s to minimize the technology used to only essentials and verify it’s ready to go at a moment‘s notice.
It’s important for the space to be designed with your specific employees in mind. Here are a few general examples of designing with purpose. Keep in mind while the examples are department specific, a well-designed huddle space should function for a variety of department usage.
Room Layout & Design
Standing room with a table placed in the middle of the huddle space. On one wall there is a single display connected to a wireless presentation unit which allows any attendee to connect their laptop/tablet/phone to the display without any wires.
The standing room only keeps everyone engaged around the main table. The main table provides an area to place any physical prototypes, models, materials, drawings, etc. for the whole group to see. With the wireless presentation unit, anyone can connect to the display without any wires getting in the way of the physical demo on the table. The single display keeps things minimal while still providing a means of displaying electronic drawings, photos etc. This is a good example of allowing a team to focus on the physical components while using technology to supplement the discussion.
Room Layout & Design
A small “U” shaped table sitting 2-4 people is placed to allow attendees to focus on a single display mounted on a wall. Below the display a webcam/microphone combo is mounted. On the table sits a cable cubby which houses a collection of video cables and a USB connection. The video cables allow a user to connect their own device to the display and the USB cable connects their device to the webcam/microphone combo. The cover of the cable cubby doubles as a simple system control device, allowing the user to turn on the display, switch display inputs and control display volume.
While most of today’s sales staff is outfitted with a laptop which include a built-in webcam and microphone, this huddle space allows for much more versatility. Let’s say a sales rep would like an engineer to accompany them on a sales call. Suddenly, a sales call at their desk doesn’t seem to be a viable option because of limited space. Luckily for them, they can hop into this huddle space and within a few short seconds, easily connect to both the display and webcam. Now they are in a space which has both the technology and layout to run a professional looking web conference together.
Room Layout & Design
In the corner of an open concept office a set of chairs are placed around a hexagon shaped occasional table. A monitor approximately 19” is mounted on each side of the table. Inside of the table there is a dedicated huddle space PC with a wireless mouse and keyboard. On top of the table is a 360-degree USB webcam and USB speakerphone connected to the dedicated PC.
The circular seating arrangement provides as much open communication with all creatives in the marketing team. This allows the space to generate open discussions rather than presentations. In this case the monitors being mounted to the occasional table serves two purposes. First off, this allows each user to maintain a comfortable sitting position while having a group discussion and being able to see both the speaker and content without much effort. Also, because this is in an open office, mounting the displays below eye level will provide minimal distraction to those working at desks around them.
The dedicated PC allows a variety of content to be mirrored on all displays and because of the wireless keyboard and mouse, can be controlled from any seat in the huddle space. The 360-degree webcam and USB speaker phone allow web conferencing to still include all participants even in a circular seating arrangement.
“…it’s been nearly twenty minutes since hearing anyone else’s voice. The repetitive tempo and tone are doing anything but keeping you engaged”
The main goal of a huddle space is to provide an environment that stimulates discussion and engagement. This engagement should be as far reaching as your workforce. Imagine a team member working offsite for any number of reasons. No longer are they prevented from joining a meeting just because of a geographical restriction. A huddle space that includes a web conferencing solution, allows a team member to join in the collaboration from virtually anywhere in the world. A huddle space isn’t conducive to a one-man show. It begs to welcome a dynamic group of individuals ready to dive into their next project.
A huddle space cannot always guarantee captivating content and breakthrough ideas. What it can provide however, is a setting that utilizes space efficiently, offers affordable yet state of the art tools and curate collaboration that can take an idea from infancy to delivery. Don’t get distracted with flashy technology and automation. Don’t fall prey to “bigger is better”. Do remember as today’s workforce moves towards mobility, flexibility and collaboration, they are going to demand a meeting space that goes along with it. Are you ready to meet that demand?
Written by: Justin Wetzel, AV Systems Engineer
Justin is a born-and-raised Green Bay native. He went to Green Bay West High School then followed his education there with a degree from NWTC in electrical power distribution and digital media. He was with HP for 3.5 years as a printer technician after graduating from NWTC. Justin has always enjoyed tinkering with electronics, and has worked in the IT industry for several years. He got married in September 2017, and did a honeymoon at Harry Potter World in Orlando, FL. He lives in an old Victorian-style house with his wife. In his spare time, Justin likes to dabble in photography and videography, and also likes biking on the Fox River Trail.