Boardroom vs Meeting rooms – what is the right chair?

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“What boardroom chairs do you have?” or “What chairs would you recommend for our boardroom?” The answer to these questions is not that straight forward. The term “Boardroom” has become a generic term which can mean different things to different people. Chairs for “meeting” or “conference” rooms are often included under the generic term “boardroom”. Let me explain.

Origins of “Boardroom”

The term “board” seems to have originated around the 16th Century. The piece of wood that Council members congregated round was called the “Board”, or in other words, the table. By the 17th Century the term Board was used to describe a group of people conducting a meeting around a table.

From these beginnings, the Boardroom has been synonymous with power, prestige, and authority. In many instances, power and prestige is synonymous with “bigger and better”. Depending on personal preference, aesthetics and practicality, the board or meeting room chairs would be on wheels or a fixed frame. Already we can to see that Boardroom chairs are not all the same, and we have not even touched on the various fabrics and finishes of the chair like wood, leather and chrome.

Important Questions to Consider before buying Boardroom Chairs

1. What is the purpose of your Boardroom?

Will it be used solely for high-level strategic meetings? Will attendees only use the table as a resting place for their documents? If so, basic task or visitor chairs are a good option. Alternatively, are the attendees going to be writing, using laptops and other mobile devices? If so, ergonomic executive or task chairs are preferred as they can be adjusted to suit individual users. 

2. What is the duration of meetings?

For long duration and intense meetings where attendees use laptops and other mobile devices, adjustable ergonomic executive or task chairs are the best choice. For infrequent and short-duration use, visitor chairs are a common option.

In some cases, meetings can be very short and no chairs are provided. Instead participants simply stand or use a sit/stand, or similar seat.

3. How big is the boardroom and how much space is there for the chairs?

Planning furniture requirements is easier for new developments. For an existing boardroom, determining how much space is available will assist in selecting the most suitable chairs.

Common types of Boardrooms

1. Traditional Boardrooms

The term “Boardroom” is more old school. It is typically a room where a group of people meet on a planned regular basis, for example the Board of the company or organization. Traditionally, the boardroom would have a large wooden desk located in the centre with large puffy chairs surrounding the table. The décor often includes paintings on the walls, a counter for making coffee, a bar fridge and an audio-visual system. In a traditional boardroom, the chairs and other fittings are large and luxurious, and aesthetics often outweigh functionality.

meeting room
Traditional boardroom with large table and opulent chairs

2. Contemporary Boardrooms

Contemporary boardrooms are more functional. In this case the boardroom is not only used for meetings of the “board”, but also business units, one-on-one meetings, and even external parties that require a table, chairs, and some privacy. Instead of the term “boardroom”, contemporary terms include Meeting and Conference rooms, or Collaboration spaces. Each term has it’s own subtleties.

a. Meeting Rooms

The term Meeting room came to the forefront with the advent of open plan offices. To accommodate staff that needed some privacy, meeting rooms were born. The room could be just a table and chairs, or include a complete audio-visual setup. Often the meeting room is located near the open plan offices to allow easy access. Ideally you would want the meeting room to be soundproof, but I have seen meeting areas cornered off by filing systems to make the required space available.

Typical meeting room located centrally within an open-plan office

b. Conference and Training Room

A Conference/ Training room normally caters for a larger group of attendees for presentations, education, and training.

meeting room chairs
Typical conference or training room

A Conference room is normally a soundproof purpose-built structure with the layout having a central point from where presentations are made. Conference rooms usually include tables, chairs, an audio-visual system, projector, flip-charts, white board, TV, computer, etc.  

c. Collaborative Space or Area

The term Collaborate, meaning working jointly on a project or activity, is the new buzzword and in my opinion is a term that suggests less formality than “meeting”.

collaborative space with meeting room chairs
Collaborative areas are often less formal

Haworth discusses 4 types of Collaborative spaces, namely Inform, Do, Think and Connect. Seating requirements can be quite different and are often more casual. The term “room” now becomes a space or area.

d. Meeting Pods

A relatively new innovation is that of Meeting Pods. Meeting Pods explain that their primary usage is in areas where space is at a premium.

Typical Meeting Pod

Depending on where they are used, pods can take on many shapes and sizes. Pods are usually manufactured off-site. Depending on the type, they can still offer the same connectivity, lighting, and sound proofing as your traditional meeting room.

Once you have defined the type of “Boardroom” you require and it’s function, selecting the chairs becomes a whole lot easier.

Chairs for your Boardroom and other meeting room areas

In a traditional boardroom, suitable chair options include ergonomic Executive, Task and Visitor chairs.

Meeting rooms require more functional chair options like Executive and Task chairs.

Suitable chairs for conference and training rooms can include Task and conference chairs.

In a collaborative space, almost any type of chair can be used. Suitable options are Task and Visitor chairs, as well as soft seating.

Conclusion

The type of chair you choose for your “Boardroom” is very much dependent on the look and feel of the room, and it’s function. In many cases, your “boardroom” may fulfill several roles, in which case you must decide which is the main role and select the most suitable chairs for that application.


Author: John Karle
Director at Karo Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd
16 June 2021

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