31 March, 2023, 03:36

Meeting Designers: Are You Forgetting Lighting?

We’ve touched on the importance of acoustics when it comes to meeting design already – but did you know that lighting influences a meeting just as much, if not more? In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, lighting seems to be at the top of workers’ minds: “In a research poll of 1,614 North American employees, we found that access to natural light and views of the outdoors are the number-one attribute of the workplace environment, outranking stalwarts like on-site cafeterias, fitness centers, and premium perks including on-site childcare.”

Corralling all the right people for a meeting is hard enough, so you might as well do everything you can to make sure they absorb the information conveyed, and lighting is an oft-forgotten – but very important part – of that mission.

With that, here are some considerations for you to keep in mind the next time you’re planning a meeting.

Natural Light > Artificial Light

To build off the point above, the importance of natural light cannot be overstated. It’s common for attendees to struggle with zoning out and getting restless later in the day – and it turns out that more natural light may be (at least part of) the cure. Buffer cited a study from scientist Mirjam Muench that found that “Compared to the afternoon, people who had DL [daylight] were significantly more alert at the beginning of the evening, and subjects who were exposed to AL [artificial light] were significantly sleepier at the end of the evening.” Prioritize spaces that have abundant natural light, and you’ll get attendees that are more alert and engaged.

Consider the Brightness

Are you asking attendees to watch a screen, or a presenter on stage? Are attendees supposed to be engaged with one another? Are they writing notes? Are you passing out any material for them to read? What you’re asking your attendees to do should inform the room’s brightness. If the room is very bright (especially with artificial light) it can be tough to sit through a prolonged presentation; if it’s too dim, people can get sleepy and start to disengage. Match the room’s lighting (and remember, if there are five light switches, that doesn’t mean they all have to be flipped on!) with what you’re asking attendees to do.

What About the Screens?

Screens have become the focal point of most meetings. If that’s the case for your program, and you’re unfamiliar with the space you’re going to be using, test the screen (and all the planned lighting, too) in the room beforehand – at the same time of day the meeting will be at, if possible – to understand possible reflections, glares, and screen washouts. “I couldn’t see the screen very well,” is never feedback you want to get as a meeting planner.

Don’t Forget Colors

Take a look at the chart below shared by UNC’s online education program. “Temperature of light, measured in kelvin (K), is a numerical measurement of the color that’s emitted when an object is heated in a high enough temperature. As the temperature increases, the object changes colors and emits certain colors of that light.” What does this mean for meetings? As you can see in the chart, cooler light contributes to alertness, mood, and productivity, and is favored for meetings. Ask about lighting temperature when you’re booking your space: It’ll, of course, be just one of many factors that you base your decision on, but a factor to consider, nonetheless, and one most meeting professionals don’t think of.

How Lighting Affects Productivity Chart

Courtesy of UNC’s online education program

When in Doubt, Hire an Expert

Is this getting too technical? If the stakes are unusually high – like an annual meeting, a very large group, or an especially important objective – you may want to go deeper with how you’re thinking about the meeting’s lighting. Lighting designers consider every detail of your event (check-in, the stage, entertainment, the attendee area, etc.) and can translate your goals into technical specifications for the audiovisual partner or staff. While you undoubtedly already have many other facets of the event to consider and lighting may seem like just “one more thing,” having someone with technical expertise to help bring your vision to life could make the difference between an attendee “sort of” absorbing the material versus having a complete understanding.