As event planners, it's important to attend events from time to time and experience them from the vantage point of participants. I have had an opportunity to attend a number of events recently and it's been an important reminder of some fundamentals.
Take the matter of seating. During the course of the day, if seating is stiff or uncomfortable, many participants will suffer from back shoulder or neck pain. Yet, this is an aspect of site inspection and meeting room set-up that doesn't get a lot of attention.
If you are not doing it already, it is important to immediately add questions about physical challenges to your registration forms and participant profiles. A question should also be included to identify participants who experience severe back, shoulder or neck pain by the end of a meeting if they are seated for a long time. Based on the answers, offer a variety of seating options.
The most important take-away is, that when it comes to seating, one size does not fit all. Ignite Business Expo in Toronto applied this principle last year by providing a wide range of seating options in the presentation center.
Keep the following guidelines in mind whether you're sourcing meeting room and lounge furniture for an event venue or exploring options for seating to rent for an entire audience or members of your party who have indicated that they have physical challenges.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has sourced ergonomically friendly seating with the following characteristics:
- adjustable arms
- lumbar support
- mesh backs for comfort
- air flow cushioned or upholstered
- pneumatically adjustable meeting room seating
This black leather chair, available through Office Chairs Canada, has a high back, countered back and seat, and lumbar support. It also has adjustable tilt tension and pneumatic seat height.
Lifeform's Mid-Back Aria Mesh Executive Chair is another example of seating that provides comfort and full back support. Lifeform also manufactures Coreflex dual-flex chairs with split seats that stimulate natural motion and improve circulation.
Redo Design Studio in Poland has demonstrated that seating can be comfortable, functional, flexible, and visually pleasing. The photo to the right provides one example.
Seating to help attendees relax and find relief during breaks is manufactured by Singapore based Osim.
I was first introduced to these chairs when I started facilitating workshops and seminars in Malaysia and Singapore in 2000.
New models are introduced every few years based on the latest ergonomic research. Some airport lounges like Singapore Airlines and Emirates have them. They are gradually becoming available in the West and they can be shipped by special order.
In Denmark, as part of the Meetovation initiative that encourages innovative set-up, some event venues use Swiss gym balls for breakouts or provide them in addition to standard meeting room seating. (This was modeled at The Fresh Conference in Copenhagen earlier this year.)
Since gym balls are often used in physiotherapy for patients suffering from lower back pain, they may provide rest and relief for some attendees.
For other site inspection and meeting room set-up considerations, also consult Furniture for Your Event: Rent, Build or Buy, 10 Strategies to Supercharge Site Inspections, Set-up for Attendee Engagement , and Meeting Rooms: 4 Overlooked Factors that Affect Your Event's Success .