People holding a business meeting around a table

The conference room is an instant oil-check for any company: if it’s where things get done, well done…but if it’s a pit of endless PowerPoint despair, there may be room for improvement. By shooting anyone who goes over time, for instance. Unfortunately, we can’t advise such violent courses of action (unless we disclaim it immediately afterwards), but we can offer some entertaining options to upgrade the battlefield. And that doesn’t mean installing better games on your Blackberry — that’s hiding from the problem instead of dealing with it, and Enron provides an excellent example of that strategy’s success level. Behold some of the best conference tables to be bored at!

1. The TelePresence 3000

It sounds like something Buck Rogers would use to make meetings awesome, before punching everyone (even awesomer!), and it actually is pretty cool. The Cisco TelePresence 3000 establishes life-size HD connections around the world, enabling international companies to establish old-school communications.

The Cisco TelePresence 3000

The Cisco TelePresence 3000 (photo: CNET)

If it looks like pointless frippery, which should be replaced by e-mail, you’re

  1. possibly part of the new generation
  2. definitely bad at meetings

The importance of all communications channels in business can’t be overstated, because — unfortunately — reading other executives’ moods is just as important as being right when it comes to getting things done. E-mail restricts you to text information, while face-to-face meetings arm you with all kinds of unconscious extras: body language, pose, who’s playing with their Blackberry while someone else is talking, etc. It’s true that telepresence doesn’t transmit all possible data — but if you’ve reached the point where smell is a factor, your business is in more trouble than any fancy desk can solve.

2. Work and Play

Furniture choice plays a big part in establishing the environment — immense mahogany feels rich, while smaller sharper tech companies tend towards casual options. If you plan to play around but still make a lot of money, the “table&tennis” could be exactly what you’re looking for. A beautiful wooden conference desk…

Mahogany Tennis Table

(Photo: tableandtennis.tumblr.com)

… doubling as an informal de-stressing station by becoming the first time in history ping-pong bats have looked cool.

Mahogany Tennis Table

(Photo: tableandtennis.tumblr.com)

3. The Ultimate Meeting Room

If you want to see the slickest meeting room in existence, you need to go to an advertising company, and you need to go to Beijing.

Saatchi Dome

Saatchi Dome (photo: Jianfei Xue and Zhiyi Zhou)

Saatchi & Saatchi execs sit in a super-stylish chamber (because “room” just doesn’t cut it for things this fancy) featuring more modern art design than most art galleries, complete with contents. That giant wooden dome rotates as required by the attendees, swiveling to show a screen, projection, or — presumably — rare species imported and trained to serve champagne to give the meeting a bit of “feel.”

Saatchi Dome

Behold, the MeetingDrome! (photo: Jianfei Xue and Zhiyi Zhou)

4.  The Meeting In A Box

Atalier Graff’s LOFTBOX101 is an extremely cool concept at the opposite end of the scale spectrum from Saatchi’s — and it may be super-small (in fact that’s kind of the point), but it’s just as cool.

Loftbox

(Photo: atelier-graff.com)

Instead of dedicating an entire room to meetings, or the informal option of talking over cubical walls (with all the difficulties of enforcing real commitment involved), the LOFTBOX is an unfoldable office space which can be used to declare “Okay, now we’re working.”

Loftbox

(Photo: atelier-graff.com)

In storage it looks like an iBox, a smooth rectanguloid of whiteness, but origamied out it’s an entirely workable discussion area complete with monitor for presentations. Small companies, and those working from home, could seriously benefit from such an item.

BONUS FAILURE:  They “You Can’t Play Now” Table

The above items all offer advantages, but we found this failure so spectacular we simply had to include it.

ABGC Architecture built a LEGO table for advertising agency Boys and Girls, and you’d think someone whose whole job was “make things people have to live with” would understand the psychological effects of LEGO.  It looks cool, but glassed-over LEGO is the worst brain-breaker since a blow to the head.

Lego Table

(Photo: abcg.ie)

Sitting through slide one trillion of an endless meeting the sealed-in blocks will start to mock your pain: you already know you’re working instead of playing, but the buildings under the table rub your face in it every second. Add the endless variations of color and imagined pattern under the surface — infinite distractions as your mind starts to wander — and you’ll be lucky if you remember your own name by the end of the meeting, let alone what you’re meant to get done.

Lego Corner

(Photo: abgc.ie)

And that’s assuming the people at the corners don’t just start breaking the table to pieces.

Image credit: endopack / iStockphoto

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