I’m getting married in a couple weeks and then headed on my honeymoon so this will be my last post until mid-August. Enjoy these summer days!
So, I recently learned about an innovation in meeting spaces that was founded in the Netherlands and has begun to spread across Europe. It’s called Seats2Meet. The concept is a communal space where independent contractors or those simply in need of a temporary workspace can come to plug-in, meet-up, and network. I visited a new location at Utrecht Central Station, near my home.
The day I visited the place was buzzing but still conducive to taking care of business. The vibe was relaxed and social, but definitely work-focused. The users of the space, each invariably armed with a laptop or tablet, worked solo or clustered in 2s and 3s at round and rectangular tables throughout an open space. Additionally, I spied a private ‘board room’ and a ‘quiet room’. There was also a coffee station in the middle of the room.
Talking with the staff, I learned that work tables/seats are free to use, however, Seats2Meet requests that anyone interested to use the space sign up at least one day prior. This allows them to alert potential users if the space appears to be maxed out at certain times of the day and, if so, to encourage users to come at a different time or go to a different location. All users have access to free coffee and tea throughout the day, and (in some locations) a free lunch (that’s right, a free lunch). Seats2Meet also stresses in its materials that it is both an online and live space to network and share knowledge.
How is this paid for, you ask? Well, according to the person that gave me the scoop, the free seats are subsidized by the those who pay to use private meeting spaces and spots in the quiet work rooms, which are rented in blocks of time for an hourly fee; (so, at least in part, it operates with a Freemium business model). I gather that the company also has a partnership program whereby entrepreneurs can license the Seats2Meet name and start franchises in their communities.
If I were (re)designing an arts venue these days, I think I would look into the feasibility of a Seats2Meet franchise being located in the space. Arts venues would seem to have at least a few advantages as locales for these work/meeting spaces: they often have space that goes unused during the day; they are associated with ‘creativity’ (and Seats2Meet is particularly interested in appealing to creative freelance types); and arts organizations could go one better than a ‘free lunch’ — they could potentially host happy hour performances or exhibitions at the end of the workday or week. For those organizations with excess real estate, or striving to be a ‘community hub’, or endeavoring to get more people to use their spaces during the day, perhaps a Seats2Meet franchise (or something similar) is worth exploring? Here’s a link to information on the partnership program.
But beyond the potential incorporation of the Seats2Meet concept into the planning of an arts facility, I keep thinking about the expectation (actually one of the stated rules on a sign when you visit) that Seats2Meet members (unless they are in the ‘quiet room’, presumably) should be open to sharing their knowledge and talking with others. Seats2Meet is striving to create an online network and to be a community, not simply a work space for the knowmadic.
Ostensibly nonprofit arts organizations are in the community-building business; but you sure wouldn’t know it when you visit many of them. I wonder how many arts groups would hang a sign in the lobby saying, “By coming here today you are not simply viewing a performance, you are participating in a community event. We ask you to introduce yourself to those standing and seated around you and to be open to conversation from others. After the performance, we’ll keep the bar open and continue to serve drinks and desserts for a couple hours; we encourage you to stay awhile and talk with others who came to see this performance tonight.”
Of course, it’s much easier to get people to stay if you have a cozy space where they can sit and talk. Hmmmm …. perhaps an evening use for that Seats2Meet location? … Workspace by day, lounge by night?