Framing the environment for mediation, interviews and counselling

Professional mediators, interviewers, counsellors and facilitators frame conversations in three ways:

  1. They frame content and guide the discussion
  2. They frame process by establishing ground rules and promoting meaningful interaction
  3. They frame the environment by making decisions about when, where and how a session will run.

A well-chosen, carefully framed environment can encourage meaningful conversations and lay the groundwork for smooth processes.

We’ve developed a FRAME checklist to help professional mediators, interviewers, counsellors and facilitators to reflect on the venue and surrounding environment before a session begins. It’s intended to help make venue management a conscious, thoughtful process. By making conscious decisions about the meeting environment before your session, the venue can fade into the background when the session gets underway.

The FRAME checklist includes five dimensions:

  1. Facilities
  2. Room
  3. Atmosphere
  4. Mix
  5. Environment

Facilities

What facilities will you need to ensure that your session runs smoothly? Examples might include:

  • Whiteboard
  • Flipchart
  • Stationery
  • Tea/coffee
  • On-site catering
  • Wi-Fi
  • Projection equipment
  • Laptop
  • Audio-recording equipment
  • Video-link equipment
  • Photocopying and admin support
  • Greeting on arrival
  • On-site JP

The facilities at Northside Meetings support professional meetings and workshops:

  • All rooms include a whiteboard, flipchart, basic stationery and Wi-Fi at no extra charge
  • All rooms include a projector at no extra charge
  • A laptop is available at no charge
  • Leaf tea and espresso coffee are available from the on-site café (and included with the hire of meeting rooms and mediation packages)
  • Catering is available from the on-site cafe
  • Audio recording and video linking are available (at an additional charge, if booked in advance)
  • Photocopying and admin support are available (at an additional charge)
  • A JP is available on site

Room

What aspects of the room will be important? Examples might include:

  • Room size – do you want an intimate space or room to spread out?
  • Table shape – do you want round tables (which support shared conversation) or rectangular tables (which are better for paperwork and may be appropriate for opposing parties)
  • Chair style and comfort – long, complex conversations require comfortable chairs; moveable chairs that are height adjustable can be useful, but it’s important to ensure you start the session with all chairs at the same height
  • Number of meeting room doors – do you want multiple doors so that participants can exit without walking past each other?
  • Access to natural light – natural light helps people to relax and talk freely, but you want to make sure that no participant is looking directly into a bright window
  • Number of rooms available – you may need multiple rooms if participants need to discuss issues privately; booking three rooms gives you a neutral room for joint discussions plus a meeting room for each of two opposing parties
  • Sound proofing – is it important for the rooms to be sound proof or whisper quiet?

The rooms at Northside Meetings are designed for maximum flexibility:

  • All rooms have natural light and air-conditioning
  • The venue has three private meeting rooms and one large training room
  • Two of the meeting rooms have two doors, on opposite sides of the room
  • One meeting room has a rectangular table and comfortably sits six people; two meeting rooms have round tables and comfortably sit four people
  • The training room has moveable, rectangular tables and comfortable chairs
  • The meeting rooms have height-adjustable, moveable chairs
  • The rooms are quiet, but not sound proof

Atmosphere

What atmosphere will suit your session? Are your participants likely to be influenced by either the building or the room? For example:

  • Should the venue be a neutral space, or should it be linked to a company or legal practice?
  • Should the setting be formal or informal? Professional or community-based? Large or small?
  • Will lifts and corridors be confronting?
  • Will formal furniture stifle conversation?

Northside Meetings is designed to be quiet, neutral, friendly and professional. At the venue, you will find:

  • A professional yet slightly informal atmosphere
  • A Queensland-style, commercial character building
  • An intimate space with just three meeting rooms and one training room
  • The familiarity of a café environment
  • A quiet courtyard garden
  • Professional, friendly, neutral staff who will welcome all participants

Mix

What mix of venue options is most appropriate for this session? Every venue involves trade-offs, so it makes sense to choose a mix that suits you and the parties involved. Trade-offs might include:

  • Is the availability of separate entrances more important than access to technology?
  • Is parking more important than a central location?
  • Is informality more important than size?

Northside Meetings is suitable for meetings that require a professional space in an informal and calm café environment. The venue is likely to be appropriate if your session requires:

  • An intimate, friendly space
  • Professional resources (such as whiteboards and stationery)
  • On-site staff to support you with catering or equipment
  • Parking and easy suburban access
  • Wheelchair accessibility

Environment

What aspects of the surrounding environment are important? For example:

  • Is a leafy green suburb more appropriate than inner city?
  • Is parking important?
  • Do you need access to public transport?
  • Do you need a space that feels familiar to participants?
  • Do you require wheelchair access?
  • Do you need a venue that offers separate entrances for the parties and ensures they don’t meet in the corridor?

Northside Meetings is in the inner-Brisbane suburb of Red Hill. The venue offers:

  • Plenty of free, on-street parking
  • Good public transport access
  • Full wheelchair accessibility to the café and meeting rooms
  • A familiar, café environment
  • Several entrances, which allow participants to arrive and leave separately if required
  • No long corridors or lift wells

 

You are welcome to use and reproduce this content, providing you adknowledge Dr Judy Gregory and Northside Meetings as the source.