How to Buy a Conference Table

Now this conference room table is the stuff of legend -- big enough to accommodate  large groups, wired for sound and able to support your most impressive floral arrangements. We're guessing meetings last awhile at this table.

Now this conference room table is the stuff of legend, big enough to accommodate large groups, wired for sound and able to support your most impressive floral arrangements. We’re guessing meetings last awhile at this table.

Conference rooms are used for everything from board meetings to interviews and presentations to brainstorming sessions. As the centerpiece of the room, your conference room table makes a big statement about your business to employees, shareholders and clients alike. The room needs to offer inspiration, comfort and function, so don’t just select the first big table you come across and call it a day.

To help you start shopping, we rounded up seven things you want to consider when purchasing your next table:

1. Size: Obviously, the size of the room the table will be going will be in as well as the average number of people the table needs to fit will be the guiding factors in the type of table you pick. Measure the size of your conference room, and select a table that will fit proportionally in the space, leaving enough room for people to get up and walk around the table. Make sure to factor in ancillary furniture and equipment;  these are things like lecterns and podiums, AV carts and projectors that might be needed in the room as well when selecting your table size.

2. Shape: Conference room tables come in a variety of shapes. The shape of the table you buy will largely be dependent on the shape of the room it’s going in (obviously, an oblong table won’t fit well into a square room). For smaller rooms, round or octagonal tables are the most efficient and offer a more casual, comfortable and intimate meeting style. For larger rooms, shape options include rectangular, racetrack or oval, U shaped and boat shaped (with convex sides and tapered ends). If your company places a lot of emphasis on hierarchy, then a traditional rectangular table is ideal for giving company executives and upper management prominent seating. But if the basic rectangle is a little too safe for your liking, ovals or boat-shaped tables can offer more aesthetic interest.

This rich, mahogany conference room table is just looking for the next big deal-making meeting featuring huge profit projections and much handshaking.

This rich, mahogany conference room table is just waiting for the next big deal-making meeting featuring huge profit projections and much handshaking.

3. Material: The material your table is made of makes a visual statement about your business. You can find conference room tables made from a variety of materials including everything from engineered wood covered in laminate to glass to granite. If you think your conference room will be in use constantly, then select more durable materials like laminate or hardwood. If your business wants to make more eco-friendly choices in office furniture, look for tables made from recycled material or FSC-certified wood and low-VOC stains, varnishes and glue. Better yet, buy used and rescue a previously unwanted table from a landfill. Tables made of engineered wood and laminates or veneers will be less expensive than those that are hardwood, granite or glass.

4. Style: The type of material your table is made of, the shape and the overall design of the table are a reflection of your company’s aesthetic and vision. Style-wise, a hardwood table made out of maple, cherry or mahogany is timeless and versatile. If you’re looking to project a more classic image, look for wood tables in darker finishes accented with molding, scrollwork, shells or leaves ala “Mad Men.” But if you’d prefer a more modern take, shop for pieces with straight, sophisticated lines or those that mix materials and colors for unique visual appeal. Whatever you decide, make sure it complements the rest of your office furniture.

5. Price: Obviously, depending on the size of your company, price is a huge factor in your decision-making process. A small startup with a shoestring budget might lust after the gorgeous granite 12-seater, but your wallet balks at the $16,500 price tag. Luckily, even if you can’t afford that custom-made glass table with the company logo etched in the center, there are still ways you can find beautiful, functional tables that fit your budget. We recommend shopping used first because you can save 50 or even 70 percent on refurbished or lightly-owned pieces in a variety of styles. Craigslist, eBay, and, of course, Arnolds all have great deals waiting for you. If you’d prefer to buy new, however, save money by shopping for tables made of engineered woods and topped with a laminate or wood veneer.

6. Power: Now more than ever, businesses rely on technology to share information and make presentations. Chances are, conference room meetings will make use of laptops, tablets, projectors, phones and other equipment that requires a power source. Most modern conference room tables have easy-access outlets and cable management systems built in to make running meetings a breeze. Before shopping, consider the type of meetings your company generally has. If you’re more low-tech you could save money and forego a more connected table. However, if you use a lot of Power Point and video conferencing, you’ll definitely want to find one with power.

7. Versatility: Before purchasing one for your office, consider how the room will be used. Will it be primarily for large group meetings? Training? Small group meetings? Your conference room table doesn’t need to be one size fits all. Tables are available as one solid piece or made as segments that can be connected into one large table or separated for work in smaller groups or for classroom-style presentations.

Start shopping for your conference room table at Arnolds.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Augapfel/Flickr

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