Business Resources

How to stop holding meetings in cafes without renting an office

We share a list of alternative work spaces you can use without renting an office-while maintaining your professionalism and productivity.

By

Chris Andreou

Two entrepreneurs conducting a business meeting at a coffee shop

If you're just starting a business, meeting with clients can be tough. Chances are you don't have the luxury of a company-owned conference room that offers a natural spot to engage and be productive.

As a result, many freelancers and entrepreneurs branch out to coffee shops.

But is that really a better choice? Places like Starbucks and Costa tend to be crowded, causing you to fight for a spot-and even when you find one, the lack of privacy can make it difficult to hold a substantial conversation.

That matters, whether you're trying to meet with clients, interview potential new employees, or engage in any other formal business meeting. You might even get a coffee for free but everything else, though, tends to be difficult to manage.

Fortunately, that's not your only option. With the right planning process in place, you can find more professional and productive places to hold business meetings that don't require you to rent office space long-term.

Consider these six alternatives for your plans instead.

Introduction

If you're just starting a business, meeting with clients can be tough. Chances are you don't have the luxury of a company-owned conference room that offers a natural spot to engage and be productive.

As a result, many freelancers and entrepreneurs branch out to coffee shops.

But is that really a better choice? Places like Starbucks and Costa tend to be crowded, causing you to fight for a spot—and even when you find one, the lack of privacy can make it difficult to hold a substantial conversation.

That matters, whether you're trying to meet with clients, interview potential new employees, or engage in any other formal business meeting. You might even get a coffee for free but everything else, though, tends to be difficult to manage. 

Fortunately, that's not your only option. With the right planning process in place, you can find more professional and productive places to hold business meetings that don't require you to rent office space long-term.

Consider these six alternatives for your plans instead.

1. Leverage a videoconferencing system

Why leave the house at all?

Videoconferencing has become a viable alternative for business meetings of all kinds. It allows everyone on the call to be within their comfort zone, while still ensuring productivity on all ends.

Group calls help multiple attendees get their thoughts in. Screen sharing allows you to discuss anything from reports to business plans while ensuring visibility for all. And of course, the flexibility you get by not having to get together physically allows you to expand your attendee list even internationally.

To ensure your videoconferencing is productive, find a space that has good lighting and isolates you from anything—family or pets—that might also be going on in your home. You will also need to choose among the many videoconferencing software packages to find one that works in terms of both pricing and features.

Be careful though: videoconferencing doesn't fully replace an in-person conversation.

One of its main drawbacks includes the lack of ability to read body language, which can lead to misunderstandings. Still, it is the antithesis to coffee shop meetings in offering significant flexibility and privacy.

coworking spaces in london UK

2. Find a co-working space

You might have heard of co-working spaces, which have popped up over the last decade as professionals are increasingly working remotely.

At their core, these spaces are businesses looking to rent out rooms and offices on a short-term basis. That could make them a great alternative for your meetings.

London alone has countless co-working spaces to choose from. For as little as £30 per hour, you can rent a small office that might be enough for one-on-one meetings. Pay a little more, and you get a small conference room with the basic technology to make your meetings more effective.

In a co-working space, you get the professional environment a meeting at Starbucks can't provide. You get privacy for formal conversations, and the technology you need to optimise the meeting itself, all for a reasonable price.

At the same time, it can be difficult to find an option for single, simple meetings. Many of the popular spaces in London rent by the week or month, and they tend to be optimised for office rather than meeting spaces. If you find a spot, you're in luck. If you don't, other alternatives might work better.

Team Guild, The Spaces and the balance, highlight some of London's amazing co-working spots.

3. Rent a hotel conference room

Did you know that most hotels open up their conference rooms to more people than just their guests?

There is no shortage of hotels in a metropolis like London. All of them are a potential opportunity for your business meetings.

Compared to co-working options mentioned above, this is likely more expensive. You also get a more defined experience. The conference room will closely follow the overall rating of the hotel, which means you can easily estimate the quality of the room. When in doubt, tour it ahead of time.

The drawbacks of this option is the fact that in a given hotel, space tends to be limited to a couple of rooms.

If you like a specific space, there is no guarantee you can get it next time. And if a business group plans a stay, or a conference will occur in the near future, it might well be booked out.

Planning ahead is key. If you want to book a hotel conference room, try to at least reserve the space a week ahead of time.

There are some great hotel lobbies to work / meet-up in London.

4. Check with your local library

When it comes to business meetings, libraries tend to be paradoxes.

On the one hand, they are public spaces that get quite the foot traffic. On the other, they're much calmer than your average Starbucks, allowing for plenty of privacy. 

What makes libraries so attractive in this scenario is that, like hotels, many libraries have private or semi-private rooms that are available for reservation or rent.

These spaces are not always defined conference rooms, which could be a problem if you want to stick to established business norms and standards.

You might instead get a more casual sitting room, potentially without video and multimedia capabilities. At the same time, you can expect plenty of privacy for a price that's much lower than your average hotel.

Some experts believe that meeting in a space surrounded by books increases productivity. Even if that isn't the case, it's easy to see how everyone in the meeting can be more motivated by an environment that communicates knowledge and expertise.

Some libraries do not have private rooms, which make them difficult to plan with. It's important to scout the space first, which helps you make sure that everything is right according to your needs before you reserve it.

Do it right, and you get a convenient, cost-effective meeting space.

The City of Westminster has a number of rooms for hire across its venues.

man-and-woman-in-library-work-room-consulting-on-work-with-laptop-and-notepad-at-table

5. Book a table at a local restaurant

Looking for a casual conversation rather than a formal business meeting?

Once you take the problems with a coffee shop like Starbucks out of the equation, you're not left with many options. A restaurant, though, might be your best alternative.

In this space, you can reserve a table ahead of time, taking care of the space issue.

You can also request a table in a quiet location, which —in addition to the fact that restaurants are generally more quiet—makes it easier to hold a substantive conversation. Many restaurants have private rooms available for larger groups, which can work well for a planning meeting you don't want the larger public to overhear. 

On the flip side, restaurants only make sense for meeting where you're familiar with the people involved in the meeting or want to deliberately create a casual atmosphere. It's more difficult to take notes and share handouts, and almost impossible to have a formal presentation. 

When choosing a restaurant for your next meeting, do your homework.

Find out how much space you will have, as well as the atmosphere in the space. It also doesn't hurt to learn about the time it takes to get the meal, which can help when building a more formal agenda in this type of environment.

Here are some great places to hold a business lunch.

6. Consider a virtual office

Finally, don't underestimate the potentially considerable benefits of a virtual office.

This option is a much more comprehensive alternative to a simple meeting space; you also get front desk services, a mail location, and more. Still, it's worth looking at the benefits of renting a virtual office space specifically as it relates to holding meetings.

First, many providers let you use their space on an ad-hoc basis.

That means you can be flexible in terms of how you want to meet, and how often you need to get together. That, in turn, can be invaluable for any new business owner or freelancer needing to optimise their time.

Second, you get a more reliable space than in many of the other alternatives discussed above.

Virtual offices are specifically set up for purposes like yours, and the space won't be as crowded or multi-use oriented as a traditional co-working space would be. That makes it perfect for both formal and casual conversations around your business and projects.

Finally, the features a virtual office can provide go beyond meeting space, but fit naturally into your business operations. A front desk staff that knows your business, for instance, can direct guests to the right place and offers a point of contact before and after the meeting.

In conclusion

All of the six alternatives in this article are relevant and in many ways more beneficial than simply meeting in a cafe.

Chances are they all raise both productivity and professionalism as you try to impress internal and external stakeholders. Which is the best choice, ultimately, depends on your situation.

In many cases, virtual offices are a great opportunity. In others, videoconferencing may be enough.

Worth noting that Cheryl Laidlaw has compiled a list of some of the best places to meet up in London.

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