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Best free meeting locations

For anyone who does a fair bit of remote working as part of a flexible working routine, or because they travel a fair bit, the value of free meeting locations will be immediately apparent. And people who fit into that category is ever growing: with working life being revolutionised, particularly thanks to remote working becoming an increasingly realistic option, you might not have such a fixed idea of where your ‘place of work’ is these days.

But although you get tonnes done from the comfort of your sofa, there might also be times when you need to cast a slightly more professional aura. That’s why having a list of meeting locations is always a good idea.

And considering a lot of people are working remotely in part to save money on renting expensive offices, the thought of splashing out to hire fancy meeting spaces isn’t appealing. That’s why we’ve put together a list of free meeting locations you might like to consider next time you’re getting together with clients, investors or colleagues.

If it ain’t broke…

There’s a reason why some things are classics – they just work. When remote working was still a relatively new or niche practice, many people turned to cafes for their new desks. It makes sense: a steady availability of caffeine to keep you going, power sockets to keep your devices going, tables suitable for writing and laptops, free WiFi, usually a low level of background noise. Plus, we’ve found that using cafes as meeting spaces allows you to pursue the equally valuable investigation of mapping out the best culinary offerings in your area – always a useful area to be well-versed in.

If you have a nice, peaceful cafe nearby, it might be a great and super inexpensive location to host your next meeting. For the price of a round of cappuccinos, you and your invitees can sit and sip to your heart’s content.

But there are innovative iterations of this class. For people based in Manchester, you could try something like Ziferblat, where instead of paying for the delicious and varied (trust us!) food and drinks, you pay per minute that you’re there. At just 8p a minute, it’s a really affordable option which in a sense pays for itself, seeing as you can eat as much as you like and cover all your meals for the day! And if you’re not in Manchester, a quick Internet search will probably bring up similar ideas near you. The concept has proven so successful that it’s spread pretty rapidly!

You can also shake up the cafe routine a little by trying out a pub, a restaurant, a wine bar, a smoothie place, a bakery… you get the idea. Just keep in mind your attendees, their requirements and expectations, and make sure whatever you choose is going to be a suitable and comfortable working environment for everybody! For example, maybe don’t choose a straight-up steakhouse if there’s a vegan in attendance (we know someone who’s been there…), or a cocktail bar if you know there are non-drinkers, or it wouldn’t be appropriate to have a round of martinis. Of course, sometimes the building is so beautiful and ambience so peaceful that going in for an afternoon glass of fresh lemonade is still OK!

Get some fresh air

Another vintage nugget of wisdom. Again, our parents weren’t (just) suggesting this because it’s free – it can also be really intellectually liberating. It seems pretty intuitive that swapping a stuffy office cubicle for swathes of open, green space might change the way your brain is working. So why not consider a pretty local park or some peaceful gardens for free meeting location? It might mean that those in attendance are much more open-minded, receptive to new ideas and thinking in more dynamic, creative ways. Plus, pleasant views are sure to brighten everybody’s mood! Just be sure to check the weather forecast, or that there is some form of shelter nearby (again, looking especially at you Mancunians!).

Of course, the other potential downside or special consideration of this option is the lack of electricity you’re likely to find in public parks. Hopefully, your battery life is powerful enough to survive the meeting. And although not all of these kinds of spaces will provide WiFi to the public (although these days many do!), you might find that your 4G is sufficient, depending on your particular needs for the meeting.

When in doubt, go to the library

This pearl comes from the infinite depths of wisdom of Hermione Granger (via Ron’s adept paraphrasing), and it holds true even for remote workers. With the cumulative total of human knowledge constantly at our fingertips, plus e-readers and online shopping meaning books are a few clicks away, libraries often drift entirely out of our consciousness.

But they’re actually a great source of information and resources. And they also tend to have lots of great space open to the public, and providing power sockets, WiFi, computers, desks, writing equipment, and usually cafes serving up hot drinks and tasty lunches. Check out public libraries near you to see if there are any good options available as free meeting locations. If you’re a frequent remote worker, you could even go in and give it a few trial runs to see if it would be suitable for your next meeting!

Home away from home

Many of the people searching for free meeting locations are definitely those who have to travel for work. Even if you have a standing membership at a hot-desking or remote-working location which gives you an ‘office’ a few days out of each week or month, when you’re in a whole new city you’ve got to come up with new options.

But maybe you don’t need to think too far outside the box. In fact, maybe you don’t even need to think outside the building. Hotels tend to have great spaces in which you can have your meeting – again with all the amenities you might need.

And even if you aren’t actually staying in the hotel, you can probably head into the bar and buy a drink and host your meeting there, anyway! A lot of hotels – especially midweek – are mainly people with other travelling professionals, so the atmosphere tends to be quiet and focused, making it a really good option for your free business meeting location.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get

Another clichéd proverb which has survived because it continues to ring true, even in the search for free meeting locations. Sometimes, you just need to reach out to a venue and ask whether they might have an opening they’ll let you take advantage of. If it’s quite last minute and the slot has still not been filled, they might be willing to just let you use it – particularly somewhere that serves food or drink, and might still stand to get a little extra business. It also gives the venue a chance to advertise itself, and if you and your attendees are frequently looking for meeting space, making sure you remember their name in future won’t hurt.

Some places might also be willing to negotiate if you’ll share your attendee list with them. Or you could try and think of places which could really gain from the chance to network with you and your attendees. Even venues like Universities (which often have stunning spaces and incredible resources) are worth considering. They’re often keen to provide students with networking opportunities, and you could perhaps convince them to let you use their space in return for then agreeing to chat with students interested in your field.

Similarly, businesses dedicated to providing professional spaces to remote workers might be open to some negotiation. Again, it can function as a sort of free trial which can get them new clients down the line. And like in Universities, many of these places like to incorporate the opportunity to network as another asset which makes them attractive to clients. If you can show that you’d be a valuable group of people to have in the building (and open to talking to others), you might be able to get in the door for free. And after all, it can’t hurt to try!

Back to the sofa

For one final tired truism, there really is no place like home. Especially when it comes to being sure a meeting location is entirely free. In some situations, it’s totally appropriate to actually host the meeting at your house. If it’s colleagues you have a close working relationship with, for example, and you have enough space to accommodate the number of people involved, and it’s in a reasonable location for them to commute to, it might be a good choice.

But there’s also the always wonderful option of holding a virtual meeting. There are obviously things to consider when you’re deciding if you should host a conference call instead of a physical meeting, but generally the former comes with a load of great benefits and is very unlikely to have any drawbacks. There might be some exceptions – say you’re collaborative artists who need to work on the same canvas at the same time. But really, with all the amazing features available through conference bridges like WHYPAY?, most people will find all of their needs met. Even if you’ve got people abroad, WHYPAY? offers users international conference calls – and saves you the price of an aeroplane ticket!

And if you think your meeting might need a few extra bonuses, you can always look to Call.Group, which has some great added capabilities to make things like document sharing and live streaming a breeze.

By holding your meeting virtually, you eliminate the cost, time and effort involved in having everybody travel to one location, you guarantee that the meeting location will be totally free (if you choose a genuinely free teleconference provider like WHYPAY?), you’ll have recordings of the meeting to refer back to without having to scribble minutes… There are a lot of benefits to think about. When you’re planning a meeting, it’s always worth considering making it virtual.

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Gabi JamesBest free meeting locations
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