June 2023 – Every Kid (and Simulation Team) Wants Their Own Room

Everyone likes having their own room – but what if the simulation teams in your class have to share?

A typical business simulation class has 2 main elements – a group lecture/discussion segment and a simulation segment with the competing teams.  A key decision point in your planning is whether you’ll conduct both segments in the same room or if you’ll provide separate rooms for each of the teams in which to run their simulations.

For virtual classes, the pandemic helped make the answer simple – separate virtual team rooms.  At PriSim, we use Zoom’s Breakout Room feature to easily create virtual team rooms.  Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and other virtual meeting packages also offer similar options.

However, for a live class the decision is not as simple, and you’ll need to consider if a combined room or separate rooms will work best.  Having to walk between rooms to coach teams may seem like a pedestrian issue… but it’s actually an important consideration.  What if the team rooms are on the other side of the building, in a different building, or 5 floors up in skyboxes at Gillette Stadium (actually happened)?

And for some simulations, such as PriSim’s BizFighter.EXE simulation that includes multiple disruptor memos, using a combined main/team room is not an option because teams need to interact extensively and privately with instructors, including during disruptor-specific role-play.  But then again, you probably shouldn’t decide to use separate team rooms with a long commute or other inconveniences just so you can get your Fitbit steps in…

Regardless of whether you decide to combine or separate rooms, each team’s table arrangement is best set up in a ‘T’ formation, close to power, and arranged so that all participants have a good view of their team’s computer monitor.  Here’s a PriSim video describing our process.

Option 1 – A Dual-Function, Combined Main Room/Team Room

Placing the competing teams all together in the main room can have several advantages:

  • Easier and quicker to coach teams and to manage the simulation and the multiple computers.
  • No commute time required for teams to transition from the group sessions to running their simulations.
  • Can easily make announcements and time-checks to the entire group at once.
  • Can connect multiple teams to the same printer and other equipment, reducing equipment costs and setup/troubleshooting time.
  • There is a combined energy and excitement when all the teams are competing in the same room. And much more opportunity for trash talking…

But it also brings with it several drawbacks:

  • Can be chaotic, loud, and distracting for the teams.
  • Constrains team discussions and encourages whispering and stealth as competing teams can hear and see each other and their workspaces.
  • Depending on the size of the room, it may feel cramped and disorganized.

Several best practices we can recommend based on PriSim’s experience using combined rooms include:

  • Arrange the room, table location and orientation, and flip charts to create visual privacy.
  • Play music to create sound privacy. At PriSim’s classes, we bring a Milwaukee Tools bluetooth speaker with us to create ambient white noise, and we use an unobtrusive Spotify playlist as background.
  • Turn the team’s computer monitors so that they face away from other teams and can’t easily be seen.
  • Will need to run power to each table across floor or use floor outlets – arrange cords and conduits so they don’t create a tripping hazard.
  • And a caution on power usage – printers and equipment all connected in one room can overload electrical circuits and bring the class to a halt (yes, we’ve experienced this).

Option 2 – A Separate Room for Each Team

Providing the competing teams with separate rooms has several significant advantages, and is typically PriSim’s first-choice:

  • Teams are able to work in a private war-room space and can discuss, strategize, and notate on white boards/flip charts much more freely.
  • Instructors can coach each team privately and more extensively without other teams hearing.
  • Can utilize wall monitors and projectors in the team rooms as the other teams can’t see them.

However, there can be drawbacks:

  • Commute times between the main room and team rooms can be frustrating for both participants and instructors.
  • Printers can’t easily be shared, and teams will likely each need their own printer/other equipment.
  • It can be hard to reach instructors for coaching and guidance. This can be mitigated by giving teams the instructor’s phone number to text, but even then connectivity is often still an issue.
  • Communication is more difficult, e.g., the instructor will need to go to every team room to make announcements and time-checks.
  • Teams can feel isolated and impatient with lags between interactions with the instructor.
  • Reserving enough team rooms may be difficult or require a long lead time.

Best practices when using separate team rooms include:

  • Make sure the rooms are easily accessible to participants and the instructors. Do not use rooms on floors that are not serviced by elevators and that require stairs for access.
  • If the rooms are on different floors, beware of potential elevator logjams and delays that can lengthen the commute times – and the aggravation-level of both participants and instructors.
  • Avoid using rooms that are in different buildings (yes, we’ve experienced this).
  • If your client has a high-security environment, be aware of security-escorts that might be required to walk outside of the main room, including trips to the restrooms (yes, we’ve also experienced this at aerospace and defense clients).
  • Leave your fancy but uncomfortable dress shoes at home – you’ll be walking a lot. Instead, we advise fashionable but cushiony athletic shoes.
  • Depending on the simulation you are using, you may require an internet connection in each room, which can be an issue in far-flung rooms.
  • As above, you can give teams your phone number to text for help, but we’ve found that connectivity is often still an issue.
  • Work with your client to reserve the rooms early in your planning process, and to ensure they are on a 24-hour hold and that they won’t be used for other purposes during the class.
  • Make sure the rooms are big enough – supply closets won’t work…
  • Get a map of the floor plan and team room spaces, including room-sizes so you can plot and plan accordingly.

If you’ll only have one room available for both group and team segments, your simulation teams will have to share.  But ideally, if you can find A Quiet Place for each of your simulation teams separately (but without the creepy creatures) – they’ll walk all the way back to the main room and thank you for it.