by Rita Bailey

Assessment and preparation

The ground needs to be properly prepared before any mediation meeting.

Assessing readiness

At this stage, check on individual readiness to meet at a mutually convenient time. You may need to go back and forth a few times to assess and build commitment to the process, especially if one or both of the parties still has some doubt about participating.

If both sides agree to meet, it will be important to prepare by considering what was discussed at the individual meetings. Think through any potential issues or strategies you may use to support the exchange.

Where possible, the meeting room should have waiting room space and should be somewhere away from the usual working area or work team. At the very least, it must be a private space, where others who are not involved cannot see or hear what is going on – so no glass door, for example.


Individuals may arrive earlier than expected, so be prepared at least 30 minutes beforehand. Arrange the meeting space, tables, lighting and room temperature and a flip chart, if you need one for mapping matters out. Ensure that the room is set up to minimise any differences in status and there is a comfortable distance between chairs.

Make a note of the correct pronunciation of individual names, if they are unknown to you.

If the venue is unfamiliar, check out the telephone facilities and parking regulations.

Make sure there is space for waiting and perhaps a separate meeting room if this may be required during the mediation session.

Decide whether you need a table. A table can be a form of barrier, so it may be best to do without one; on the other hand, if you do need a table, a round one creates an egalitarian atmosphere.

Remember that seating arrangements convey non-verbal messages about status, safety and what to expect. Any arrangements should ensure that everyone involved can hear and see the others and everyone feels safe and comfortable about the proceedings. The mediator should sit the same distance from each participant, while communicating authority and controlling the process. Ensure that the participants are not sitting opposite each other, as this can suggest an adversarial position.