Mediation is now a recognised and important tool in dispute resolution.  Frequently the courts will order mediation in the first instance and this provides parties an excellent opportunity to resolve disputes without expensive litigation.

Increasingly mediation is being held in a neutral venue to the parties so as to provide the greatest chance of achieving a successful outcome.

Critical Success Factors of the Mediation Venue

There is now significant anecdotal evidence from experienced mediators that the choice of the mediation venue plays an important role in determining the success and outcome of that mediation

The critical elements of that success are –

  • Understanding the effect of the physical environment on the overall communication process as a driver of mediation outcomes;
  • Using the environment to influence the non-verbal messages conveyed during the process
  • Avoid images, features and room layout that are normally associated with the adversarial system yet are comfortable and semi-formal
  • Provide privacy and confidentiality whilst at the same time accessibility
  • Provide facilities such as wi-fi, telephones, printers, tea, coffee and chilled water that assist the overall mediation process
  • Enable the continuation of lengthy negotiations by providing flexible opening and closing hours

These factors, when combined with the skill of the mediator, provide him/her greater opportunity to resolve the dispute between the parties.

Linking Venue Characteristics to Mediation Outcomes

By understanding the mediation process and the outcomes it seeks to achieve, we can then provide and link the venue and environment so that it supports and promotes successful outcomes.



Mediation Process & Outcomes


 Venue Features & Characteristics

Mediator is Impartial & Independent



Reinforce that impartiality by setting up rooms that are neutral and non-legalistic


Provide flexibility to the mediator to utilise their unique methods



Outline each Parties Position & Perspective



Provide a Major Negotiation room where parties can come together, that facilitates and allows broad discussion


Conference Room should discourage an adversarial attitude and confrontational atmosphere



Promote Open & Constructive Discussion Amongst All Parties



Room configurations should be flexible to accommodate the mediator’s preferences


Venue staff must be friendly yet professional and have a deep understanding of the mediation processes


Facilities should provide  communication-aides such as whiteboards, flip-charts and audio visual equipment


·Provide tea, coffee and refreshment facilities



Enable Neutrality, Privacy & Confidentiality



Rooms should provide visual privacy, be soundproofed and accessible to break-out rooms


All rooms should ensure an atmosphere that is non-legalistic and facilitate and enhance confidential discussions with representatives



Allow Private Discussions for Each Party & Mediator



Provide suitable break-out rooms for each party to the mediation


Ensure each room is private and functional


Ensure close proximity of all rooms to ensure a smooth flow of the mediation process



Encourage & Empower Decision-Making & Agreement



Provide an environment that encourages brainstorming and creative problem-solving


Enable the decision makers to be able to have sufficient space and time to arrive at proper agreement



Enable Mediation Closing



Provide adequate facilities to type and print agreement documents


Have flexibility around opening and closing hours to facilitate complex and elongated negotiations that may lead to agreement




Mediation is often difficult due to the stress and emotional toll it can take on all parties to a dispute.  As we have articulated the environment is an integral part of the process and if set-up properly can significant add to the chance of a successful outcome.

Having staff that deeply understand the mediation process as well as the impact on the parties and a venue that is specifically established and caters for mediation will enable mediators to concentrate their efforts and skills on the process and outcomes.

By Kevin Timoney (Director)