Meetings often get a bad rap. Sometimes it’s because they start late, run off course, or drag on past the ending time. Books have been written about how meetings suck, how they need to be run better or eliminated altogether.
But a good meeting can be the most effective way to clarify and update goals, align strategy and make critical decisions with the team, so it’s worth figuring out what makes for a positive experience.
Most of our collective attention focuses on the timing, the agenda and the participants involved. But one factor that’s often overlooked is the meeting space itself. The process of finding and reserving the right room for a particular type of meeting, then getting everything in that space to work properly, can upend what could have otherwise been a smooth, productive meeting.
Here are some aspects of the meeting room experience to think about:
1. A smooth room booking experience
Most professionals have found some sort of meeting scheduling tool that works for them. It might be a shared company calendar like Outlook or Google Calendar, or a standalone tool like Need to Meet or Doodle.
But unless those tools tie in to your company’s meeting room reservation system, they’re only doing half the job. What good is it to have an agreed-upon meeting time, if there’s nowhere to meet?
Even if the meeting is remote, users who work in an open office layout are still going to need somewhere quiet to take the conference or video call – and they’re going to need a phone, display screen or WiFi in that space.
That’s why the most productive companies have a meeting scheduling option that integrates with their room reservation software.
2. Reserved really means reserved
It happens all the time: Somebody reserves a meeting room through a shared calendar, but when they arrive for the meeting, someone else is in the room.
If the meeting schedule posted next to the room – if there is one – isn’t up-to-date, it’ll create scheduling conflict for employees. It doesn’t matter if the format is paper or digital, if the meeting information isn’t updated in real-time, people eventually start to ignore what it says.
If the meeting organizer is lucky or persuasive, the room squatter will clear out once they realize that another meeting was scheduled for that space and time. But if the person who’s already in the room is deep in conversation, the original meeting organizer has to decide between a few less-than-ideal options, all of which include the awkward dance of making uncomfortable faces and gestures to the other person:
- Hover at the door and hope the discussion wraps up soon
- Knock and interrupt
- Find another space
Effective meeting scheduling signage benefits everyone: The people who are already holding a meeting don’t get interrupted with “are you almost done” inquiries, and the people who are arriving for the next meeting don’t have to stress about whether the room will open up in time.
3. The right room equipment
Whether it’s having enough chairs or functional presentation equipment, one of the biggest hurdles to efficient meetings is having the right tools. Research has shown that, of the total number of meetings that overrun their scheduled time, 21% of them run over as a direct result of problems with meeting room equipment.
This doesn’t always mean the equipment is broken. Often it’s a disconnect between the meeting organizer’s expectations or assumptions, and the reality of what’s available in the space they reserved.
This is less of a problem for smaller companies, where end users can remember which meeting rooms have which videoconferencing systems. But at bigger companies, where employees are less familiar with each room’s technology equipment, this kind of disconnect is responsible for hundreds of hours of lost meeting time every month or year.
Another way to help end users get the right spaces for their different types of meetings is to have a room scheduling system that allows them to sort and schedule based on what’s available in the rooms. Then they’re fully empowered to choose the right room for the kind of meeting they’re expecting to have, whether it’s a brainstorming session or a formal client presentation.
If all three of these bases are covered, your coworkers should be able to look back on their meeting room experiences as productive and professional – and save your IT department a lot of last-minute troubleshooting.
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