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A lesson in conference room etiquette

We’ve all been there. You’re in a conference room deep in discussion with colleagues. It’s a collaborative conversation and the energy is creative and productive. Everyone’s participating, ideas are taking shape, and you’re assigning action items.

Then it happens: Someone knocks on the meeting room glass and the conversation comes to a halt. They’re standing outside—a group of people from another team—staring at you. The conference room has been double-booked. 

Do you hold your ground and make the other team find another room? If you do, an argument may ensue, ruining the dynamics of your productive meeting and possibly squelching your creativity. Worse yet, an argument can cause ill will between teams. But giving up the room means you would have to search for another one—quickly—or cut the meeting short. 

6 ways to be mindful of conference room etiquette

Conference rooms are shared spaces in the workplace, but not everyone respects proper etiquette for reserving and using them. This can hamper meeting productivity and degrade the overall workplace experience for everyone.

Here are six ways to preserve proper conference room etiquette and avoid frustrating meeting interruptions, especially when meeting room space is limited:

1) Respect your co-workers’ time

You’re probably swamped with work and busy putting out fires, but so is everyone else. Everyone’s time is important, so respect it. Book your meeting room early, rather than just minutes before the meeting, to give others ample notice that you’ll be using the space.

If you have to cancel, follow the same rule—cancel as early as you can so someone else can book the room if they need it. Lastly, stick to the schedule. Try not to run over or boot people from the previous meeting out early. Always make an effort to start and end on time. 

2) No squatting!

Empty rooms aren’t necessarily available. Meetings don’t always start on the hour—if you assume a room isn’t booked because no one is in it and it’s a quarter past the hour, you may be interrupted and asked to leave when you least expect it. Impromptu meetings can be held in the lunchroom, common areas or outside—walking meetings are a healthy and fun alternative to taking up office space.

Before ducking into the nearest empty room, take a moment to check the schedule and make sure no one has already booked it. Also, watch out for double-booking mishaps. Some scheduling systems allow you to choose multiple rooms to see what’s available and it’s easy to forget to unselect the unwanted rooms. Check twice to make sure you haven’t booked multiple rooms.

3) Be aware of your surroundings

Close the door during meetings. In many of today’s modern workplaces, people work in an open environment. Conference rooms surround the workspace, and if a door is left open, conversations during meetings can be distracting and annoying to people outside the meeting room. Not only is it distracting, but it also reduces the productivity of others working in the office. 

4) Remember remote employees

Not all meeting attendees will be present. Make sure you have technology in place to make it easy for remote employees to not only attend, but hear and be heard so they can participate and contribute to the conversation. Conferencing software, such as Zoom, can provide a seamless experience for attendees who call in from a satellite office, home, or coffee shop.

5) Clean up after yourself

Make sure you leave the room as you found it (or better). Log off from your meeting and leave all video conferencing equipment in the room. Remove any trash or food and push the chairs in. You don’t want to waste meeting time getting the room in order before you begin, so be considerate about others and leave the room in good shape so they can start on time.

6) Be mindful of the needs of others

This is good advice in any scenario, but when it comes to conference room etiquette, respecting the needs of others can improve productivity and the workplace experience as a whole.

If you’re meeting involves a small group, don’t reserve the largest room—leave that for larger groups that will need more space and chairs. If you’ve accidentally double-booked a room, and you know your meeting isn’t as critical or time-sensitive as the other person’s meeting, be gracious and offer to give up your spot. Courteous behavior goes a long way toward building trust and creating goodwill with co-workers. 

Make the most of your meetings and everyone’s time

Meetings are essential for collaborating and brainstorming effectively, as well as for helping to build comradery among teammates. But poor conference room etiquette can defeat the purpose. Remembering these simple tips will keep co-workers happy and productive, and help to foster a culture of teamwork in your organization.

Beyond proper etiquette, having the right technology can help make the most of your meetings. Check out this post by Envoy’s Head of Workplace Technology, Matt Harris, to learn how you can implement practical workplace technology in your conference rooms and other shared spaces.