With every invitation comes a set of social rules. It always has. If you’re invited to a wedding, you RSVP, dress appropriately, arrive on time, and send a gift. If you work in an office environment, chances are that you spend a significant portion of your time (up to 12 hours per week!) in meetings or room booking––and are fielding a lot of invitations.
It’s up to all of us to make sure that the room booking and meeting workplace experience is positive. One of the best ways to do that is to follow the rules of etiquette for meetings. Think of this like a pre-meeting playbook. Here’s what to take into account and focus on in the all-important planning stages before meetings happen, whether you’re the host or a participant.
What to consider when planning a meeting
1. Know how many people are likely to attend before you make your meeting room booking.
Have you ever been in a meeting where there aren’t quite enough chairs for everyone? Have you ever been one of those people who can’t get a seat at the table, or find yourself balancing your computer on your lap as you squat on the floor? If you have, you know the pain of a meeting room booking that’s too small. On the other side, did you really need the boardroom designed for 30 to meet with four people? Did that seem awkward at all? Bottom line: make sure the room booking matches the size of the meeting.
2. Ensure that your meeting room booking has the equipment you’ll need.
One of the most frustrating (but frequent) workplace experiences that happen in meetings is trying to make do with inadequate technology—especially when the right equipment exists in other nearby rooms. The most common meeting room faux pas include not having videoconferencing equipment for external participants, phone equipment without a robust speaker system, or not enough plugs and charging stations for everyone if the meeting will be lengthy.
3. Be sure that the online invitation is clear, includes a title, dial-in instructions, and a room booking.
Nothing is more disruptive to a great workplace experience than uncertainty. Before you send out those meeting invitations and then get email responses that say things like “where is it?” or “What’s this about?” make sure you’ve included all the necessary information. If attendance is mandatory for some but optional for others, be sure that’s marked clearly.
4. Have a written agenda––and stick to it.
Before you set up your room booking, create an agenda for the meeting. You should know what you need to talk about and how long the discussion will take. Try to make meetings as short as possible. A good rule of thumb is that most meetings should take no longer than 30 minutes. If you think a meeting can take place over the phone in under 15 minutes, make that your first option. Hour-long sessions need a rigorous agenda that you stick to.
5. Meeting canceled? Clear the room booking for someone else.
The amount of time office workers lose merely looking for a place to meet is staggering. According to one survey, 70% of all workers spend up to 15 minutes a day just searching for a meeting space. That’s why it’s so important to give up a meeting room booking you’re not going to use. It’s easy to forget to cancel the room at the same time you cancel a meeting, but doing so leads to the unpleasant “ghost room” phenomenon. These are rooms that look booked but are in fact available. A room booking scheduling system to check-in and out of rooms takes the guesswork out of room booking so that others will be certain whether a room is available or not.
Here’s what to keep in mind if you’ve been invited to a meeting
1. Respond to the invitation so the host can make the correct room booking.
RSVP. You’ve seen those letters on countless invitations, but did you know that it’s an acronym for répondez s’il vous plaît—French for “please respond”? Your response to a meeting invitation is crucial to maximizing the meeting experience for everyone involved. One little tap in the affirmative or negative affects the size of the meeting room booking your host has made, the amenities the room can provide, and, if food and beverage service is involved, ensures the host orders the correct amount. If you respond that you’ll attend, and later learn you can’t make it, it’s vital to inform the host of the change. The same goes for changing from a “no” to a “yes.”
2. Arrive promptly to avoid the meeting going into overtime.
We know you’re busy, and it’s sometimes hard to get from one meeting to another quickly—especially if your back-to-back meetings are in different buildings! If that’s the story of your life, you can reduce your stress level (and everyone else’s) by letting the meeting host know that you’re running late. That way, the host has the option to move sections that need your input to later in the meeting. However, if you can get there on time, make every effort to do so. Late starts mean late finishes. And when that happens, the people who made the next room booking will also start late. Not only that, but they’ll also stand outside the conference room waiting for your meeting to end. You probably know what a time-waster that is—and how awkward it is if you’re sitting in the meeting.
3. Be mindful of food and drinks.
Meetings aren’t all that different from classrooms. If food is provided, it’s okay to eat. If it’s not, or if it’s not a lunch meeting where everyone brought a brown bag—don’t eat. Bringing water, soda, or coffee to a conference is practically expected, but food is problematic. It can make a mess, it can be noisy, and in close quarters, some foods are more aromatic than others. Since you’re in so many meetings per week, it’s vital that this element of the workplace experience is as pleasant as possible.
The way room booking happens is changing––and better meetings are possible because of it
Yes, all of these best practices seem like a lot to keep in mind for every single meeting you schedule or participate in. But the way we meet is changing, and we need to change (or at least review) our meeting etiquette rules to change with it. The good news is that the goal of this pre-meeting planning is to be mindful of our time, and other people’s time as well. We’re finally aware that we need to do what we can to shorten meetings, eliminate unnecessary ones, reduce frustration, and buy back more time for the creative work you love.
Get the must-have meeting management checklist, with all the tips you need for before, during, and after the meeting.