Meetings. Everyone has them. Not everyone likes them. Not everyone does well at them. But no matter how amazing you are at holding meetings, and no matter how good your conference room tech is, there’s always a human element at play. And it’s the human element that can derail your meeting before it’s even started—as early as booking the room.
If you’ve worked in an office you know the feeling—standing outside the door, tapping your feet, wondering if the people in the conference room that you booked are going to leave. Valuable minutes tick by, and before you know it, the delays cascade through your company like winter weather holding up flights at an airport.
Conference room jacking
This is one of the simplest, and probably most common, conference booking faux pas. This one is simple. You just show up to a room that you haven’t booked and you take possession of it. After all, possession is nine tenths of the law, right? In truth, using a vacant conference room isn’t a problem in and of itself. The problem comes when people park themselves without checking in conference rooms that other people have already booked—and obviously without leaving when the people who actually did book the room show up.
If you vacate the room when the rightful tenants arrive, it’s probably not the end of the world (even though most people hate having to kick people out of conference rooms). But if you stay put, it sends the message that you think you’re better than your coworkers, and that’s a recipe for unrest in the modern office.
Conference room jacking is easy to avoid, though. If you’re about to borrow a conference room that’s vacant, just check to see when it’s booked by someone else, and vacate the room by their meeting start time.
Conference room squatting
There’s nothing like wearing out your welcome to rub your coworkers the wrong way. And while most people have the patience for a minute or two of grace after your meeting has ended, staying in your conference room for 5, 10, even 15 minutes past your meeting when another group has it booked is incredibly inconsiderate. You’re now wasting their time and inhibiting their productivity. Employees who do this are essentially saying that their time is more valuable than whoever is waiting on them. That’s no way to treat your coworkers. Plus, by delaying their meeting 5 minutes, you delay the team after them 5 minutes and so on—creating cascading delays and a pileup of lost productivity.
If you need to, you can always keep a timer or countdown clock where you can see it as a reminder. Setting an alarm on your phone or laptop reminding you that you’ve only got 5 minutes left is also handy. And if all of that’s still too much work for you—delegate a timekeeper to call out warnings as you reach 5 minutes until meeting end, 2 minutes, 1 minute, time.
Conference room camping
Conference room camping is when you (and probably at least a few of your coworkers) stay in a conference room all day—or even for days on end. Regardless of whether you’ve booked the room or not, this tends to be very disruptive since most companies have far less meeting space than they need. There’s rarely a genuine need for conference room camping (set aside crisis management situations or kaizens). Plus, to be frank, it tends to leave conference rooms strewn with trash and a little musty.
Got something that’s going to take a while? Consider breaking it up into chunks and spreading it out across different days and meeting rooms. Instead of a full day in one meeting room, maybe you do the morning in one room and the afternoon in another. Or perhaps you do two half day meetings on consecutive days. You could even consider trying to have half the meeting in a conference room for in-person interaction and holding a video collaboration session for the other half of your meeting to really free up some conference room space.
Either way, you’re going to be less disruptive to your fellow conference room bookers, and it’s going to encourage you to clean up and air the room out—which will be greatly appreciated by everyone who has to use it after you.
Conference room marathon booking
This is where someone books a conference room for long swaths of time – sometimes weeks on end – just so it’s available when they need it. This is like conference room camping on steroids for even less considerate people. The reason this rubs people the wrong way is that you’re basically inconveniencing everyone else based on your slightest whim. Maybe you’ll need the room. Maybe you won’t. Either way, nobody else can have it because nobody else comes close to being as important as you are, right?
If you’re a founder or CEO, chances are this isn’t too hard to get away with (even though it will still color your employees’ perception of you). If you’re not, this tactic can help you make enemies rather quickly.
Marathon booking is also common when it comes to visiting consultants. Companies often cordon off a conference room for several weeks, sometimes months, for on-site consultants working on special projects. You quickly see how much it disrupts business as the usual patterns of conference room booking break down. When group A’s usual room goes off-limits, they try to shift all their meetings to another room nearby. Unfortunately, that happens to be the go-to conference room of group B and C. Before you know it, the groups are sniping at each other in the hallways as they’re forced to fight over even more finite resources, everyone losing patience, but having little recourse.
While there’s not always a better solution in cases like visiting consultants, there can be ways to reduce the disruption to everyday business. For starters, considering using less-used rooms. For example, I know that conference rooms are perpetually double booked near my area but there’s a room on a different floor that’s almost always vacant. It may not be as convenient, but it’s a lot less disruptive. You can also consider putting consultants at empty desks if you have them, and simply let them book rooms as-needed like everyone else. Even if they need to use them frequently, opening up a conference room for 50 percent more time can make a big difference to regular business operations.
Conference room commandeering
No room booking faux pas comes with more bravado than this. In conference room commandeering, you simply walk in and take possession of a room like a pirate captain takes a ship.
If you’re the head of PR coordinating the response to a major PR crisis, conference room commandeering may be merited. But if you’re not a fairly important player dealing with a fairly important and urgent issue, commandeering is not recommended.
A surprising solution to conference room booking issues
We’ve talked about several common conference room booking problems today, as well as ways to address them, but there’s one less common solution to booking faux pas that may be more effective than any on the list yet—have less meetings.
With good team collaboration software, your teams can get more done without having to jump into a room together. The software becomes a virtual conference room. File sharing and screen sharing become the white boards. And if you use video-enabled collaboration, you can really get the visual cues to get the full personal experience—and nobody can squat, jack, camp or commandeer.