How to Improve Your Office Meetings

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We here at Roomzilla love technology and how it can make office lives easier, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that technology exists to serve people, and not the other way around! Today we wanted to talk about how etiquette in the office, and especially in meetings, is more important than ever. A quick internet search turns up several articles about how to book conference space and find collaboration solutions for the workplace. There are lots of rules, but they all come down to how we interact with our coworkers. As you prepare for your next meeting, approach it not with dread (that one guy who always cracks inappropriate jokes will be there), or annoyance (I don’t have time to sit in ANOTHER useless meeting) but confidence in your skills as a human. We’ll help!

First, take a deep breath; conference room bookings don’t have to be painful. Meeting room reservation software is a fantastic tool to prevent double bookings and protect against no-shows, but don’t forget about the humans involved. Before you check for meeting room availability, talk with your team about the conference venue. What is the right size for the meeting? It’s easy to pull in everyone on the floor, but your purpose may be accomplished with a smaller group of people in a smaller conference space or training room. The more intimate environment might also bring out your team’s, well, teamwork. Check in with your colleagues also to find the right time for the meeting. With tools like video conferencing and web conferencing, everyone doesn’t need to be in the same place for a successful meeting. Finally, especially if you are the team leader or the meeting facilitator, honestly assess whether a meeting is necessary. If your objective can be accomplished with an email or, even better, a phone or in-person conversation, you will give your team extra productive time. If you’ve decided that the meeting isn’t necessary, cancel it immediately and get the word out, not only to your team, but to the rest of the office, so other teams will know the conference room is available to them.

Once you’ve chosen a time and made your conference room reservation, communicate to your team the details of the meeting, including the agenda and the style. Will this be an open brainstorming session? Will it be a short, focused stand-up meeting? Will lunch be served? Make sure your coworkers have as much information as possible.

During the meeting, courtesy and etiquette are extremely important. Hopefully, you’ll have a room full of opinionated, invested and alert colleagues with the potential for an electric, dynamic collaboration. Your meeting is an excellent opportunity to strengthen your collective communication skills, which will make your team more productive and efficient. So let’s get started! A polite but firm adherence to the start time sends a subtle message that everyone’s time is valuable and latecomers might not have a seat at the conference table.

A little icebreaking talk at the beginning of a meeting makes everyone feel comfortable. But as quickly as possible, pivot to the purpose of the meeting with what one Sales Manager and author calls the General Benefit Statement, in which the meeting facilitator states the purpose of the meeting clearly and in a constructive manner. As your meeting progresses, encourage participation from each team member, which fosters investment, and shows respect and courtesy. Plan ahead to ask each person at least one specific question about a meeting topic, for example, “Sarah, you have a lot of experience with digital signage. Is there an ipad application that we haven’t thought of?” Some people are quieter than others, and it’s the meeting facilitator’s job to draw them into the conversation. Consider speaking privately to a reticent worker before the meeting about your expectations of their participation. Example: “Steve, I want to talk about X during our teleconference tomorrow. I value your opinion and I’d like you to give us some of your recommendations.”

Differences of opinion will and should be present, and there are two general ways your coworkers will bring them to the conference table; these situations require skill in politeness and etiquette. Interruptions can derail a meeting quickly and are usually committed by one or two outspoken team members. Everyone’s opinion and input should be valued equally, and the team leader must monitor interruptions and refocus the conversation when they occur. Make it clear that interrupting is a breach of etiquette and counterproductive. On the other hand, many workers will go along with ideas with which they disagree, either because they don’t want to shout down the interrupters, or in the interest of ending a meeting as soon as possible. Encourage participants to express genuine concerns; this will save the team costly time later. Studies show that men interrupt more than women; ensure each team member can express their ideas fully.

Courtesy doesn’t end with the meeting. Be tidy during and after meeting, setting a good example for the other teams in your office. Keep minutes and distribute action items in good time and to everyone; a clearly written plan of attack will encourage productivity and confidence. Finally, turn the lights off! Conference room lighting can be costly for your company, and we’ll be posting here in the future about energy-saving options for your conference spaces.

Technology makes it easier to get everyone into a meeting, but once you’re there, it’s important to remember old-fashioned etiquette and courtesy in our interactions with our coworkers.

It’s easy to forget that in this busy technological age, we’re still humans interacting with other humans. If you take a few minutes during the meeting booking process to think about the humans involved, your meetings will fly by in an efficient, professional and courteous blur.