Ahhhhhhhhhh!!! Was pretty much the sound I made when I was asked to take on the task of managing meeting rooms for my office. I say ‘asked’, if I’d been asked, obviously I would have said ‘hell will freeze over before I manage the meeting rooms’. No, I was told I had to manage the meeting rooms because I was the only Assistant on the same floor as all the meeting rooms so it made sense for me to manage who was using them. I’m not going to lie to you, I hated this task. It sucked. It sucked more than expenses and writing minutes combined.

Why? Where do I start…? My colleagues always needed meeting rooms, there were never enough meeting rooms, despite the fact there were lots of meeting rooms! The rooms were in constant demand and of course, everyone’s meeting was THE most important meeting going on that day. If their meeting didn’t go ahead the business would literally go into liquidation that very day!!!!

You get my point! It sucked. I hated it. The meeting rooms became my enemy and managing them became almost a full time job in itself. Here is why.

When I took over the managing of the meeting rooms the booking process was a joke. Each meeting room had a massive paper diary that had been left outside each office for people to book in meetings for themselves. This created chaos. The diary would go missing, people were writing over other meetings, and of course the whole process was just generally ignored. Crazy right?

So, my first step was to transfer everything into Outlook. Each meeting room had its own electronic calendar. Colleagues could send requests through and I would accept them or decline them depending on availability. Sounds simple enough, but of course I hadn’t factored in humans. Humans who would turn into small children in the middle of a massive tantrum because they couldn’t get the meeting room they wanted. My colleagues would come to my desk to ask for a meeting room without checking the diary, they would try and barter for a room and there were lots of room swapping and other shenanigans going on that made the managing process very very tiresome!

This was almost 10 years ago now.

When I started thinking about this, post it really brought home how ridiculous the whole system was. One of the main problems was that we were at the height of meetings madness. Meetings were the done thing 10 years ago. Everyone had a meeting. Nowadays, we are much more aware of actually how unproductive meetings can be. So I’m hoping, if you manage your meeting rooms you don’t quite have the same issues I did. But, I do think you will probably still face the issue of how you manage the bookings. Here are some of my top tips for managing meeting rooms (totally from experience):

Ground rules for meetings

If you have a shortage of meeting rooms and you manage the process you are well within your right to ask what the meeting is for and does if it requires a private space. I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about setting ground rules for meetings, which is worth a read and can be applied to managing meeting rooms.

I also brought in a very, very strict policy that each meeting room had to be cleared of empty coffee cups, paper, miscellaneous crap at the end of each meeting. If my colleagues left the meeting room in a mess it was funny how the following week there were no meeting rooms available for them…

Throw some technology at the problem

Back in the day I didn’t have much technology to use so I stuck with Outlook and sheer determination to make my colleagues take some control over their own bookings. I wanted to automate the process as much as possible so that I wasn’t spending my whole time on this one task. Now there are lots of platforms that can help automate the process and some of it is really good. Yes, you still have the human factor. But technology plus the fact people are having less meetings makes me think this task can be less time consuming. Here is a platforms you should check out if you are still using Outlook:

  • Get a room is a simple platform that lets users book conference rooms and add on catering or other services they might need. The front end is a simple calendar system and the back end is easy to use and has lots of useful data to help you manage the process.
  • Teem is an app that can be added to an iPad, which could potentially be left outside the meeting space for people to use for bookings. I would suggest the iPad is bolted to the floor.
  • Skedda is used mostly for co-working spaces but if you also manage hot desk this platform is really useful
  • YArooms is the platform with all the bells and whistles. It is the total meeting room management system.

Outlook is still a pretty good option too. Here is a how to video on setting up meeting room calendars in Outlook.

Have a ‘first come, first serve’ room

Hopefully your office does have some space for informal meetings that your colleagues can use in an emergency. If not, it might be worth keeping one of your meeting rooms as a ‘first come, first serve’ space that can be used on demand. Let your colleagues know this resource is available, but shouldn’t be abused. If you do set up this room, communicate very clearly what it is to be used for and that you do not manage the bookings for it!

Create unique spaces

It would be great if each meeting room had a funky theme that inspires creativity and productivity. However, this just isn’t the reality for most organisations. Saying that, if your meeting spaces are called ‘Meeting Room 1,2,3,4’ etc. This is going to cause a lot of confusion. Make sure each meeting room has a different name that is clearly labelled on the door and is part of the booking process.

I hope these tips help with what can be a difficult task. Good luck with your meeting room management!