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Conference Room Etiquette 101: 6 Basic Rules of Behavior

conference room meeting, employees meeting
Chuck Leddy
Published on

Emily Post may not have written a guidebook about office etiquette, but everyone who works in an office knows that good office behavior matters. If we want people to treat us and our workspaces respectfully, we need to reciprocate by treating others and the workspaces we share respectfully. The spirit of office etiquette might best be summed up as, “don’t be a jerk, lest others be a jerk to you.” 

But many of the unwritten rules are commonly violated in practice.

For example, you don’t steal a co-worker’s food, especially when it’s clearly marked, from the shared office fridge. You don’t take personal phone calls about your colonoscopy from your desk in an open office environment. You don’t introduce yourself to new hires and then ask about their relationship status. These behaviors are cringe-worthy and clear violations of office etiquette.

Shared Conference Rooms Means Shared Responsibility

There’s an etiquette for how people behave in conference rooms too, and for the same reasons. When people share resources like meeting rooms, everyone needs to follow norms of conversation and behavior that ensure respect and decency for everyone.

It only takes one bad apple to spoil the proverbial barrel, one jerk to ruin the workplace experience for everyone.

Shared spaces need to be mutually managed by everyone in the office - from cleanup to communication.

The 6 Basics of Meeting Room Etiquette

Let’s move from the why of good meeting room etiquette to the what: what are the basic rules that all meeting attendees should follow, regardless of the type of conference room or meeting?

Some of the etiquette rules detailed below are so obvious that you may think they don’t need to be stated, but there’s always value in a good old-fashioned reminder.

1. Keep Conference Rooms Clean and Tidy

As we’ve said, conference rooms are shared space. When you leave the room at the end of the meeting, don’t leave any personal belongings behind and clean up any food or drink you may have consumed. When you leave a mess of coffee cups behind you, the next users of the shared conference room will need to spend their limited time cleaning up your mess, which will create ill-will and also delay their proceedings.

It’s also important that people don’t remove any dedicated equipment (speakers, camera, projectors) that goes with the conference room. Participants in future meetings may be relying on that equipment and meeting productivity suffers when it goes missing.

Be mindful of timing for your meetings so the next people that use the space can start their meeting on time.

2. Start and Finish Meetings on Time

Conference rooms are shared resources, so if your meeting runs late or over time, you could cause delay for the next users. Use meeting room booking software to clearly define the location, meeting time, and duration of your meeting, as well as update participants on any scheduling changes.

Beginning and finishing meetings on time shows professionalism and respect for the time of others, while waiting for a previous meeting to end and being late communicates the opposite.

3. Schedule and Cancel Meetings as Early as Possible

Don’t wait until the last minute to book meeting rooms or schedule meetings if you know you’ll be needing the room on a certain date and time. Booking early will not only help ensure that you get the room you want, it will enable co-workers to make necessary adjustments to their schedule. 

The same holds true for cancellations. If you wait until the last second, you eliminate the opportunity for other meeting organizers to book the conference room, effectively wasting an important shared resource. book conference rooms

When you cancel early, on the other hand, everyone can see that time slot in a large meeting room is now available for use and can make a room reservation accordingly. That's a more orderly process (and good etiquette) that respects people's schedules and accommodates the needs of colleagues for shared spaces.

Keep tabs on your schedule so you can cancel unnecessary meetings and free up office spaces for others.

4. Minimize Digital Distraction

As much as possible, you want to be fully present in the meeting and conference room. You should be listening to whomever is speaking and also participating by sharing your ideas and concerns. If you’re distracted because you’re lost in your phone or sending out unrelated emails from your laptop, you’re not really participating in the meeting. Put your phone on mute or, better still, put devices away until the meeting has concluded. 

If you need to take an emergency call (life happens, and people understand it), let the others know beforehand. A little consideration goes a long way.

5. Limit Food and Drink

Consuming food during a meeting can be distracting, unprofessional, and a sign of disrespect to others. It’s acceptable to have a cup of coffee or tea and maybe gnosh on something small, but chomping on a cheeseburger and fries during your manager’s big presentation will not win you any friends. Besides, food can get messy (see rule #1 above).

6. Dress and Act Appropriately Based on the Meeting

Know who will be attending the meeting and behave appropriately. You wouldn’t wear shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, even on a summer Friday, if you’re meeting with a big client from a conservative industry (financial services, for example). 

Ensure you are dressed appropriately for your meetings.

You always want to leave a good, professional impression behind you, especially during important meetings. You wouldn’t text your best buddy to set up weekend plans in the middle of your CEO’s big presentation about next year’s strategy. If you do that last thing, you might find yourself with more “leisure time” on your hands than you expect. A faux pas at the wrong time in front of the wrong person can sink your career.

Communicating Etiquette Expectations

Of course, your organization can formalize these basic rules of meeting room etiquette into a policy (and even add other rules, depending on your culture). But formalizing a policy, by itself, won’t ensure that people comply with the rules.

Your organization should consistently communicate whatever rules you’ve decided upon to all relevant parties. That could mean reinforcing the rules in:

  • Your company handbook
  • Your training and onboarding materials
  • Reminder emails each quarter to everyone in the company
  • Each conference room by posting the rules in the space
Make a plan for communicating your expectations to the team.

Better Conference Room Management

Whenever resources are shared, etiquette matters. Follow the basic rules of conference room etiquette, as detailed above, in order to promote professionalism, mutual respect, and collaboration. But it’s not just about how people conduct themselves. 

At the end of the day, conference room etiquette is critical because it sets the tone for how meeting participants interact and collaborate, contributing to the overall success of an organization's communication and decision-making processes.

After all, talent and office space are the two highest business expenses of nearly all organizations. Etiquette problems can waste these limited resources and ruin your culture.

Empowering People to Collaborate Better

Beyond the rules of good conference room etiquette, organizations need to empower people with the right technology tools to enable the frictionless booking of meeting space in a busy office, so meetings can start on time and friction around double bookings and last-second cancellations can be avoided.

At Robin, we’re here to help you with all of it: policymaking to promote good office etiquette, technology enablement around resources (people and office space), and iterating your way to workplace success. Reach out to us today to learn how we can help you! 

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