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Meeting Room Reservation Software 101: How to Get Started

digital signage, conference room
Marianne Pratt
Published on

As we return to the office, however that will look in our “new normal,” one thing is inevitable. There will be meetings. In-person meetings as well as hybrid meetings that incorporate video conferencing, just as we’re doing from home. Meanwhile, employees may visit from another branch. Others may need to use multiple desks throughout the day for various aspects of their work. Where will they sit to work?  

Scheduling meetings, finding space, and all the other related details can be a painful experience. With a meeting room booking system in place, you can eliminate the irritations associated with conference room scheduling, make it a breeze to locate hot desk space, and take the confusion out of way-finding within large or unfamiliar facilities. 

Looking to get the most out of your meeting rooms? Robin can help. See how today.

Types of room reservation software

Conference room booking software is a technology tool that supports collaboration.

Meeting organizers can schedule office space for a formal gathering, weekly work sessions, conference calls with the entire sales force, a completely unplanned “let’s talk about this idea” team huddle, or a private one-on-one. They can invite attendees and provide all the pertinent details, and map the location so it’s easy to find. Employees themselves can secure desk space to use for an hour or the day.

Room booking software provides real-time, across-the-board visibility that:

  • Streamlines meeting and event planning
  • Ensures the right space is available at the right time
  • Ensures space is available for impromptu gatherings

Conference room management systems work by integrating with both facilities management software and apps employees use to plan their day and communicate with colleagues. This creates a single booking system with real-time access to all necessary information. For that reason, meeting room scheduling software is a valuable asset for shared spaces as well as individual companies.

What can a meeting room booking system do for you?

There are several booking products on the market, but their features vary. At the very least room scheduling software should:

  • Provide a comprehensive, real-time overview of all meeting and office space, showing scheduled usage and meeting details
  • Enable anyone with permission to search and book rooms and invite attendees, for ad hoc or future meetings
  • Enable office managers or administrators to set and change user permissions, add or change room and mapping information, and manage meeting information
  • Integrate with calendar software, allowing both organizers and attendees to easily plan around existing schedules
  • Integrate with email, to easily invite attendees

That’s all good. But the best meeting room booking platforms are the most comprehensive. That makes them the most versatile. Look for:

  • Access via any device type
  • Desk/seating management capabilities 
  • Visitor management capabilities, either built-in or integration-friendly, that simplify check-in and way-finding to give visitors a positive experience
  • Automatic clearing of rooms when meetings end early or no one checks in
  • Automatic reporting of room problems
  • Analytics based on room usage metrics that can help improve overall office resource management 
  • Digital room display and similar smart office integrations 

How room reservation software works

What could possibly go wrong with the room reservation process? Anything. Everything. You’ve been there, we’re sure, to enjoy these conference room etiquette breakdowns:

  • Double bookings -- one of the most common irritations, caused by uncoordinated or poorly-informed booking procedures.
  • Interruptions from others desperately looking for a place to meet.
  • Groups that hijack an empty room not realizing you had it booked in a half-hour.
  • Groups that overstay their booked reservation, forcing others to waste time waiting or searching for alternative space.
  • Winding up in a room without enough seats or the accoutrements your group needs, often the result of having to find last-minute space on the fly.
  • Apparent lack of available space. This could be due to false scarcity -- rooms are open but you don’t know where to find them. Or it could be thanks to no-show meetings that someone forgot to cancel. This is especially common with weekly or monthly meetings scheduled in perpetuity “just in case.” If you need a room in a hurry, apparent lack of availability can be especially frustrating. 
  • Wrangling over the most popular rooms, which wind up being overbooked while under-used space sits around vacant. 
  • Attendees wandering the halls and pestering employees, trying to find their conference room.

It all adds up to a shocking amount of wasted time. Let’s say it takes 10 minutes for your group to find a room. That’s 10 minutes for every individual involved, times multiple meetings each day. Interruptions degrade meetings in progress, and having to pick up and reconvene somewhere else is even worse. We all know that time is money, but wasting time can take a huge toll on employee morale and job satisfaction, too. 

Conference room scheduling software promotes productivity

There’s a meeting on your calendar. You’ll know you’ve found the right place when you see the room number or name on the room display. But that doesn’t mean you have a clue how to get there. Or, maybe you’re supposed to meet with Jane Doe, in her office or at a temporary hot desk. That doesn’t mean you know where to find her, whether you’re a visitor to the office or visiting Jane in some unfamiliar department.

Room scheduling software gets you where you need to go easily, thanks to interactive mapping. But the platform starts saving time and effort right from the start, with booking. You can instantly see which rooms meet your needs and are open for your time next month. You can see all the attendees’ calendars, pick a good day and time, and send an official invite tout suite.

Need to get some folks together right now? OK. If a space shows open, it is, because sensors detect live bodies, and attendees must check in and check out of their space. Phantom availability or bookings are no longer a problem.

Meeting room booking software that integrates with messaging apps such as Slack can boost productivity even further, making it easy to communicate with everyone expected to join the meeting, as a group or individually.

But there’s more. Analytics enable facilities managers to manage office space more efficiently and even save money by eliminating unnecessary heating or cooling in empty rooms.  

What about multiple locations?

Employees may be spread throughout large buildings, on multi-building campuses, in different locations across the country or around the world. Fully-integrated conference room booking software works in real time for everyone, from anywhere, based on the permissions parameters you set. So if you need to reserve space at another location, it’s easy to see availability and zero in on the right size, properly equipped room. If your business functions in multiple time zones, automatic adjustment for local time is essential to ensure everyone gets to the meeting at the right time. 

However your office functioned in the past, remote working will surely be part of your new normal post-COVID-19. These days, you simply must be able to manage meetings across multiple locations. And that requires a centralized, real-time solution – a meeting room booking system everyone can access.

Benefits of room reservation software

The marketplace is replete with scheduling tools, which can be very useful. However, a meeting room booking system does much more, so it can effectively transform the way your co-working space functions. You can improve workspace visibility, use your spaces more efficiently, streamline scheduling, boost employee productivity, and eliminate the high costs of wasted time and frustration. 

Unlike Outlook, room booking software easily accommodates last-minute meetings and eliminates double booking etiquette failures. Double bookings can easily occur when Outlook shows a space available even though someone reserved it for “all day.”

With comprehensive meeting room booking software, organizers and attendees can collaboratively, quickly find a time that works for everyone and just as quickly change their plans, if need be. You can filter searches for rooms that meet specific meeting requirements from size and seating to audio-video setup

Booking software gives you on-screen visibility, with interactive, always-current floor-plans and desk mapping. You can efficiently facilitate hot desking and instantly locate meeting room space as well as people. This benefits meeting organizers and attendees, but also facilities managers, IT, HR, and visitors.

You also get data -- room usage statistics that can pinpoint opportunities to make better use of your space. You can upgrade certain rooms to make them more valuable more often, or repurpose seldom-used rooms.   

There are two ways to manage a meeting room

  1. You can keep doing it the old-fashioned way – manually.

Paper everywhere – spreadsheets, calendars, floor plans (who knows when they were last updated?) You’d better have plenty of table space. And plenty of advance time for planning, since you have to call or email each attendee to inquire about their availability before you can pick a consensus date/time. Then you’ll have to double-check whether the room really is available and if it has the set-up this group will need. Manual labor is time-intensive and invites mistakes. 

Despite all that paper, you cannot adequately keep track all the details, so essentials such as notifying attendees or others about changes or cancellations can slip through the cracks.  

  1. Or, you can do it the efficient, convenient way – digitally – with a meeting room booking system.

What kind of security features does room reservation software offer?

Software that enables visitors to check in and go directly to the appropriate room minimizes risk of unauthorized people wandering the halls or roaming into occupied rooms, looking for directions and perhaps making employees uneasy. The best meeting room booking software can integrate with both visitor and security management tools.

But the bigger issue is digital security. The last thing you want is scheduling software that inadvertently allows hacking or other security breaches. At Robin, our comprehensive approach to security encompasses everything from service architecture and functional protocols to data management and other governance policies. 

How to choose room reservation software

By now it should be obvious why any company that requires meeting coordination needs conference room management software. But let’s recap. 

Conference room planning and visitor management can be complex. Time-consuming. Frustrating. Someone has to spend time finding the right room, making the reservations, inviting attendees, communication additional details, and ensuring the room has meeting-critical amenities (or getting them in place on time). Someone has to check in visitors, confirm who they’re there to meet, and explain how to get to that person or space. 

This work is necessary, for sure. But much of it can be accomplished by technology, freeing up your “someone” to handle work that more directly benefits your company. Saving time literally saves money, and when people can get together efficiently, the creative juices can keep flowing smoothly. Productivity improves, and so does employee (and visitor) experience. Your company is such a great place to work! Or to visit!

We noted earlier that you can book meetings the old-fashioned way, or you could choose a digital solution. So consider this:

  • The average American employee attends 62 meetings a month
  • They consider half of those meetings to be a total waste of time
  • So they are wasting about 31 hours per month, per person, on pointless meetings

Why on Earth would you want them wasting even more time scheduling or getting to the meeting? Adopting conference room scheduling software is your first line of defense against low productivity and job satisfaction.

The right room reservation software tracks all your meeting and work spaces, including pertinent room-specific details, in real time. So it’s easy for meeting organizers and facility managers to quickly see current status or search for the right room. No more double bookings or confusion about which rooms are vacant or in use. No confusion about how to get to the meeting space.

What information do you need to make a reservation?

At a minimum you’ll need to know:

  • Date
  • Start and end times
  • Organizer/person making the reservation 
  • Number of attendees (for seating capacity)
  • List of attendees, their email addresses and/or @tags for communications
  • AV or other equipment required

So, what should you consider when choosing room reservation software?

The bottom line is return on investment. To pick conference room booking software that will bring you the greatest ROI, ask yourself:

  • What do you want the platform to do for you? That might be solving problems such as double-booking, lack of real or apparent space availability, or booking the wrong space for the need. You may also want new benefits such as desk management and mapping capabilities that enhance hot desking and wayfinding.
  • What existing technology tools will you need to integrate with the new software?
  • How far-flung is your business? Larger and multi-location companies tend to have more complex room reservation needs, but every enterprise is different.

Then consider which features or options you will need to accomplish your goals:

  • Some products are hardware-based, others are more versatile platforms
  • Conference room displays
  • Analytics and room occupancy metrics
  • Administrative tools and customization capabilities
  • Mobile access

There is a lot to think about. You want to get it right because the stakes are high. This Buyer’s Guide can guide you through that process, to choose a platform that will serve you well now and into the future. As we head back to work, meetings will be inevitable, but they will be different.

As you adapt to COVID-19 limitations, desk management and room booking software can be a tremendous help. Large organizations are obvious beneficiaries of room reservation software, but small, active companies can remain agile and grow faster using this technology to make the most of every meeting.

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Does your office collaboration need a reboot?

Find out if your workplace strategy is a hit or a miss.

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