Have you ever used a conference room and been just a little disappointed how the whole thing went? Maybe it was the organisers who didn’t prepare well enough and wasted your time, or perhaps it was an attendee who sat there scrolling through Instagram for two hours straight. Impressive.
Have you wondered if there is anything that you do in conference rooms that might just fall afoul of etiquette?
Using shared conference facilities is very much a situation where you get what you give. Even if nothing outwardly outrageous (like broken technology, or huge catering wait times) occurs, there are probably still some little things that can contribute to improving the overall conference experience for everyone involved.
While guidelines and rules can help, good conferencing ultimately comes down to individuals willing to make a personal effort to contribute to a positive culture. If you practice conference room etiquette, you will undoubtedly see it mirrored by the other people attending your events.
So, if you’re worried you’re doing it wrong, or if you want those around you to be better, check out these guidelines on conference room etiquette.
Conferences can fail before they begin. That’s a bummer.
It all starts with the booking. Book your conference venue or room early so that there is no confusion or friction with any other groups that may want to use the space.
The other side of that coin is that you want to make sure you cancel your booking as soon as possible if it’s not going to go ahead. A group that booked the time slot before you might be quite annoyed to find that no one shows up after them. They might have been able to use that time well (and, next time, they might not bother finishing for you).
Even worse, if another group had to call their conference off because you booked a room that you didn’t end up using, you are going to find favours hard to come by in the future.
In an environment where individuals and groups are dependent on one another’s courtesy, this kind of thing comes back to bite. If there is a culture of carelessness, people will start to think it’s fine to book conference rooms on a whim and not show up. This can get pretty toxic quickly — and it might take more than a round of drinks to make up for it.
Conference room etiquette suggests that, if you are the organiser, you need to be on-site early. Even if you don’t need any particularly special set-up, you might want to check that the room hasn’t been left in disarray by someone else. You also want to check that the audio and visuals are ready to go.
Did you ever go to a class at university and spend 15 minutes doing nothing because the lecturer couldn’t get the projector to work? Do you remember how you felt towards that lecturer for wasting your time? (Maybe you didn’t care too much about the class but, still, those are 15 minutes you are never going to get back.)
Don’t be that lecturer
So, one of the essential conference room guidelines is to get there early and get the room set up. This will not only make things more efficient, but it will also make the participants more responsive and engaged.
If you aren’t an organiser, though, you should still be there on time. If you hold the conference up or disturb it by walking in late, it might be difficult finding someone to talk to during the morning tea break.
Leave Your Phone Behind
It’s been 13 years since the first iPhone was released and, in that time, we’ve all run out of ways of expressing how annoying those devices can be in group settings. But in a conference room, in particular, it’s just not going to fly.
Sensible conference room rules suggest you leave your phone on your desk before you come to the conference room. But, at the very least, it should be going on silent.
It’s not just a question of respect for the presenter, but also everyone else in the room who is trying to get something out of the meeting.
On that note, a conference will always be more valuable when everyone participates (so long as the format allows it). Make sure you ask questions where appropriate, volunteer answers to open questions, and pitch any ideas you might have.
By the same token, be respectful of everyone else. Try not to dominate the room—let other people finish their comments and actively listen to what they have said before you speak again.
On the Way Out
There are some easy conference room guidelines to follow when you are wrapping up your conference. Most importantly, finish on time.
By overstaying your booking, you are more or less saying to those who need to use the room after you that you value your time more than theirs. Once again, in a shared conference facility, this is one of those situations where you can breed a culture of disrespect. If it becomes the norm to go over by ten minutes, everyone will start to suffer.
Part of this is going to be about setting up early and preparing your conference timeline well. But it may also just come down to calling time, even if you haven’t got through everything.
You should also be looking to finish up a few minutes early so that you can tidy up and put the room back in order for other users. It sounds like a small thing, but we all prefer tidying up our own mess than tidying up the mess of others.
Conference Room Etiquette Always Trumps Conference Room Rules
You can make all the rules you want for conference room usage, but they will never achieve as beneficial results as individuals being genuinely motivated by etiquette. In other words, what’s needed is good workplace culture.
So, if you want to see improvements in your conference, make an effort to do right by others and, sooner or later, it will come back around to you.