Meeting Room Hacks
Instead of a line on meeting rooms hacks or room booking systems to draw you in, let’s start with an ancient Mesopotamian story, “Appointment in Samarra”, since the name also references a meeting.
The story goes as follows: A man is sitting in a tavern in Baghdad when his eyes suddenly fall upon Death, staring at him and making a threatening gesture with her hand. Desperately, the man asks a merchant to lend him his horse so that he can flee to Samarra to escape Death. Riding through the desert, weary and thirsty he reaches Samarra, whereupon he finds Death waiting for him next to a well. He cries in horror: “ I cannot believe my eyes. I’ve escaped you in Baghdad!”. Death answers, “I also had trouble believing my eyes, in Baghdad. For my appointment with you, it was always to be here in Samarra.”.
We book meeting rooms for meetings (or appointments? let’s call them appointments). Many of these appointments do not turn out as we have hoped them to because we cannot escape boredom, lack of consensus, or the failure of sealing a deal. Some meetings seem fated to be utter flops. And just like the man sitting in a tavern in Baghdad, we find we cannot escape our appointment with failure. While the Mesopotamian story strikes a much deeper and more serious note - that of the inevitability of our destiny, there are many instances in our lives when we feel we cannot escape certain outcomes. And because life is short and worth making the most of, we’ve decided to help you escape your appointment with meeting room failure by compiling our best meeting room hacks. It is the little things… that make office life better and more productive.
1. Get Your Testimonials on Steroids
Let’s start with a meeting room hack that has to be implemented even before you get to the meeting room and perhaps even before booking the room - priming with testimonials. If it sounds a bit weird, don’t worry about it. Everything will be clear in a minute.
What is one of the most important things that help you build trust when you are trying to seal a deal with a new client? Past clients that were happy with your work. Testimonials from them provide a guarantee that your services will be rendered successfully. If only there was a way to prime your potential client with all your past achievements. Oh, but there is and it is called Facebook remarketing ads. All you have to do is develop a series of simple ads showcasing your reliability by referencing the relation between you and one of your most important clients. You can then use these ads to remarket them to people interested in similar topics to those of your ideal potential clients. This way, people in your line of work will be familiar with your accomplishments even before stepping into your meeting room.
If you need help setting up a similar Facebook remarketing campaign, you can read all about it in detail in our blog post - Meeting Room Hacks Episode 1 - Get Your Testimonials on Steroids.
2. Gather Feedback More Efficiently
If you are looking to improve someone’s skills, a product/ service, or a process, then you are familiar with the concept of feedback. But what is feedback at its core, especially if asked for from a group of people at the end of or during a meeting? The answer is - brainstorming. When faced with the idea of offering feedback on anything, someone has to gather their thoughts and see what they can find stashed at the back of their brains that they might have glanced over and mistakenly considered unimportant. Now that we know what feedback really is, let’s take a look at how you can use it to the advantage of your meetings.
First, instead of people interrupting you during your presentation, you can ask them to use question sheets on which to write down their questions or comments. At the end of your presentation you can gather the sheets, group the comments or questions by topic while everyone is busy doing smalltalk and then try to answer them as a group if they are similar, or one by one.
Second, you can write down on the question sheets a request of your own that you can later use as a discussion topic when feedback seems to be running dry. One such request could be focused on problem-making - asking people to find weak spots or problems concerning ideas in your presentation, or concerning the product/ service/ process under discussion.
Third, postpone feedback. Ask people to write you an email after they have managed to gather their thoughts. This way, they have time to let ideas sink in and you to research your answers properly, carefully considering each point everyone makes.
If you want to know more about how to gather feedback more efficiently, you can take a look at our blog post Meeting Room Hacks Episode 2 - Gather Feedback More Efficiently.
3. The Rolling Doors
After talking about what happens inside the meeting room, let’s take a look at the room itself and at a better way of using your office space. Our room booking software, also offers the option of creating compound rooms out of two or three smaller meeting rooms. This is so because we have found that many of our clients have flexible working spaces, relying on various ingenious ways of making the most of their space.
One such hack is the use of rolling doors. For small companies or startups they are real life savers as they can create a meeting room in no time within a rather small open space workplace such as a garage. You don’t even have to invest much in such a project, if all you are looking for is a space divider. If you are a big company, however, you might want to invest in rolling doors that are soundproof and ensure an airtight separation. In that case, you might have to burn a tiny hole in your pockets. But it might be worth it, as this flexibility means that you can hold two meetings requiring a smaller space at the same time by dividing your large conference room.
Check out our blog post Meeting Room Hacks Episode 3 - The Rolling Doors to find more ideas on how to use rolling doors to your advantage.
4. You should be the most important item in the room
Since we have been talking about the office space, let’s dwell a bit more on this topic and focus on what’s inside the meeting room. A large table surrounded by chairs. Some awards scattered along the walls. Wires everywhere. Window blinds drawn and secured. A faint smell of potpourri coming from a pot of cold coffee. A presentation with walls and walls of text that you can read later. No wonder people spend their time on Facebook rather than paying attention to the discussion.
How about changing all that by having them focus on you? How to do that? By drawing them in with some crazy and exciting question or puzzle that makes them rack their brains trying to answer, only to deliver the unexpected answer serving your point a couple of slides later. It sounds rather hard and it can be because it requires a little bit of thinking and planning ahead. But it will be worth it, as you will have their undivided attention. And if you need such an example of a witty question, check out our article Meeting Room Hacks Episode 4 - Remove some furniture (it’s not what you think).
5. Include short breaks in your presentation
We all know those meetings that seem to run forever, even when everyone is yawning or staring out the window, praying for a miracle that can get them out of the meeting room in two shakes. Of course, it could just be that the presenter is a terribly boring person who couldn’t be turned into an interesting person even if he magically disappeared in a poof of smoke and then reappeared with a loud bang. But more often than not the person is just someone that has a lot of complex points to make that cannot be made any simpler than that. And more often than not, you are that person holding the presentation. How to avoid being a bore and make sure everyone got into their heads all your points?
Take a break. Every 10 minutes. It doesn’t have to be an actual break. It can just be a break in the flow of thoughts or ideas, something to ease everyone’s mind. You can try slipping in a personal anecdote pertaining to your topic, or a joke, or a story that appears to be very outlandish but actually serves a point. And if all else fails, just take a proper break. Air the room, if possible, and let people think of something else for a while.
Learn more on how to spot that you’ve been talking for far too long and how to address this issue from our article Meeting Room Hacks Episode 5 - Include short breaks in your presentation.
6. How to boost participation
How do you boost participation? We’ll answer this question straightforwardly: remove everything that is unnecessary. Sometimes even chairs. People can stand. Sounds like a bit too much? It isn’t. Here’s why.
When people enter a meeting room they expect things to be the same as ever before - chairs they can slouch in, absentmindedly scrolling through their Facebook or Twitter feed while waiting for that meeting to end. Another thing you can remove is time. You can shorten your meetings. If you can keep them around 15-20 minutes, then people won’t have any problem standing and listening to what is being discussed.
Still not convinced that removing chairs can be a good idea? Check out our blog post Meeting Room Hacks Episode 6 - How to boost participation to better understand why people tend to slack off during meetings and to find out how to prevent it.
7. Meeting Room Hacks Episode 7 - Conference Booking Kiosk with YArooms
We’ve been spending a bit too much time inside the meeting room. Let’s take a look at what room booking software can do for you when you are at a big conference trying to hold meetings with various people you’ve just met. Here’s a simple and affordable way of creating a booking kiosk - use cheap but efficient hardware, built for similar needs to yours. Something that could be of use here is Raspberry Pi, a a tiny and affordable computer that you can buy for as little as $5. Add a couple of necessary accessories and a display monitor and you’re good to go.
All you need more is an open source operating system, such as Flint OS and an YArooms account. Log in as a guest and place your hardware where your event’s visitors can interact with it most comfortably.If you wish to track their bookings individually, you can have them create their own accounts (via the Register Page) and instruct them to log-out after using the system.
For a complete list of hardware items necessary to set up your conference booking kiosk and instructions on how to install everything, take a look at Meeting Room Hacks Episode 7 - Conference Booking Kiosk with YArooms.
8. Showcase your YArooms schedule
When using a meeting room manager, you might want to be able to share your meetings calendar or schedule with other people, without necessarily granting them access to your YArooms account, even as guests. This can be easily done by sharing a screen caption of your YArooms calendar. But what if you don’t want to have to do this all the time? What if you could have an embeddable schedule that changed according to modifications created in your YArooms calendar? For people like you we came up with a speedy trick to enable you to showcase your YArooms schedule.
To pull this off, you need a working YArooms account (be it paid or trial). Next up, you need to go to Manage > Integrations> Generate iCal Public Feeds. Through this nifty function you can obtain an embed code that you can place on your iCal or Google calendar. If you need a step-by-step tutorial on how to make this possible, take a look at our blog post Meeting Room Hacks Episode 8 - Showcase your YArooms schedule.
9. Priming for meeting success
Ah, cognitive biases! They mostly create problems for the world. But maybe you can use them to your advantage. First things first - grab a copy of Thinking, Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It’s a book we highly recommend to pretty much anyone working behind a desk. We’ll give you an useful snippet of what you might find in it.
Before we let you in on how to use this bias to your advantage in a meeting, let’s clear up what biases really are. A cognitive bias is a mistake in reasoning, evaluating, remembering, or other cognitive process, often occurring as a result of holding onto one's preferences and beliefs regardless of contrary information. Since, biases usually affect people in a given mental state, the effect they have can vary with people’s backgrounds, emotional well-being and so on. So take everything you read with a grain of salt.
One cognitive bias is priming. Even though priming should be more properly referred to as a technique used in psychology in order to determine how people exposed to different categories of stimuli respond in a given situation, it can also be considered a bias. This is so because repeated exposure to a certain stimulus can create a response that is skewed, deviating from what that person would have normally answered had he or she not been constantly exposed to a particular element.
How can you use this in the meeting room? Smile at people, be generally nice and make them feel comfortable. You’ll be priming them to be satisfied. And you’ll also be a kind person, which is always a good thing. But there is more you can do - read all about it in our article Meeting room Hacks Episode 9 - Priming for meeting success.
10. 3 Room Booking System Alternatives
Companies still in their trial period come to us with new hopes and needs, they push us to think of new ways of doing things and come up with the most imaginative of hacks.Sometimes, though, after a couple of weeks of trying out YArooms and maybe sitting through one of our free demos, they figure out a room booking system isn’t really what they need. And there are plenty of reasons for that - they don’t have that many rooms, they’re short on staff or they rarely hold any meetings. However, they still need to manage the occasional room booking. If you feel like this might be your case, here’s a short list of alternatives to this:
- A mailing list - If you don’t hold a lot of meetings, a mailing list should serve you just fine.
- Pen & paper - There’s no shame in going analogue. Better yet, protect the trees and go for a small whiteboard
- Google Spreadsheets - Now this is a bit more difficult to set up, but should still be manageable.
These are not, in any way, your best alternatives. There might be more out there. But they're the easiest to set up, they require next to no maintenance and, best of all, they're free, familiar and uncomplicated. If you want to find out more on how these could work out for you and get a step-by-step guide on how to set up a google spreadsheet, read Meeting room Hacks Episode 10 - 3 Room Booking System Alternatives.
11. Tech-powered Office Hacks
For those of you lacking a techie friend to keep you updated with the latest gadgets that can improve your work-life, we decided to compile a list of tech-powered office hacks. After all, as inhabitants of Planet Earth during the 21st century we should be able to have the maximum of comfort provided by technology. What are our top picks?
- Smart writing sets - to instantly create digital copies of whatever you jot down in your favourite notebook.
- Automatic audio transcribers - to spare you the trouble of taking notes during meetings and losing important eye contact. Record your meeting with a tool that automatically transcribes it and allows you to mark the important parts in the conversation.
- Touchscreen sensors - to transform any Windows 10 or Macbook Air notebook into a touchscreen notebook.
- 3D printer - to print countless versions of your product prototype.
- Video recordings - to send around the office instead of the usual emails, saving up time and getting messages across more clearly. Moreover, you can use these recordings to better sell your product or service.
- Room booking software - where would you be without a room booking software helping you to manage your space more efficiently?
- Humidifier - to keep you fresh and your skin and lungs healthy.
Find out more about these types of products and some concrete examples that you can go and buy right away in our article - Tech-powered Office Hacks.
Keep an eye out on this list, as we’ll continue to update it with more and more meeting hacks that will guarantee your meeting room success.