Meeting scheduling software is make-or-break in the modern office.
In the US alone, there are 17 million business meetings every day.
Without an up-to-date and user-friendly system for digitally scheduling these appointments, team members are just as likely to spend time searching for and squabbling over meeting rooms as they are to spend time using them.
Meanwhile, the right software and scheduling solutions can streamline meetings, boost productivity, and improve collaboration.
In this article, we explore meeting scheduling software, focusing on 13 key features to look for when choosing a system for your organization.
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Without good meeting room booking software, your answer to any or all of these questions was likely ‘yes.’ And your existing solution for booking meetings is a pain at best, and an impediment to workflow and productivity at worst.
Thankfully, there’s a simple solution to all these problems: meeting scheduling software.
Like the name suggests, meeting scheduling software is software that allows for online scheduling of group meetings of all sizes. Employees can use it to book meeting rooms, conference rooms, and other collaborative spaces.
Ideally, meeting room software should integrate with overarching space management software and an organization’s overall Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS).
When this is the case, employees can use the same mobile app to book appointments in-person and online. They can use the app for a host of interactions with their office (such as desk booking, work orders, and asynchronous communication).
The result is a more streamlined office and a much better employee experience.
Most companies, from small businesses to Fortune 500 enterprises, are on the lookout for ways to reduce inefficiencies, improve collaboration, and ultimately save money.
For many organizations, this means planning for numerous meetings, all with carefully planned agendas and goals.
Yet how employees actually book these meetings is often overlooked. Many companies are spending more time and effort on meeting room design than on actually providing the right scheduling tools for booking meetings efficiently.
This is a large oversight. Beyond improved functionality, good software and meeting scheduling apps can also deliver benefits in two critical areas.
First, meeting scheduling software can lead to less wasted space. This is critically important given that up to 55% of meeting room space in an office ends up being wasted.
Second, the right software can lead to less wasted time. This is also critically important, since workers in bigger organizations can waste up to 30 minutes a day looking for appropriate meeting spaces. And a full 20% of meetings run late due to technology issues. That’s almost 3 working days a year for the average employee.
Good room booking tools ultimately make it easier for employees to arrange and attend meetings in the right spaces at the right time with the right technology available. It also helps companies use real-time data to better understand what collaborative space is actually needed in the first place. In this way, automating and tracking how employees actually use collaborative spaces can then lead to these space and time savings.
Making meeting rooms easier to use is part of the evolution of the workplace, and companies are currently clamoring to make that transition—because the benefits of digital meeting room management solutions are as wide-ranging as they are impactful.David Levin, Contributing Writer, Charlotte Business Journal
Making meeting rooms easier to use is part of the evolution of the workplace, and companies are currently clamoring to make that transition—because the benefits of digital meeting room management solutions are as wide-ranging as they are impactful.
Any discussion of the benefits of meeting schedule software would be incomplete without also discussing the rising importance of online meetings in our new hybrid world.
With the increase in remote work and therefore in video conferencing as well, scheduling and rescheduling appointments has the potential to be more of a hassle than ever.
Ultimately, in a post-pandemic world, employees need to be able to schedule appointments and book meeting rooms from anywhere. Every meeting needs to be able to accommodate employees in different locations, too.
In other words, emailing a booking link once just won’t cut it anymore.
At the most basic level, meeting room software needs to make scheduling, rescheduling, canceling, and even managing meetings a user-friendly process, no matter where an employee is.
Along with being location-independent, scheduling software also needs to be time-independent. This means that employees should be able to just as easily book a room for 5 minutes from now, as in 5 hours, 5 months, or maybe even 5 years.
Specifically, the best meeting room scheduling software will include the following 13 features:
Meeting scheduling software should make it easy for all team members to find and book available spaces in seconds or well into the future, depending on the needs at hand.
This means the software should be available virtually everywhere. This includes on iOS and android, on desktop, and potentially on kiosks and other wayfinding technology throughout the office.
It should be easy to share a meeting link with a custom URL with anyone, even those outside the organization. Note that like with all digital workspace solutions, IT teams will need to ensure that employees are able to connect safely to both the internet in general and to booking pages specifically from anywhere.
When meeting scheduling software works with IoT sensors, it’s even easier to automate bookings.
These sensors, which track where employees are at any given time, are especially beneficial when it comes to canceled meetings.
Say a meeting room is booked, yet no one shows up. Maybe due to a last minute reschedule, or because the leader gets sick.
In the past, when we logged meeting schedules in a log book, that meant the room would just sit empty. But IoT sensors can eliminate this waste of space. Namely, facility management (FM) or IT teams can set a time frame that meeting rooms are allowed to sit empty, once a meeting should have started.
If the sensors don’t pick up activity in the room in the allotted time, it will immediately go back into the booking pool. Then it becomes available again to anyone who needs it.
Even without IoT sensors, no one should be able to hold up rooms they don’t end up using.
With the right software, if attendees don’t check in to their booked room at the available time, then an auto-release feature can let it automatically go back into the booking pool. This feature can dramatically improve room availability when people are no-shows.
The greater complexity we’re now seeing in the office demands greater visibility. Virtual floor plans like Visual Directory® can help employees identify and book available rooms easily. They also help staff locate fellow employees, wherever they happen to be.
Interactive floor plans also make it easy for employees to search for meeting spaces in real time, and to find a room with the amenities and capacity they need, even at the last minute.
Sometimes employees need a room with a TV, other times they might need a phone or video conferencing hookup. That’s why an important feature of meeting scheduling software is the ability to search available rooms by location and/or room feature.
So often, innovation in the office stems from those impromptu collaboration sessions that weren’t on any calendar.
Sometimes, inspiration hits, and employees need to meet right now.
Other times, immediate challenges demand an immediate response.
In either case, employees need meeting schedule software with scheduling features that work instantaneously.
The sales team in particular may enjoy this benefit, so that they can serve clients on a whim. Especially if it integrates with their existing CRM, the ability to connect with clients in real time can be invaluable.
Like we’ve covered, check-in is a moot point with IoT sensors. That said, more traditional offices can still limit surface sharing by letting employees check-in to meeting rooms via email, mobile/SMS, and/or Slack and other apps.
Digital meeting room signage is a key component of good wayfinding in the office.
When meeting room signage works with the booking system, it can let employees know from a glance around the office which rooms are available, which are in use, and when they’ll be freed up again. Especially when it’s coupled with creative meeting room names, digital signage can make the office a friendlier and easier space to navigate.
Whether organizations are forced to comply with local regulations or simply looking to keep their team safe of their own accord, social distancing adds a layer of complexity into room bookings.
Meanwhile, a meeting scheduling feature like Distancing Planner keeps track of the maximum occupancy of shared meeting spaces, so that people can’t book rooms past a safe capacity. This is a key feature, given that social distancing will be with us for the foreseeable future.
Google Calendar, Office 365, Slack and Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Calendly, Doodle, Gmail, iCloud, Salesforce, Zapier, GoToMeeting, HubSpot, ScheduleOnce… There’s an almost endless number of calendar providers that keep track of meetings.
But without keeping track of where these meetings take place, their utility is severely limited.
That’s why good meeting room scheduling software will integrate with your office calendar. It should also integrate with whatever scheduling or collaboration platforms your team is already using. And any appointment scheduling software worth its salt will include Zoom meeting calendar integration.
So far, we’ve covered how easy it should be for employees to reserve meeting spaces.
That said, most companies don’t want a free-for-all when it comes to their meeting spaces, either.
That’s why good meeting scheduling software will have a permissions feature that can limit room availability to certain groups, such as a certain department or working group, or to certain times of the day or week.
Of course, scheduling solutions will only help companies reduce their meeting spaces and use them better if they understand how it’s actually being used.
When meeting schedule software includes robust reports that are presented in easy-to-use templates, IT and FM teams can use them to make better informed decisions.
Finally, meeting scheduling works best when these features are available on the same platform that employees use to book desks and collaborate with co-workers, and that management teams use to manage moves and requests, streamline processes, and keep everyone safe and connected.
In other words, meeting scheduling software should be part of the all-in-one platform employees are already using.
Meeting scheduling software is best when it’s part of a complete digital workspace. Ideally, employees will be able to use the same single sign-on software to schedule meetings that they use to communicate with other employees and manage their workload.
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Photos: Luis Villasmil, Thirdman, S O C I A L . C U T, Alexander Suhorucov