How to...

Manage internal meeting space

How do you manage internal meeting capacity and keep everyone happy? It’s a tough challenge but one that Morag Alabaster of MWB Meeting Venues is prepared to advise on

Manage internal meeting space

The way in which companies manage their internal meeting spaces is now often part of a wider strategic meetings management programme (SMMP). With SMEs, however, it is generally ad hoc at best. While larger corporations have realised the efficiencies of adopting an SMMP, the implementation of a robust programme to manage meetings remains challenging for most. It is still commonplace for all of the meeting rooms to be booked out only to find that, on the day, they stand empty. Even worse is the frequency with which the high demand, 30-person room has just two people sitting in it.

Some companies have adopted a name and shame policy and many of the bigger corporates have software solutions like Datacraft to give online visibility of their meeting room inventory through their intranet. But building policy into a software solution that is flexible enough to cope with last minute demands is a problem.

Putting in longer-term solutions will often incur short-term additional expenditure which is why it can be initially difficult to harness senior stakeholder support to start the project. But without it, the project will have little chance of success. Identifying the long-term cost-savings and efficiencies while ensuring a duty of care is an absolute must. Read our steps outlined below to find out how you can go about managing overflow capacity smartly.

STEP 1: Complete an audit of existing stock and facilities. Auditing the current process for securing the space is also essential, whether it is a system of post-it notes stuck to meeting room doors or an integrated system.

STEP 2: Pull together a working party that represents all stakeholder groups and ensure it develops a clear understanding of how they would like internal meeting space to be available and, where possible, pull together any management information with regards to occupancy. Consider what the business needs: will you require hospitality arrangements or will simple refreshments suffice? Clearly identify your senior level sponsor and who from the working party will be responsible for engaging them.

STEP 3: Identify the reasons that meetings need to go offsite. Training can be difficult to deliver in an internal space because of the room configuration required and the focused environment needed. Likewise, ask yourself whether the internal auditorium is the right space to launch your new sales strategy and harness the business to perform?

STEP 4: Look at how you will manage your internal space effectively. Perhaps a natural internal resource such as facilities management could be the central resource for booking the rooms? Think about what your policy will include. This may vary for different room sizes as larger rooms may need to be booked further out because of cost implications. Look at a cancellation policy – how will this be enforced and how will the bookers be encouraged to book internal space first? What penalties will apply for failure to comply and who will be responsible for this? Map all rooms, capacities in various configurations, AV facilities, disabled access and consider how this can be made visible. Your intranet is a good start.

STEP 5: Look at putting a stake in the ground that will provide you with the MI needed. Who could help you from your current suppliers – your venue find agency or directly with a venue supplier who has the right proximity to your office? Consider piloting this with one building and one preferred venue as a trial which will enable to you to make some informed assumptions while policy is developed over time.

<p">Take your audit and wish list to prospective suppliers. Working with external suppliers should be a great benefit in terms of balancing your needs for capacity, proximity, functionality and quality. They should, in theory, help match your audit with your aspirations. Try it out. Venue providers are increasingly flexible in the way they offer ‘space,’ whether it’s for overflow internal meeting space, project space for three weeks, hot-desking space or office space.

STEP 6: Negotiate. In addition to being able to negotiate rates through a volume guarantee, many suppliers will work with you through your trial period when volumes are unknown. Terms and the ability to access the space at short notice are as important as the rates. Remember this cannot be fixed overnight, but that the savings and efficiencies can be tangibly measured once you have gathered the MI.