How to Name Conference Rooms

It’s not polite to get lost

I miss offices. Back in the day, when I wanted to talk to someone privately at work, I’d go into their office, or they’d come into mine. We’d close the door and chat. We would talk in confidence, and nobody was distracted by our doing so.

Now, if you work in tech at least, you likely sit in a giant “open floor plan” feedlot of an office. Not only can you not have a private conversation, it gets so noisy you need headphones to shut out the din around you (about which I will have more to say in a future post).

But at least we have conference rooms. Lots of them. All over the place. Since nobody has their own private space, they’re used by everyone, all the time, which means that it can be a challenge to find one for a chat, either impromptu or scheduled. And it means that if you work in a large office, eventually you’re going to be invited to a conference room that you don’t know. Which means you’ll make yourself late as you walk around trying to find it, since it seems everyone names their conference rooms oh-so-cleverly these days. “Magna Carta, you say? Sure, I’ll be right there… Where is Magna Carta again?”

You’ll be late and irritated. And people will be miffed back. Hardly the way to start a productive meeting.

I hereby register my disdain for the aspirationally-named conference room scheme. Unfortunately, office planners don’t seem to be enamored of strictly functional names, either (too “corporate”). So I declare this rule for conference room naming:

Conference room names shall have location encoded into them.

For example, at CBS Interactive in San Francisco (where I used to work), the conference rooms were named based on natural horizontal strata. The basement level had rocky stuff, like “Magma,” and “Amber.” There was a weather layer a few floors up: “Storm,” and “Thunder.” The top floor’s conference rooms were stellar: “Galaxy,” and “Andromeda.” Easy enough.

Getting there

It wasn’t bad, since it told you what floor you had to wander around. But it wasn’t complete, either, since the CBS floors were really big.

At Evernote (I worked there, too), the conference rooms were double-encoded. They were all named after video games. “A” games were on the bottom floor, “B” games on the second floor, and so on. Here’s the neat part: Conference rooms on the south half of the building were one word, and on the north side, two words. Thus, “Arkanoid” was on the first floor, south side, and “Donkey Kong” was the fourth floor, north side. And yes, there are enough famous video games for this scheme to work.

So, if you’re setting up a new office, come up with a scheme that’s based on more than a Slack popularity contest or a clever gag you’ll get tired of in a week. And if you’re just a cog in the business machine and you’re about to move into a new space, find out who the office planner is and hit them up early in the cycle with this idea.

It’s bad form to get to a meeting late. This little tweak can help keep us civil.

For more on conference room names, see this article in Quartz: One tiny detail at companies like SpaceX, Google, and Airbnb speaks volumes about their culture.