Strategically Plan Meeting Seating
Believe it or not, where you and your team or clients sit at a table during presentations plays a factor in the conversation flow and meeting energy. Here's how to strategically plan meeting seating arrangements.
When you, your team and clients sit down at a table, you may generally adopt a random seating plan, thinking it will not affect how the meeting progresses. However, this is not the case. In fact, who sits where will have a direct impact on the conversation and potentially the outcome of the meeting.
Head of the table
If you are running the meeting, you want to be able to influence your clients, direct the course of conversation and have a position of power. It is essential that you sit at the head of the table. This will ensure visibility and audibility so that everyone can see and hear you. The head of table position can help you to facilitate dialogue and direct the flow and course of the meeting.
Opposite the Head
The second position of power is allotted to the seat immediately opposite the head. This seat should always be reserved for the most important client at the meeting. Much like the head of the table, someone in this second power position can be heard and seen by everyone. That said, the #2 position can also make it easier for the person seated there to counter or challenge the course of the meeting, so it’s important to be prepared. If you want to minimize the possibility of someone disagreeing or challenging the head’s power, you may choose to eliminate this seat. A good alternative is to put a whiteboard, a projector screen or a table with refreshments on it, in that spot, so that no one can be seated there.
Next to the Head
The individuals who immediately flank the person at the end of the table will be more powerful than those sitting further away. In this position they have the ear of the person seated at the head and will be able to draw attention to certain topics at the meeting. If you have an important client coming in for a meeting, and you wish to be seated at the head but need to be receptive to your clients’ input, then you should place them immediately to your side. Typically the seat immediately to the right of the head is the second most important spot, if the place at the opposite end of the table has been removed. This seat should therefore be reserved for an important client. The seat immediately left next to the head of the table is the third most important seat at the meeting. You should place the most important person on your team in that spot, as they can help you bolster your position of power and aid you to facilitate the flow.
In the middle
Seats in the middle should be reserved for less critical members of the meeting. Those seated in these positions might not be as visible or audible to others. Meeting members seated in these positions run the risk of getting talked over or perceived as having a lesser important role in the proceedings.
A circular table
A circular table is perfect for meetings which are about collaboration. Nevertheless, it is vital for important people to be seated next to the facilitator to enhance their influence over the flow of conversation.