Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 4, Issue 22;   June 2, 2004: Take Any Seat: II

Take Any Seat: II

by

In meetings, where you sit in the room influences your effectiveness, both in the formal part of the meeting and in the milling-abouts that occur around breaks. You can take any seat, but if you make your choice strategically, you can better maintain your autonomy and power.
A Rough-Legged Hawk surveys its domain

A Rough-Legged Hawk surveys its domain in North Dakota. Hawks often perch for extended periods apparently doing not much. Often, they are actually watching for prey. The perches they select invariably have the best views. Photo by David and Greg Lambeth, courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

When you choose your seat in a meeting room, you're choosing more than a place to park yourself. You're making a choice that can affect your role in the meeting and your ability to influence its outcome. Here's Part II of a collection of tips for choosing your seat strategically. See "Take Any Seat: I," Point Lookout for May 26, 2004, for more.

Know the room's "sweet spot"
Most rooms have a sweet spot — the seat with the most secure rear area, and the best view of the doors, windows, whiteboards, projection screen, video screen and the other attendees. As Chair, sit in the sweet spot, because it usually provides the most advantageous position for influencing the flow of the meeting. If you aren't chairing, and if you arrive before the Chair, it's best to avoid the sweet spot. In some cultures, sitting there is disrespectful, and even where it isn't, you could be asked to move.
Sit in view of anyone you want to influence
Eye contact is a tool of influence. If you anticipate exchanges with someone in particular, sit where you can both see each other. If you aren't chairing, sit so that the Chair is in your partner's field of view when you are — some of the power of the Chair might rub off on you.
If Power attends the meeting, use care
Sometimes powerful people, other than the Chair, attend the meeting. When you sit close to Power, you can pick up some of it. That might be helpful, depending upon your goals. Be conscious of the choice.
Sit high
Sit upright — a high position is a more powerful position. Choose a seat that's relatively high, or adjust your seat so that you sit high. If you do adjust your seat, do it subtly.
Sitting along the wall is OK — maybe
Some rooms Eye contact is
a tool of influence
have a central table and seats along the walls. If you don't want or need to be an active participant, it's fine to sit along the wall, but otherwise, find a seat at the table.
Sit for networking
Sit beside anyone you want to network with. On breaks, and at meeting's end, being close makes it easier to chat. Sitting on the "door side" makes chatting even easier and more natural when the meeting breaks up.
Plan your exit
If you think you might leave early, arrive early enough to choose a seat with an easy exit. If you arrive late, the "exit row" seating might already be occupied.

Sometimes other attendees sit in configurations that make it impossible to execute some of these tactics. These devices provide only a slight edge, so when you can't use them, you might just have to be a little more brilliant than you normally are. Or watch and learn. Go to top Top  Next issue: Team-Building Travails  Next Issue

101 Tips for Effective MeetingsDo you spend your days scurrying from meeting to meeting? Do you ever wonder if all these meetings are really necessary? (They aren't) Or whether there isn't some better way to get this work done? (There is) Read 101 Tips for Effective Meetings to learn how to make meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot more rare. Order Now!

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Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Budget and ScheduleGames for Meetings: IV
We spend a lot of time and emotional energy in meetings, much of it engaged in any of dozens of ritualized games. Here's Part IV of a little catalog of some of our favorites, and what we could do about them.
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In meetings, keeping a list we call the "parking lot" is a fairly standard practice. As the discussion unfolds, we "park" there any items that arise that aren't on the agenda, but which we believe could be important someday soon. Here are some tips for making your parking lot process more effective.
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Many books and Web sites offer advice for dealing with difficult people. There are indeed some difficult people, but are they as numerous as these books and Web sites would have us believe? I think not.
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Sidebar conversations between meeting participants waste time and reduce meeting effectiveness. How can we prevent them?

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Effective Meetings for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

C. Northcote Parkinson in 1961Coming September 27: Meeting Troubles: Collaboration
In some meetings, we collaborate not in reaching objectives, but in preventing our doing so. Here are three examples of this pattern. Available here and by RSS on September 27.
A typical standup meetingAnd on October 4: Meeting Troubles: Culture
Sometimes meetings are less effective than they might be because of cultural factors that are outside our awareness. Here are some examples. Available here and by RSS on October 4.

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The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

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