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 influencehave 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. Top Next Issue
Do 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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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 3: Appearance Antipatterns: II
- When we make decisions based on appearance we risk making errors. We create hostile work environments, disappoint our customers, and create inefficient processes. Maintaining congruence between the appearance and the substance of things can help. Available here and by RSS on July 3.
- And on July 10: Barriers to Accepting Truth: I
- In workplace debates, a widely used strategy involves informing the group of facts or truths of which some participants seem to be unaware. Often, this strategy is ineffective for reasons unrelated to the credibility of the person offering the information. Why does this happen? Available here and by RSS on July 10.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people 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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