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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each way — commuting. What kind of experience are you having? Taking control of this part of your
life can make a real difference.
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- Most of us feel recognized, respected, and acknowledged when others use our names. And many of us have
difficulty remembering the names of others, especially those we don't know well. How can we get better
at connecting names and faces?
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- To save time, or to find a time everyone has free, we sometimes meet during lunch. It seems like a good
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- The Shower Effect: Sudden Insights
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didn't I think of this before?" What causes these moments? How can we make them happen sooner?
- Collaborations or Cooperations?
- Modern products and services are so complex that many people cooperate and collaborate to produce them.
Strangely, few of us have given much thought to the difference between cooperating and collaborating.
The two do differ, and the differences matter.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 13: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: I
- To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
- And on December 20: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
- When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
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