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 spendyour 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!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenioALrObYhoMDNnAmner@ChaceaYDEVpZcuIUVUORoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

An overloaded transport busHeavy Burdens: Should, Always, Must, and Never
As a leader you carry a heavy burden. You're accountable for everything from employee development to meeting organizational objectives, and many of these responsibilities conflict. Life is tough enough, but most of us pile on a load of over-generalized rules of work life — a load too heavy for anyone to bear.
Chair clusterGive It Your All
If you have the time and resources to read this, you probably have a pretty good situation, or you have what it takes to be looking for one. In many ways, you're one of the fortunate few. Are you making the most of the wonderful things you have? Are you giving it your all?
A voteDecisions, Decisions: II
Most of us have participated in group decision-making. The process can be frustrating and painful, but it can also be thrilling. What processes do groups use to make decisions?
A page from the Bradford JournalWorking Journals
Keeping a journal about your work can change how you work. You can record why you did what you did, and why you didn't do what you didn't. You can record what you saw and what you only thought you saw. And when you read the older entries, you can see patterns you might never have noticed any other way.
USS Lexington, an early aircraft carrierTroublesome Terminology
The terms we use at work to talk about practices, policies, and procedures are serviceable, for the most part. But some of them carry connotations and hidden messages that undermine our larger purposes.

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

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The Jolly RogerComing August 22: Dealing with Credit Appropriation
Very little is more frustrating than having someone else claim credit for the work you do. Worse, sometimes they blame you if they get into trouble after misusing your results. Here are three tips for dealing with credit appropriation. Available here and by RSS on August 22.
RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912And on August 29: Please Reassure Them
When things go wildly wrong, someone is usually designated to investigate and assess the probability of further trouble. That role can be risky. Here are three guidelines for protecting yourself if that role falls to you. Available here and by RSS on August 29.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenvtyUSPEjCbVhqcRAner@ChacztEzYEsYFADAQQpPoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

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.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Reader Comments About My Newsletter
A sampling:
  • Your stuff is brilliant! Thank you!
  • You and Scott Adams both secretly work here, right?
  • I really enjoy my weekly newsletters. I appreciate the quick read.
  • A sort of Dr. Phil for Management!
  • …extremely accurate, inspiring and applicable to day-to-day … invaluable.
  • More
303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.