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

Last updated: March 19, 2019

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!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenStylGDtSNJyjlJZvner@ChacLGXktsKYityGQALVoCanyon.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:

US President John Kennedy set a goal of a trip to the moonAchieving Goals: Inspiring Passion and Action
Achieving your goals requires both passion and action. Knowing when to emphasize passion and when to emphasize action are the keys to managing yourself, or others, toward achievement.
Oscar Wisting, a member of Roald Amundsen's party, and his dog team at the South Pole in 1911Coping and Hard Lessons
Ever have the feeling of "Uh-oh, I've made this mistake before"? Some of these oft-repeated mistakes happen not because of obstinacy, or stupidity, or foolishness, but because the learning required to avoid them is just plain difficult. Here are some examples of hard lessons.
Statue of Hermes with modern headTeamwork Myths: Formation
Much of the conventional wisdom about teams is in the form of over-generalized rules of thumb, or myths. In this first part of our survey of teamwork myths, we examine two myths about forming teams.
An outstanding example of the Utility Pole anti-patternWorkplace Anti-Patterns
We find patterns of counter-effective behavior — anti-patterns — in every part of life, including the workplace. Why? What are their features?
Writing on a whiteboardParadoxical Policies: I
Although most organizational policies are constructive, many are outdated or nonsensical, and some are actually counterproductive. Here's a collection of policies that would be funny if they weren't real.

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

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The road to Cottonwood Pass, ColoradoComing April 24: Big, Complicated Problems
Big, complicated problems can be difficult to solve. Even contemplating them can be daunting. But we can survive them if we get advice we can trust, know our resources, recall solutions to past problems, find workarounds, or as a last resort, escape. Available here and by RSS on April 24.
Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)And on May 1: Full Disclosure
The term "full disclosure" is now a fairly common phrase, especially in news interviews and in film and fiction thrillers involving government employees or attorneys. It also has relevance in the knowledge workplace, and nuances associated with it can affect your credibility. Available here and by RSS on May 1.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenQvZieTTlQzkjZkpIner@ChactoEfxTFDGPeYdmXYoCanyon.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 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.