You walk into the room a few minutes before the meeting begins. You check out who is already present and where they are sitting. You grab a cup of coffee and sit down at the first available seat. Or do you?
People choose their seats for all kinds of reasons. Some sit wherever there is an empty seat. Others want to sit where they always do. Some want to sit next to a particular person. Others want to be close to the coffee pot. But how do you choose where to sit to help you achieve your objective?
Where to sit at a meeting:
Power. Sit at the end of the table.
Influence. Sit directly across the table from someone you want to influence. This provides maximum opportunity for eye contact, verbal and non-verbal messages.
Leadership. Although most meeting leaders typically sit at the end of the table, the best place is in the middle seat on either side of the table. This allows the leader more flexibility to control the conversation or “gate-keep.”
Build Trust. Sit to the right of a person when you want to generate a feeling of trust. In medieval times, people of questionable loyalty were seated on the left because right-handed people would normally thrust a dagger to the left! Hence, we now have the term “right-hand man.”
Alignment. Sit next to (preferably to the right of) the leader or other individual when you want to be identified with that person. This puts you in view as people look at the leader, and a subliminal connection is made.
Attention. Sit directly across from or next to someone you want to have notice you.
Discussion. Choose the “central seats” (those at the ends and the middle seats) when you want to be actively involved in the meeting discussion. Don’t sit next to the leader who is acting as “gatekeeper.” The leader will recognize you less. If you want to stay out of the discussion, choose the corner seats.
Confrontation. Sit directly across from someone who has an opposing view or recommendation.
Networking. Sit next to anyone with whom you want to strengthen your relationship.
Exit. Sit closest to the door in the event you must leave before the meeting is over or if you want to make a quick exit.
Finally, when you don’t have a compelling reason for choosing one seat over another, sit wherever you are most comfortable!