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Meeting Seating Can Affect the Outcome of Your Meeting

by Dr. M Marie Sanders

 

Have you ever paid attention to where people decide to sit in your meeting room? Seating arrangements are usually left up to chance, but where meeting participants sit can actually influence overall meeting effectiveness.

By choosing a seating arrangement suitable to your meeting type, you can positively influence the meeting outcome. Prior to your meeting, consider the number of participants, level of interaction and meeting goals. Then, match the seating arrangements accordingly.

Problem Solving

With the high-level of interaction required for group problem solving, seating must reflect equality. Equal contribution of ideas is easier when people are seated in a circular pattern.

Avoid positioning someone at the head of the table or the top of the room — an indirect placement of power. Round table arrangements foster a feeling of contribution for all meeting participants.

Don't have a round table? A square table works nearly as well as long as there is no clear-cut "head" of the table.

Training

Similar to presenters, the trainer needs to be visually accessible to the training participants. Because most trainers today desire participation from class members, openness is important here too.

Set up a U-shaped arrangement to promote equality and interaction. Place visuals at the opening of the U. This configuration allows the trainer to move freely throughout the group members and work one-on-one with individuals.

Decision Making

Arriving at a specific outcome or decision is a common meeting objective. Identifying a leader who can facilitate, direct, and moderate discussions will help keep the meeting focused. Choose a rectangular table or classroom-style setup with the chairs arranged in rows.

Know the personalities of the meeting participants and position them accordingly. Avoid placing two individuals with aggressive personalities next to each other. Instead, anticipate possible conflict among individuals and evenly position those individuals throughout the room.

Simple, pre-planned adjustments in the seating arrangements can have a significant effect on the success of your next meeting.

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About the author

Dr. M Marie Sanders

Dr. M Marie Sanders (USA)

Ms. Sanders holds an MBA and a Doctorate and has 30+ years of business experience in privately held businesses and non-profit organizations. She was a professor for the University of Central Oklahoma teaching undergraduate and MBA classes in the college of business (Leadership and Human Resource Management) and holds real estate broker licenses in two U.S. states.

 

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