Are you running the meeting?
Do you have the ear of the meeting’s Chair?
Or do you want to just blend in?
Where you sit in a meeting directly influences your effectiveness.
1. The Power Position
Sitting in the power position doesn’t mean you have the biggest ego. As Chair, you need to keep the agenda moving, keep people on task and get to decision.
The meeting gets sloppy when there is no clear Chair. Whether you use this spot to wield personal power, or to encourage the social good is up to you. However, if you choose to sit in a weaker position at the table your ability to be an effective Chair has decreased.
2. The Other End
The seat immediately opposite the Chair is the second power position. This seat tends to be reserved for the guest. It is visible to all and a good location for people who need to pop into the meeting to present specific items on the agenda.
This end seat can be a powerful spot to voice disagreement with the Chair. You sit here and you sit opposite the leader.
The smart leader may want to minimize divisiveness and have no seat at the opposite end of the table. Put up a screen for slides or a whiteboard to prevent individuals from sitting there. Or create a different table configuration for the meeting.
3. The Flanking Position
The individuals who sit next to the Chair have the ear of the Chair. When you sit in this position you can influence the flow of the meeting by assisting the Chair. You can draw attention towards or away from topics. You can prompt a speeding up or slowing down of the agenda.
Classically the seat to the right of the Chair is the spot for the second in command. The left seat is the spot for the up-and-comer.
4. The Middle Few
You may want to sit in the middle next to individuals with opposing view points to soften or mitigate their opposition. Sit closer to the Chair and your opposition has to talk over or through you.
The middle of the table is also good place to sit if you don’t want to be heard. Sit here if you are unfamiliar with the group and you’d like to quietly size up the situation. This is the seat if you want to be forgotten or overlooked.
These are the best tables for collaboration. However, the bigger the circle, the less effective the collaboration becomes.
It’s best to sit closest to the facilitator to wield influence. Sit farther away and off to the side to have less influence.
No end chairs.
Sometimes there are no seats at the end of the table. The power position in this setting is the middle of the table. It has the best view of the most individuals. The weakest position is at the end of the table on the same side as the Chair.
Most meetings are a bit like musical chairs. Individuals come in and sit in the closest chair. They may sit closest to the food or the door. They may sit next to friends or away from others.
Think about how the choice of where to sit effects the flow of the meeting. Having this knowledge will make you more effective.
Imagine how effective you would be if you tried to lead a meeting from one of the orange chairs.