Seating arrangements in a business meeting can make a big difference to the conversation and flow of energy in the meeting room. Our guide will help you understand the dynamics of business meetings. With carefully planned business seating arrangements, you can direct the meeting towards a desired outcome.
We’ll also look at how to position yourself in the best seat during a meeting or business event to improve the quality and outcome of the meeting.
Types of Seating Arrangements for Meetings
When looking at making seating arrangements for a business meeting, it’s important to consider the needs of the attendees.
The type of seating arrangement will depend on numbers attending, and if it is a formal or informal meeting. These factors will often dictate the style of table and the way in which you seat your guests.
Also consider whether there will be a leader at the meeting. Consider If it’s only going to be one person doing most speaking, or whether there will be more involvement and interaction.
In that case, for example, a round table is much more appropriate. Other things you might wish to think about when it comes to seating arrangements is if you have a special guest or new business contacts you’re trying to impress.
Also consider if you think issues that are going to be discussed are likely to cause conflict between people attending.
Meeting Seating Arrangements & Table Shapes
Once you’ve thought about the type of meeting you are going to be hosting, and any issues which may arise, next consider seating arrangements and table shapes.
The shape of a table and position of participants in a meeting for business purposes can make a big difference to how the meeting plays out.
Lets look at some common table shapes, and how attendees should be positioned.
Using Round Meeting Tables
Round tables are far better if you’re looking to troubleshoot a problem. The shape of the meeting table should help encourage all attendees to have input.
The nature of a round table doesn’t imply any form of leader or chair. This means it is far more conducive to conversation.
If you’re hosting a meeting and you have a deputy or special guest, they should be seated to your right.
Using Rectangular Meeting Tables
Sitting at the head of a rectangular table implies a position of power.
If you want to avoid giving that impression, sit at the side of a rectangular table. This will give you more of an impression of being open to negotiations and interaction. To avoid anyone else taking a place at the head of a table, do not place any chairs there.
Seating Arrangements for One To One Meetings
What seating arrangements are appropriate for a one to one meeting?
It’s a good idea to invite them to sit down first. Do this by directing them to where you want them to sit. It also displays more openness if you are standing up and invite them to sit down. You can then sit down yourself. However, in some situations such as in a disciplinary procedure, the fact that you are already sitting down when the person arrives can add more gravitas.
Depending on how formal you want this type of meeting to be, some people prefer to have both their own chair and the chair of the person they’ve invited into the office on the same side of the table. This means that it doesn’t create a barrier between them.
This is an extremely good way of putting people at their ease.
Where You Expect Conflict
If you are chairing a meeting where you expect there may be conflict, consider some diffusing strategies.
One good way of diffusing the situation is to seat them all on the same side of the table but a few spaces away from each other.
This is because it will prevent eye contact between them being established. This is often used to instigate a hostile debate instead of a fair discussion of a particular issue.
If you’re chairing a meeting, it’s a good idea to seat yourself in the middle of the table. Position yourself an equal distance from each attendee.
That’s because if you’re seated at the far end of the table, it’s more likely you’ll lose the interest of those at the other end of the table.
Business Meeting Seating Etiquette
Good etiquette is of paramount importance when it comes to seating arrangements in business.
Done badly, it can create a bad atmosphere and lead to an unproductive meeting.
It’s also important to remember that business seating arrangements can differ depending on the countries and cultures you’re travelling to.
In many countries there are also important points of business card etiquette you should be aware of. When you exchange these at the start of a meeting, it should be done properly to avoid a bad first impression.
All of these points mean it’s important to familiarise yourself with the etiquette and business customs of the country you’re travelling to so you maintain good relations. You might also want to consider improving your knowledge of business body language. Good body language can help create a productive meeting.
Business Dinners And Guests
If you’re hosting a lunch or dinner party and you have an honoured guest, that person should be situated to your right.
If you have more than one honoured guest then the second highest ranked guest is situated to your left. A third honoured guest would then be seated to the right of your highest ranked guest on your right and so forth.
Notice the term ‘ranked’ here. Business etiquette dictates that it’s rank and not gender that determines seating arrangements for business lunches and dinners.