Where People Sit in Meetings

This one is quick and fun. I heard this from my first boss, and a variant follows from one of my university profs.

How to read a table:

  • Find the person who is running the meeting. People more worried about establishing control over the meeting will sit at the head. (My observation: the most powerful people know that they don’t need to sit at the head of the table to command the room.)
  • You’re more likely to get the decision maker to agree with you if you sit beside them, rather than if you sit across the table/in opposition.
  • The person who sits across from the person running the meeting is the person who thinks that *they should be running the meeting. They will sometimes be the most argumentative. This may be a chicken-egg thing: does their position in the room make them argumentative or do they choose to be so?
  • The “eccentrics” – the brightest people with often the most interesting and out-there ideas – will sit at the corners of the table.
  • General participants will sit along the sides of the table and in the background. If there’s only one person in the background, they’re likely an eccentric.

Can you manipulate your role or other people’s roles in a meeting by trying to control where you and they sit?

One of my second year math profs had a similar theory on classroom seating:

  • The keeners sit in the front rows
  • The general participants sit in the middle
  • The brightest students sit along the outside aisles and at the back

Observe the next meeting you attend. To which seat do you naturally gravitate? Let me know in the comments.


One thought on “Where People Sit in Meetings

  1. Pingback: Are you working with your client’s A Team? | Understanding Clients

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