Where should I sit? The Theatre of Boardroom Tables | NIDA Corporate

Where should I sit? The Theatre of Boardroom Tables

In a recent team meeting, a member found herself seated in a place that she’d previously rarely occupied- the head of the table. Twenty minutes into the meeting, she joked “someone get me out of this chair- I can't stop talking!”.

The Psychology of Seated Positions

It’s probably no surprise to hear that where you sit in a meeting can have a great impact on how you behave, and how people perceive you. Various psychological studies have shown that your seated position can also affect your feelings toward others and what is being said, as well as the status of your relationships to others in the room*.

Classroom Dynamics

This can also be seen in a regular classroom situation. A study of fourth graders showed that ‘question-asking’ was more regular when children sat in a semicircle rather than in rows, for example*. Another study found that teachers don’t pay as much attention to students who sit to their right-hand side, whereas students who sit to the left, are called on more often.

Boardroom Seating Strategies

Did you know in the boardroom, circle formations allow better eye contact and equality? While rectangular or square formations lead to more individualistic meetings that can be controlled by one person. Some theories claim that if you want to be heard, sit to the left of a decision maker. If you want to be unnoticed, sit to the right of a decision maker, as we tend to prefer opinions heard from the left side*.

Despite detailed information and fascinating research about where we ‘should’ sit in order to have a desired impact, reality is that many of us just enter a room juggling our coffee and water bottles and plonk ourselves down wherever there’s a spare seat.

The Power of Communication

So, if the choice of where to sit is out of our hands, how do we make an impression regardless? How do we ‘cut through’ to be seen and heard?

This is where our communication skills play an invaluable and vital role, so we can focus less on where we sit at the table and more on how we communicate with others whilst we are there.

Tools for Success

Being physically ‘present’ and engaged when sitting down, making an impact with our vocals, and actively listening to respond are just some of the tools that we can utilize in a boardroom situation. Using eye contact effectively and employing gesture to support what you’re saying also helps you to have presence, no matter where you are seated.

Working on those core communication skills can ensure that your interaction is a successful one, and that you can be in the driver’s seat… even if you are sitting at the ‘wrong’ end of the table.

Enhance Your Communication Skills

If you’re in need of a boost in your communication skills, book yourself into a NIDA Corporate Training Course and discover how communication can transform your professional journey.

Science of People – Seating Arrangement
Environmental psychologist Robert Sommer 'Studies in Personal Space'
Teacher Magazine – Classroom Layout Research