Where to Sit at the Meeting Room Table
For many people, where they sit at the meeting room table often defines their role in the meeting and the importance in the business. In the olden days, it was a reflection of the nobility of the participants and it was not uncommon for arguments and fights to erupt over the question which is why even today, formal dinners use place tags to indicate where everyone should sit. Business meetings often do not use place tags and it is normally up to the participants to make the decision in which case it becomes a scramble much like a game of musical chairs. Where a person sits is an expression of body language and the physical position has an effect on perceptions and sometimes defines roles that people are expected to play.
At the meeting room table, the head of the table is generally regarded as the shorter part which is furthest away from the door and the opposite side is regarded as the foot of the table. The boss will normally sit at the head of the table, which may also have a special chair. Anybody sitting here is regarded as the boss and the head of the meeting. The visitor takes the foot of the table thus communicating that he or she has points to convey different from the boss and is prepared to negotiate. The supporters of the boss take the seats on either side of the head of the table and, similarly, the chairs on either side of the foot of the table are occupied by the supporters of the visitor. People who are not expected to participate actively sit along the wall and are expected not to interfere in the proceedings.
As a general rule, participants intending to make a point should arrive early, so that they can choose the seat at the meeting room table which best reflects the role that they intend to play. As a rule of thumb, conference rooms in proximity to the office of the boss are more subject to seeking protocol. Then, conference rooms centrally located which are equidistant. If the number of people in the meeting is less than the number of chairs, people tend to gather around the head of the table. Specific positions are not important, other than where the boss would normally sit. If anybody occupiers the seat in which the boss would normally sit, it is often interpreted as a direct challenge. The screening for presentations is normally against the wall at the foot of the table in which case the presenter would normally occupy a convenient place other than the head of the table.
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