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Meeting & Event Planning

How to Avoid Seating Sabotage

Posted August 8, 2016 By Jocelyn Kerr

Where people sit during meetings significantly affects how well they engage with each other and also how well they absorb the flow of information.


Do you want to prevent people from having side conversations among themselves? Seat them in a row.

Do you need participants to be more engaged around a specific topic? Make sure they have opportunities to make eye contact.

These may seem like a minor consideration, but since the 1970s experts have studied the ways seating arrangements psychologically affect meeting participants. The 2015 Cvent Meeting Industry Survey found today’s meeting planners are increasingly aware of the psychological importance of seating arrangements, ranking flexible meeting space as one of their top considerations when evaluating venues. With a flexible space and the right seating arrangements, delegates can engage with each other and meet goals.


Power Seats, Status, and Participation Levels

Having specific spots assigned to your attendees is also a smart idea to help control the meeting efficiency. Did you know…?

  • People who sit across from each other are more likely to argue, while people who think alike tend to sit side by side.
  • The most successful strategic position is the corner position to the right of the leader.
  • If there are no seats left at the table, the middle becomes the power position.
  • Outgoing individuals are more sociable in a half circle, while the socially shy prefer to sit in chairs arranged in rows.
  • Round arrangements promote a feeling of equal status.
  • Middle sections ask the most questions, while side and back areas are the least responsive and attentive.

Seating Materials Matter Too

In his 2007 book, Successful Meetings: How to Plan, Prepare and Execute Top-Notch Business Meetings, author Shri Henkel recommends using cushioned chairs for meetings lasting longer than an hour. When chairs are too hard, participants will have a hard time focusing. But beware, seating that’s too comfortable may lull participants to sleep, especially during post-lunch sessions.


A Guide to Better Seating for Your Next Meeting

Think it sounds a little complicated? The good news is, it’s really not. Convene’s Mad Science of Seating guide provides an easy-to-follow overview of each seating style and when and where to use each one. Download the guide to find the perfect seating arrangement for each meeting goal.



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