In various trainings, I am often asked about business meetings: Where to sit, how to sit, when to arrive, when to speak, etc. I, of course, have opinions on all of it and am happy to share them with you…
Where to sit: In the middle. That way you are visible when people talk across the table. It is also easier to break into the conversation.
How to sit: Powerfully. Note that I did not say comfortably. Keep your back a few inches away from the back of the chair. That will keep your energy in your body, enable movement, gesturing and impact when you speak. When listening, you can get a little more comfortable. Keep in mind that you can have a power seated stance as well as a standing one.
When to arrive: Early. First, you can choose your ideal seat. Even more importantly, you can get your ducks in a row.
I always say, “The meeting happens before the meeting and after the meeting, but rarely during the meeting.“
If you are trying to get people on-board for an idea, chat with them one-on-one and get their buy-in ahead of time. When you arrive early, you can reconfirm their position right before the meeting starts.
When to speak: Soon. Speaking in the first 5 – 15 minutes makes your presence known and makes it easier for you to interject the next time. You have established that you are in the conversation. Don’t worry, you don’t have to speak brilliance. It could be as benign as, “Could you repeat that?” or, “Pass the water.” It wakes up your voice and their ears.
With all these tips, use a filter of the culture of the organization. If it is not appropriate to take a middle seat, don’t. Perhaps the best way to show up is with attentiveness — and to follow up!