Sitting for Professional Success
Posted on March 29, 2014
It’s not uncommon for men and women to spend hours determining the best suit to wear to a business meeting.Before any important meeting, you may practice saying your name out loud, rehearse your presentation, even try out different types of handshakes and hairstyles. Then the moment comes and you realize you’ve forgotten to consider one little detail: Where do you sit?
This is a question that few people think about. However, in professional situations, choosing your seat can have a greater impact than you may think. Seats and Stools has put a lot of thought into this question and has developed a guide to help the non-seating specialists among us strategize ways to leverage their seating for professional success.
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Interviews can be stressful. But even if your hands are shaking and your heart is racing, you can still appear calm and collected simply by choosing the right seat.
In a one-on-one interview, always sit opposite the interviewer unless directed to do otherwise. This is the most professional approach and will convey to your interviewer that you are a serious and worthy candidate. Make sure to sit up straight and maintain eye contact throughout the interview. This may be a little uncomfortable, but it will convey thoughtfulness and confidence.
In a group interview, seat yourself across from the panel of interviewers. Position yourself so that you are at eye-level with the panel and maintain eye contact with group members as much as possible. It also helps to introduce yourself using your full name at the start of the interview and to smile as much as possible throughout.
Studies suggest that sitting in a circle is more conducive to cooperation, so it’s no surprise that brainstorming sessions are most successful when participants are seated at a round table. With equal distance between participants and no single person at the “head of the table,” it’s easier for all group members to talk openly and frankly, which will foster productive brainstorming.
During brainstorming sessions, it’s also helpful to keep groups small to encourage openness and spontaneous thinking. In small groups, it’s more likely that those involved will participate.
As Seats and Stools points out, there are many different presentation set-ups, including:
- The one-to-many model, where one presenter faces a group seated in a semicircle
- The co-presenter model, where two presenters are speaking to a group seated in a semicircle
- The panel presentation model, where a panel of presenters speak to a group seated in a semicircle
- The sales meeting model, where one person presents to a group that has been divided into small clusters
Although it’s often best to divide participants into small, circular groups, if doing so is impossible or impractical, seating them in a semicircle is usually the next best option. Sitting in a semicircle will ensure that all audience members can see and hear the presenter equally well. It will also allow the presenter to acknowledge everyone in the audience.
Business lunches are unlike most other one-on-one business meetings in that the best seat in the house isn’t across from one another; it’s next to one another. Sitting side by side allows for more personal conversation, an important factor if you’re having lunch in a restaurant surrounded by other people. Such a seating arrangement also makes individuals feel more relaxed, although this can sometimes be as dangerous as it is helpful. While at business lunches, remember that the rules of professionalism still apply. Although the environment may be friendly and casual, still try to maintain eye contact, sit up straight, and speak clearly and surely.
In business meetings, seating can have a surprising effect. Seating can completely change the dynamic between presenter and audience and it can subtly impact each party’s opinion of the other. Whether you’re dealing with colleagues, potential client, employers, or employees, there are always ways that you can enhance your interactions simply by altering the seating.