Mix Up Your Meetings – part 4 (rearrange room)

Problem:

Not every one participates in your meetings.  People get comfortable in their favorite seats.  Your group needs a change.

Solution:

Rearrange the chairs in your meeting room.  There’s probably that guy who always sits in the back so he can get away with not saying anything.  Or there are only the few who are engaged because they sit up front and close together.  Or your current seating arrangement could be just fine, but you still want to shake things up a bit to get people out of their comfort zone, to help them think differently, or to be open to new perspectives and ways of doing things.

Many sources will say that the best unifying, everyone-on-equal-ground type of arrangement would be to put all the chairs in a circle facing inward.  Sure, go ahead and try that if you want to, or can.  But you don’t have to.  You can do two semi-circles, or a big square, or a triangle for that matter.  You could even do two parallel lines facing each other (if you want to start a fight), or one long single file line (choo choo!)  Experiment.  See what happens.

I know there are some rooms that aren’t completely flexible (we have a bunch with a huge, immovable board room type table in the middle. ugh.)   But you can think of something.  The least you could do is talk from the other side of the room.

Seating arrangements can really affect the dynamics of a meeting.  So use that small little freedom to affect the meeting in the way you want. (That’s grootship.)

And instead of trying to convince that guy in the back that he should move up front, just make it so he doesn’t have a choice.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Rex, what you are describing here is the typical corporate “routine” meeting where people exchange information. I would argue that the best way to handle them is not to have them. They serve no purpose other than to waste everybody’s time.
    The only reason I can think of to have a meeting is to “sell” something, to leave the room with the organizer having received a decision by the people in the room. Either someone is affected by the decision or he/she isn’t. In the first case there is no reason why anyone would want to be lurking in a chair all the way in the back. In the latter case, the person shouldn’t be there in the first place.

    My old employer was great at meetings, meaning you could spend all week in them. Meetings were a disease. Until someone came up with the PIC (Production Information Center) concept where everybody is STANDING. The idea spread to other meetings with tremendous effects on participation and time consumed. If people are standing they are more exposed (= can’t hide behind a desk or laptop), they can’t text or do other things, and they stay focused because standing is uncomfortable. It’s a huge cultural shift but you should try it.
    Good luck, Bodo

    Reply

    • Posted by rexalma on Tuesday at 9:37 pm

      True, very true, Bodo. How and why we have meetings are sometimes just habits that are hard to break. And the first step is to acknowledge that we actually have a useless habit that needs to be broken. Most of the time the attitude of “this is the way we’ve always done it” doesn’t cause us to question our actions. But good grootship is asking, “Is there another way?”

      So everybody, listen to Bodo. If you can have a short standing meeting instead, do it.

      But… if you do happen to have an important meeting, and it needs to be long enough where people need to sit down… try rearranging the room :)

      Reply

  2. And have some free time to observe what’s happening …

    Reply

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