How to Stand Out by Where You Sit Down

If you didn’t think it was important before, you will change your mind after reading this post about exerting your authority and leadership skills in a meeting.

Where you sit at the conference table during a business meeting really does matter.

At the Head of the Table

Sit at the head of the table and stand out. In that way, all eyes will be focused on you.

How to stand out

How to stand out

In order to be more democratic, some managers sit in the middle of the long side of a rectangular table. They don’t want to come across as the “big shot” in the room.

But that’s exactly the impression you want to make – that you are in the position of power. Where you sit adds more authority to what you say. If a client is attending the meeting, then the “power” chair should be reserved for him. But you want to sit at the right of the client to show to the client and other participants that you are the next most important person in the room.

While leading the meeting, stand up if you are talking from slides (stand to the left of the slides as people read from left to right) or writing on a flip chart. Standing also adds to your authority.

If You’re a Participant

Suppose you’re not leading the meeting. Where do you sit to exert your own personal authority? First, be sure you arrive early so you have your choice of seats. At all costs, don’t arrive late and find that all the chairs are taken. Then you’ll be relegated to “purgatory,” the chairs lining the walls for latecomers. These are the least powerful seats.

Chair Height

Adjust chair height

If necessary, adjust the height of your chair so that you are at eye level with the leader. True story: when a participant’s feet didn’t touch the floor, she lowered her chair, which put her at a distinct disadvantage of having to look up at her marketing director. It looked like she was pleading for his attention. It was more important for her to be at eye level and live with the temporary discomfort of her dangling feet.

When you have your pick of seats, if you can, sit next to the leader. Another choice location is at the other end of the table. Then, when you speak, all eyes will be forced to focus on you. Don’t ask where you can sit. Just plunk yourself down (some leaders like to assign seats, so be sure you find that out in advance).

Preparing for the Meeting

If you’re leading the meeting, it’s important to be prepared. What are the key messages you want to communicate to the audience? If you are new to your leadership role you should consider getting presentation training. You want to come across as confident and in control of your material.

If you’re a participant, do your advance homework. Be well versed in the topic to be covered. Come with intelligent questions and comments to add value to the discussion.

Your Personal Appearance

Dress for the part. If you work in a large corporation where the dress code is a business suit, then wear one. Arrive with your jacket on, hair carefully groomed and shoes polished. You can always remove your jacket later, in a “roll up your sleeves” working session.

Even in the new workplace, where informality is the rule, you shouldn’t be the one in jeans. Wear freshly pressed pants and a stylish blouse or tailored shirt. Never wear running shoes. Set an example for the younger people in attendance.

Keep in mind that the seemingly little things, like where you sit in a meeting and your personal appearance, add to the authority and leadership skills that help build big careers.

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