Does it Matter Where You Sit as Long as You Have a Seat at the Table?

Lunch and evening gatherings were a staple of building customer relationships in pre-pandemic days. But, they aren’t generally a good time for the host. So as we cast an eye toward post-pandemic days it is propitious to remind ourselves how to create and host successful business gatherings.

Whom do you sit where? In the event that you welcome the CEO, do you seat him close to his wife or next to you? All things considered, you want to get closer to the CEO if your diligent effort getting to him your event has really paid off. Is there a hierarchy in the seating arrangements?

Putting Individuals Together

We confronted this problem while hosting clients and companions on a pre-pandemic dinner cruise along the Hudson River. Our objective was to seat visitors at each table who had interests in common – business, a favorite hobby, a passion for the theater, etc.

This isn’t as simple as it sounds. My colleague, who flourishes with on creating Excel spreadsheets and charts, made a seating diagram that we could manipulate to try different combinations. It was like playing a game of musical chairs: moving visitors around until one tumbled off at an overcrowded table. At that point back to the drawing board.

After finally assembling what we felt was a truly viable gathering at each table, we hand composed place cards. On the night of the voyage, our taxi got stuck in a major traffic jam and we showed up after a few of our guests, who had already appropriated seats.

We hastily put out the place cards, however how could we move our guests who had already matched off at tables?

The answer is – we didn’t.

If this happens to you at your party, just let it go. Your guests have their own reasons behind picking where they want to sit. Possibly they are reconnecting with another visitor after many years, or they want to meet somebody new.

Seating the Head Honcho

Don’t fret about getting the seating exactly right. Most guests are satisfied to be at the party and take have a seat at the table – any table. Obviously, in case you’re the boss and inviting members of your team to meet with a new client, the rules change.

Head TableIf there is an obvious “head of table”, seat your client there and afterward seat yourself close to her. As another option, sit at the opposite end of the table where you have direct eye to eye contact. In any case, at that point place your team leader next to the big cheese, not a junior account executive who may be scared to participate in conversation.

It’s a good idea to alternate client and agency executives so your team can start to build the invaluable relationships that are essential to account management.

If you’re facilitating a fairly large dinner party, then mix things up by requesting that guests change seats at dessert so they have the occasion to converse with someone new. Or then again, place treats on a buffet table, with the goal that visitors can get up and network for a piece before they take a seat at their assigned seats for the dinner finishing espresso or tea.

Consider using name tags if there are many guests who don’t know each other. Have some fun. Under each name, compose something personal to that individual: I’m Her First Customer; Love the Theater; Former Navy Seal… the tags are a great icebreaker.

Mind Your Manners

No matter how large or small the gathering, the principles for proper etiquette never change. Don’t be guilty of these hostile practices:

  • Chewing with your mouth open. This isn’t just gross but can make you burp.
  • Picking food off another visitor’s plate. This drives a few people wild. Not even if it’s her spouse’s plate.
  • Speaking with a full mouth. It’s rude and furthermore individuals won’t comprehend what you’re saying.
  • Reaching over the table. This is known as the “boarding house” reach referring to the days when individuals sat at community dining tables in boarding houses and it was acceptable to reach across the table to a plate of food. Not today.
  • Picking your teeth. Not even with your other hand covering your mouth.
  • Combing your hair. Would you like to be sitting close to somebody who brushes her long hair directly into your food?
  • Drinking to an extreme. This is a grievous offense. Don’t invite someone you know to be a hefty drinker.

There aren’t any hard and fast rules about party planning. As host, however, it’s your obligation to establish an environment where everybody has an enjoyable time.

If your party is mostly designed to be relaxed and fun, give your guests the flexibility to sit where they want and move around among tables. Try not to attempt to micro-mange every detail.

A business party is different. Then you need to stage-manage the event. No point in hosting a party where things get so out of hand that you lose a client.

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