A few words about
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How are the seats arranged?
Although it is a seemingly trivial question, how the seats are arranged in the meeting has a great
impact on member participation in the during the meeting. Since getting most of the membership to
add their ideas, make motions, and participate in discussions is usually considered desirable but
often if often somewhat difficult, it is useful to have a seating arrangement that encourages
participation, rather than discourages it.
The audience and presenter arrangement is typical of many meetings. The chair and perhaps
other oficers are seated at the front of the meeting and everyone else is seated in chairs aranged
in rows facing front. This is a good arrangement if the purpose of the meeting is indeed a
presentation, such as when a speaker is invited to talk to the group. However, in a meeting whose
purpose is to involve the membership in discussions, it is a poor arrangement, since most of the
members are looking at the back of other members heads, and all attention is directed toward the
front. It is impossible to tell what other people are thinking by their facial expressions.
The round table approach. There was a reason that King Arthur used a round table—it was
to assure that everyone seated felt equal, since there is no favored position in a circle.
Similarly, when meeting seats are arranged in a circle, or arround a few tables pushed together with
everyone sitting around the edges, everybody can see everyone else's face. When presenting an
opinion during a meeting, being able to see the faces and body language of the listeners, and having them see yours,
is an important part of the communication.
To start a meeting this way, it is often necessary for the first people who arrive to take a few
minutes to rearrange chairs and/or tables. When others arrive they will be able to take their seats
without having to have everyone get up for the rearrangement to be made. Thus with four tables, the
best arrangement is to have them set up two tables long and two tables wide, or in a square with an
open space in the middle.
Sometimes, due to the physical layout of the room being used, it is necessary to have the tables
and/or chairs be set up in a long narrow arrangement. Even though not ideal, this is still far
better than the audience-and-presenter arrangement.