When you organise a meeting do you consider the room layout or do you just put chairs out the way you always do? Often, meetings are held in rooms where no consideration is given to layout – the tables and chairs were set out that way and so that’s the way the meetings are held!
However, room layout has a powerful psychological influence on the progress of the meeting. It also helps contribute to the success of meetings.
New psychological research reveals some of the important factors behind room layout and why the seating arrangement can make or break a meeting.
Having people in rows, either ‘classroom’ or ‘theater’ style prevents eye contact between the people in the room and therefore inhibits interaction. What this means is that the meeting loses focus – in the psychological jargon it encourages ‘non topic discourse’.
Putting the chairs in a semi circle, without tables, appears to work best. It encourages participation, it helps the discussion remain focused on the topic of the meeting and it appears to provide a forum for questions to be asked more easily.
One of the reasons behind this is the notion of ‘crowding stress’. It seems that we feel more crowded when seated in rows and this leads to some kind of stress that inhibits interaction. A semi circular arrangement appears to reduce the crowding stress and allows us to interact more easily.
Strange then, that many businesses find that meetings ramble on, lose focus and fail to achieve their desired outcome. Perhaps the layout of the room could change things. Get rid of the table, put the chairs in a semi circle and you’ll be amazed at how productive your office becomes.
Graham Jones can help you make great presentations. He provides online courses in presentation skills and also provides information on how you can overcome the fear of public speaking.