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#338: Where Should You Sit?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, June 30, 2010
This seems like a silly question but when I go to a client meeting, I am never really sure where I should sit. I want to be prominent enough without appearing presumptuous.

Excellent question. There are business books that assert that you should make sure you sit in the middle of the long side of a conference table, or never sit with your back to the door, or make sure you sit after about half the people are seated. It is likely that these strategies are meant for expressing your status or imposing some form of dominance in a business setting. These are hardly appropriate for a consultant.

Where you sit is based on whether your position at a client meeting makes any difference. This is, first of all, between you and your client. It is entirely appropriate to ask where he or she would like you to sit. This is a conversation best had before the meeting, if possible, as part of your ground rules for how the client expects you to interact with and be seen by the staff.

Sometimes there is value in being "at your client's right hand." Other times it is far better to be inconspicuous (but available). Still others, there is a strategic value in you placing yourself between two otherwise contentious meeting participants. Finally, and this is most of the time, it really doesn't make any difference.

Tip: Let your client know that your participation, placement, and conduct during a meeting can be a significant help to improving the productivity and overall success of that meeting. Ask how you could best help - most consultants wouldn't think of offering.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  business culture  client relations  customer understanding  goodwill  meeting preparation 

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