Top Tips

Top Tips for Chairing No.24

Years ago I was at a meeting of a local community committee.  It was in someone’s house, and an assortment of seats had been gathered together;  kitchen chairs, comfy chairs, stools etc.   By the time the committee Chair arrived, most of the seats had been taken, and she had to sit on a cushion on the floor.   The meeting didn’t go well – particularly for her.

The Chair wasn’t very experienced anyway, but there were two things that strongly mitigated against her managing the meeting.

Firstly – she was on the floor!   Sitting down much lower than everyone else is hopeless if you want to assert any authority.

Secondly – the person who was hosting the meeting had disproportionate control.  She was able to interrupt at will, stopping the flow to offer refreshments to individuals, going in and out of the room on errands – and sitting on the highest chair!


Think about where you need to be sitting in relation to: a) everyone else b) the room as a whole.

The best position is one where you can a) see the door b) see all attendees.

You must be able to see everyone else, to indicate people can speak by catching their eye, to watch the dynamics and body language;  and people might need to catch your eye too,  if they have something to say.

If you are at a board table, then a corner is the best place to be so that you can see everyone.  There is a temptation to sit in the middle of the top edge (like Jonathan Dimblebly) but then you have to keep leaning out and across (like Jonathan Dimbleby).

Being able to see the door is important, to clock if someone pops their head around with a message, or know if someone is walking in, so that you can welcome them – or ask them to wait.

Getting the right seat might mean arriving first.

And NEVER sit on the floor!!


Karen Morton, The Capability Company December 2016