How To Plan Advantageous Seating Arrangements In Negotiation

By on February 1, 2018

You might think that you are one step closer to a deal if you can get the opposite party into a negotiation room. But why stop there if it is in your power to plan out seating arrangements for everybody.

Don’t you want to utilize everything you have to nudge every element in your favor?

For starters, this is not about corporate espionage of any kind.

You are not going to make life as tough as possible to the other party. You are merely making life as easy as possible for yourself.

You are not going to sabotage anyone by placing a rubber-ducky on a seat. You are also not going to install a machine that ties your client to the seat as soon as he sits down. You are not stealthily getting into position to give your opponent a wedgy when he least expect it. And you are definitely not going to install a steel cage that slams down as a trap when a person takes his seat.

What we are discussing here is to use the meeting room to your advantage by planning the seating arrangements.

A lot of salespeople don’t even think of seating layouts as a tool for gaining an advantage. However, you can be sure that veteran negotiators will know these things inside out.

Your most important aide by your side

Whether the meeting room is a site of yours or at a neutral location, you want your most important aides and informants close to you.

This is so that you can turn to them and make short discussions before agreeing to, or asking for, concessions.

If you have to call for someone who is not in the room or all the way across the table when you need additional input, you could potentially break the flow of a condition being agreed upon.

It shows how amateurish you are.

It can also create awkward moments and even make your client uncomfortable.

More importantly, it can pattern interrupt him and cause him to re-think what is being discussed that is so close to agreement.

With your trusted sidekick next to you, he will also be able to sound you out of issues that has escaped you attention during negotiation.

Sit opposite your adversary

Ideally, all parties will emerge from a meeting room feeling good about what they were able to squeeze out of the deal. You can shake hands and send each other Christmas cards after that.

But what you cannot ignore is that before a deal is done, whether it’s about real estate or not, the other party is an opponent. Please don’t treat them like an enemy.

They want what is best for them while you want what is best for your company.

They want to cut 50% off your price so that they can get a higher margin, which will effectively kill your profits. While you want to increase price by 50%, which will kill their profitability.

It’s a battle you are getting into. And the one with the strongest conviction will win.

So you need to confront your opponent head-on with seats opposite each other.

If you are truly uncomfortable with facing him face-to-face, at least get into an off-center position.

Features of the room

There are some things that are often found in rooms. And the person(s) sitting closest to them control the items.

  • Doors. Controls who gets to enter the room and the way they are welcomed into it.
  • Windows. Controls distractions including noise and visuals outside.
  • Telephones. Controls who get to call in and out.
  • Computers. Controls the flow of presentations and even whether a presentation gets shown.
  • Whiteboards. Controls the one item that can help get an important point across.
  • Monitors and screens. Controls when to start and end presentations.
  • Coffee maker. You essentially become the coffee boy.
  • Etc

Depending on how you are planning out your negotiation strategies and the circumstances around it, do make a mental note of what are the essential items that need control to.

Then meticulously plan out arrangements to match your plans.

Glare from windows

Do you want the other party to have their eyes in the sun, or do you want everyone to be comfortable?

There is no right or wrong answer here. It really depends…

But you should already know where the sun will be shining in from at the hours when you will be conducting the meeting.

How you intend to use the element of natural lighting is at your disposal.

Sometimes negotiators can be so eager to leave a room that they might be more agreeable to your proposals.

Sometimes, the sunlight can get them so agitated that they become even more determined to grab a great deal for themselves at your expense.

And sometimes, they can call out the annoying disturbance from the glare that they request to re-schedule the negotiation… leaving all your plans in tatters.

If a sudden request is made to change the seating arrangements because of the sunlight, this impromptu activity will remove what little control you initially had concerning the glare.

So weight out the factors and make judgment call on how to use this room feature.

Take the power seat

On any table, in any circumstances, whether it’s business or social, there will always be a power seat.

This is not just psychological, but practical in application as well.

Some, if not all, of the following factors will help you identify that chair.

  • Able to see every person in the room
  • Able to see every person entering and exiting the room
  • Able to see what is happening outside the room
  • More (even slightly) elevated compared to other seats
  • The least obstacles between the seat and all other seats
  • No one will be seating or standing behind the seat
  • Nothing behind the seat except a wall
  • If there are tables for each chair, the one with the sturdiest table in front

I’d like to add that even though I have written down the above, I still don’t think it is comprehensive enough to fully elaborate on where is a power seat. A lot depends on judgment when you observe the layout of the room and it’s surroundings.

So good luck 😀

Walking into a room you did not set up

Sometimes, you can feel how tensed a place is the moment you enter it. And it won’t a surprise as people will design room arrangements that are favorable to them too.

In such instances, don’t forget that you can always

  • move your seat
  • ask your hosts for assistance
  • stand up and walk around when presenting
  • disrupt discussion flows with pattern interrupts
  • assume power no matter where you are seating

Finally, remember that negotiations, even with sales, are meant to create win-win situations for all parties involved.

Only make use of such negotiation tactics if you are convinced that it can create the outcome that would be beneficial for all parties involved.



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