Walking into a sitting/living room of a house can tell you a lot about how the family spends their time. Over the past 50 years, the focal point has evolved from being the fireplace or coffee table to being the TV. Now, we slowly starting to see this evolve again as we all have individual devices.
Walking into a meeting room or conference room is no different, you pick up signals immediately from how the room is arranged. Often times, there is too little thought given to this and the default setup or the caters decide.
The classic U setup is good for a presentation so most people can see the screen, the rectangle (boardroom) can also work for seeing a screen and providing ‘sides’, the square table only works with four people (generally good only for playing games, not meetings) and round table approach only works if it is five people – the odd number is important for reducing our default of forming teams and beyond five is reduces the ability to have a group discussion. The moment any form of a ‘head’ table is included all of the dynamics change again.
As anyone who has been involved in the seating plan at a wedding or high profile event knows, where people sit matter. So when your team sits on one side of the table and mine on the other, this communicates something. If men and women sit grouped together, this communicates something.
When we are engaging in change, especially organisational change, the small subtle things matter and can have profound impact. Pay attention to the signals you are sending.