What's the most-neglected meeting success factor?
Semi-circular configurations are much, much more effective than old fashioned, classroom-style seating.
Why? When rows of seats are parallel to the front wall, all but a few in the audience must turn to see the speaker. This minor annoyance in short meetings becomes a major barrier to staying attentive and absorbing material in day-long sessions. Turning your head all day also squeezes the blood vessels in the neck that carry oxygen to your brain. Less oxygen, less attention.
And very few attendees are able to see others in the audience or watch their reactions to what is being presented - absolute necessities if real dialogue and interaction are to occur.
Meetings intended to encourage discussion and group interaction can learn a lot from the long-tested seating arrangements of the ancient Greek amphitheaters. Visit any of the top business schools, or corporate executive conference centers, and you'll see state-of-the-art adaptations of this multi-level, horseshoe-shaped Greek innovation.
When instructing hotel staff about room set-up, request semi-circular seating around the podium. Have the podium centered along the longest wall of the room. This minimizes the number of rows of seats needed, and eliminates the "bowling alley" look that marks a room poorly arranged for interaction and learning.
Finally, don't put a center aisle in the audience's prime real estate just in front of the speaker. Use two side aisles, instead. They will also provide easier access for the audience.
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