Women, Take Your Place at the Table…the Right Place!

Meetings, meetings, meetings, your working life is probably full of them. Sometimes you’re no doubt temped to avoid a few when you can; I know I used to!

It makes sense to use your time wisely and some organisations get into meeting overload culture. However, make sure you are not missing any key meetings where crucial decisions are made or where people are selected to make crucial decisions. It’s very easy for women to get sidelined, particularly in large organisations. And it’s easy for women to be largely invisible in meetings too.

I’ve written before about the importance of making sure you’re voice is heard in every meeting and the tendency of men to interrupt and talk across women; this time I’m adding a few tips about body language in meetings.

Body Language Tips for Meetings

  • If you’re presenting, stand tall and use open body language. If your body is saying ‘nervous and anxious’ you are likely to get a bored or negative reaction. Try to keep the energy up in your voice and sound as if you are really enthused by what you’re saying. Remember the nodding head trap….
  • Make sure you talk to everyone, making comfortable eye contact with all, and not just focussing on the most senior person.
  • Your choice of seat can unconsciously influence your relationship with colleagues; it all depends on the shape of the table. If at a square table the person on your right will be most attuned with what you are saying and will tend to want to agree with you. It could be useful to get your most difficult colleague in that position of possible. The person who will feel least sympathy with you will be the one seated opposite as the table is a very real physical barrier between you.
  • Round tables can work well in helping everyone feel very relaxed, unless there is someone present who is much senior to the others. Then square table rules er… rule.
  • Try not to sit with your back to the door if you are at a long meeting table. You will have less authority than if you were facing the door. Sitting at the short end of a rectangular table facing the door gives added authority (think Victorian fathers at Sunday lunch!)
  • Be careful about touching anyone in meetings or being touched. Touching can be seen as an invasion of personal space, but it’s also about power too. Men touch women more than women touch men. Researchers think there is a strong link between gender and social inferiority, i.e. men tend to keep women on their dominant side; if they are right handed it will be their right side and vice versa. Research has also found that when men touch women it’s often seen as a signal of power (or a sexual advance). When women touch men it’s usually a sign of intimacy. Make sure your personal space is respected.

Photo Credit: Michelle Ho


Posted on May 1st, 2011 by

One Response to “Women, Take Your Place at the Table…the Right Place!”

  1. Gavin Ryan says:

    Fantastc advice!

Leave a Reply to Gavin Ryan

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