Be Seated: The Importance of a Seating Chart to a Successful Business Meal

The seating charts that used to be part of our lives when we were growing up were actually teaching us more about social interaction than we may have realized at the time. A grown-up seating chart comes in real handy during our professional lives when applied strategically, particularly when planning a restaurant business meal. Sounds a bit precious? Not if you take a step back for better perspective. Creating a seating chart is an exercise in forethought that will set your meetings apart and maximize their effectiveness for you and your guests.

So many logistical and communicative factors combine and intersect to create flow and balance during the business meal conversation that, without a seating chart in mind, the host and all her guests will find themselves at a disadvantage. Want to take FULL advantage of the next meal you host? Consider in advance where each of your guests should sit based on very specific factors. Here are some scenarios to think about when proactively setting yourself up for a successful business meal.

Practicality Over Tradition

Etiquette may dictate that you give the guest of honor the “best seat”. But strategically, this is not always a great idea. Sidestep this tradition in your seating chart, and position yourself to be able to catch a server’s eye by sitting in the corresponding seat, regardless of its “greatness”.

The Trade-Out

Historically, the guest of honor is seated to the right of the host. If you are hosting more than three guests, you may choose to relinquish your seat if there is someone else at the meal who should meet and communicate with your up-and-coming colleague. It should be someone who will get the deal done or move the relationship forward, ultimately acting in your interest.

A Left-Handed Solution

Lefties have it tough. They often knock elbows with others at the table because their knife is held in their left hand. As the host, if you’re aware of who the south paws are in your party, they would much prefer to be positioned at either the head or foot of a table, or at a left corner. To truly have mercy on the lefties, avoid choosing a round table.

Gender Bender

Emily Post suggests you should alternate male and female guests around a business lunch table. As a business host, take the liberty to bend the rules here. Consider business compatibility over gender, and when creating your seating chart, place people together strategically according to who ought to be connecting with whom.

Don’t Forget Your Personal Space

For women, a one-on-one business dinner can become uncomfortable if you’re out with a client whom you find a bit imprudent. Since it’s not a romantic date, make sure to choose a table that’s NOT kitty-corner. You and your guest should be sitting across from each other….no chart necessary.

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