Chairman of the bored

Chair for unwanted visitors

This blog often looks at methods for preventing people sitting down comfortably, usually in public space, from actual benches designed for this purpose, to features of walls and ledges which treat people like pigeons.

How often is the complete lack of seats a deliberate strategy? Seth Godin, in a post looking at different strategies for running meetings, suggests something interesting:

I think most of the time, most meetings should be held without chairs. People standing up think more quickly and get distracted less often. And the meetings don’t last as long.

That probably does ‘work’ as part of a strategy to speed up meetings, but – crucially – only if there is a mechanism for the participants to end the meeting. Whoever is leading the meeting (if anyone is) also needs to be standing up and experiencing just the same as everyone else. Otherwise there’s the tendency for the stand-up meetings to be characterised by a lot of people not thinking more quickly, but merely irritated, shifting their weight from leg to leg, and wishing they weren’t there. I think we’ve all been to meetings like that, both seated and standing.

Is the ‘chair-less meeting’ a commonly used deliberate tactic? Can it be used to get people to agree to things because of their discomfort and desire to get away quickly?

Image: ‘Chair for unwanted visitors’ – photo by David Weightman from a set shot for Good Thinking: Brunel Design, 2004.


  1. Wow! People actually hold standup meetings deliberately? Thankfully i’ve never experienced this. Imagining myself in a standup meeting I think it would feel awkward and that most people would gravitate towards a wall or ledge to lean against to ‘own’ an area of space. Practically there are issues such as it being more awkward to take notes when not leant on a table and there is no room to put items such as a water bottle, laptop, phone, mints… all the little things people take with them into meetings. I also wonder if there is a trade-off between the speed of the meeting and the quality of the outcome. It may be quicker because people don’t like standing up so want to get out of there asap. This may result in them actually making more rash and thus worse decisions than they may have made whilst sat down. Definitely food for thought!

  2. Hi Dan,
    the “stand-up meeting” is used very deliberately in agile software methodologies, especially scrum:

    I know from personal anecdote of a colleague and former Google employee that they hold all their meetings stand-up (at least at his office). In my own time as project manager, I used this *very* deliberately. Do stand up and do put everything you say as a visual representation on a white board. It keeps the energy up, people who need to sit will sit for a short time and resume standing, people taking different notes is prevented by everyone agreeing on what is written on the white board.

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