04 September, 2013

How Room Size And Seating Arrangement Affect Neighborhood Watch Meetings

At last night's neighborhood watch meeting I was reminded again of how much simple things like the size and shape of the room and the seating arrangement affect group dynamics. 

My neighborhood watch group normally meets in the fellowship hall of a church where it's possible to scoot all the card tables together and get everybody on the same elevation, looking each other in the eyes, but, because we had a special speaker and anticipated a big crowd, we held last night's meeting in the sanctuary. It changed everything. For the worse. I was disoriented all evening long.

I've never liked meetings where all the seats face toward the front because the pulpit or the podium or the dais or the lectern is in the front. First, this seating arrangement implies that the only person in the room of any importance is whoever is standing at front speaking. Second, this arrangement stifles interaction between speaker and audience. Third, this kind of seating arrangement makes Q and A and room-wide interaction difficult. I don't even like this arrangement when I am the guest speaker.

I've said before that you can't have an effective and successful neighborhood watch until you have first created the conditions that lead to a sense of community and cohesion and unity and neighborliness. Large rooms and all-seats-pointed-toward-the-front seating arrangement works at counter purposes to creating that sense of neighborliness we need. 

Where possible, hold your meetings in a cozy, intimate room where people can be seated in a circle or around a square or rectangular table. 

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