5 Tips For Selecting The Right Location To Negotiate In

By Dr. Jim Anderson

What’s your goal for your next negotiation? If you are like 99.9% of the other negotiators out there, you want to have the other side agree to your requests while at the same time not having to agree to too many of their requests. Hmm, how best to make this happen? It turns out that one of the keys to having the negotiation process turn out the way that you want them to starts long before the actual negotiations do – it happens when the room where you’ll be doing your negotiation is selected.

Who’s Where And Why?

You are a busy, successful negotiator. You don’t have time to worry about such trivial things as what room you’ll be conducting your negotiations in. You need to be spending your time worrying about the things that really matter: researching the other side and picking the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that you’ll use.

Hold on a minute, I’m going to tell you that the outcome of your next negotiating session may very well depend on how the room that you negotiate in is set up. This item should be part of the negotiation definition. Now do I have your attention? Let’s start with the simple things, like the chair that you’ll be sitting in.

The other side is going to have a leg up on you if you are distracted for any reason. A great way to do this is to set the room up so that you find yourself sitting in a distinctly uncomfortable chair. You might think that this is a trivial issue, but that’s the point – it will irritate you just enough to keep you off of your game and give more power to the other side.

There’s another angle to this technique. We all love those rooms that have floor to ceiling glass walls that allow you to look outside. What we tend to forget is that at the start and the end of the day, the sun will be shining in through those very windows. When this happens, if your chair has been situated so that you are looking out of the windows, you’ll be staring directly into the rising or setting sun. This will throw you off of your game very quickly!

Since most of us don’t negotiate by ourselves, where the rest of our team is sitting is very important. What we want to do is to make sure that everyone who is on your team is seated so that they can maintain eye contact with each other. So much of what goes on during a negotiation is subtitle that this type of ability to communicate is critical. Likewise, ensuring that you match up different roles with the other side across the table (executive to executive, legal to legal, etc.) can significantly help with communications.

It All About So Much More Than Just The Room

So now that we have where you and your team will be sitting all taken care of, we’re done with this room stuff, right? Well no, there’s still the issue of picking the actual room itself.

What you want to do here is to make sure that the size of the room matches the number of people who will be participating in the negotiations. This means that a very large room is not suitable for a small negotiating party and likewise a small room won’t suit the needs of a large group of negotiators.

It turns out that you need to worry about more than just the room that you’ll be negotiating in. You also need to make sure that other rooms are available to be used by both sides of the table. We all know how negotiations go – it’s not always what gets discussed at the “big table” in front of everyone that helps you get to a deal, but rather the smaller discussions that happen offline that will help resolve issues and allow you to make progress.

What All Of This Means For You

In a principled negotiation, as with all such things in life, it’s the little things that end up making all of the difference. One of the biggest of the little things are the decisions that get made about the room that you’ll be conducting your negotiations in.

It’s a 1,000 little things about the room that can have an impact on your ability to reach the deal that you want. You need to make sure that you’ll have a comfortable chair, that you won’t be staring into the sun, and that both your team and the other side are correctly seated at the negotiating table.

Once you have the room taken care of, you need to make sure that the rest of your negotiating environment also meets your needs. This includes making sure that the size of the room that you’ll be using matches the size of the teams that will be negotiating: not too big, not too small. Finally, you’ll need to make sure that you have additional rooms available so that both sides can have those all so important side meetings.

As a negotiator you are responsible for making sure that the time and energy that you put into any deal that you’ve negotiated yields results. One way to help this happen correctly is to take the time to make sure that the negotiating room meets your needs. Take care of this detail, and the room will take care of you.