How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Layout of the Negotiation Room
The layout of the room in which you are holding the negotiation will affect how the negotiation proceeds.
Tables are barriers between people (as are the arms of a chair) and hence act to separate. People often feel safer with a table in front of them as they 'hide behind' it. Tables also hide the legs, which can give significant body language signals (in particular showing tension) when the person is consciously controlling their arms and head.
Many rooms have tables in the centre, with chairs around it. Think about the shape of the table being used in such circumstances. Round tables are 'fair'. Long tables have a place for a 'chairperson'. Square tables have corners you can sit across.
An alternative for informal environment is small tables at the side of chairs. These give a place to put things without obstructing body language.
Chairs may be informal arm-chairs or formal 'table' chairs. Informal chairs relax you and let you sit back. For intimate discussions, a sofa removes barriers between you and the other person and allows touching (as appropriate). Formal chairs sit you more upright, are easier to move and are more likely to make you lean forward.
Have enough chairs for everyone to sit, but get rid of many extras (unless you want to create a particular effect).
Drinks and food may be at hand, to allow for breaks and keeping people comfortable. An alternative is to have food and/or drinks outside. This gives reason for getting out of the room. Food smells can be distracting and best kept out of the room.
Other furniture, such as cupboards and bookshelves can make the room seem more homely. They can also hold reference material, should that be needed.