When planning an event or meeting, one of the hardest parts can be accommodating the amount of attendees you need in a venue in the most engaging way. When deciding on the best room layout and seating arrangements there are a number of factors to take into consideration.
1. What Are The Attendee Numbers?2. What Space is Available?3. What Are Your Priorities?4. What Are the Practicalities?5. Decorations and Furniture.6. Do You Need a Stage?7. Activities?8. Health And Safety. Theater Style - All chairs are setup in straight rows, facing a central point, such as a staging area. There is generally an aisle in the middle to allow attendees to reach their seats. theater style is one of the most common and traditional layouts seen, particularly when trying to fit as many attendees into a space as possible. theater style is commonly used for conferences, where a dense mass of people need to be seated and for events that require a large stage or presentation area. It can hinder interaction as you are limited to talk to the people immediately around you. Attendees have a tendency to spread out too and to leave unsightly gaps and empty chairs which people are blocked from filling. Common Uses: Conferences, presentations, annual meetings, product launches, displays, lectures, performances.
Classroom Style This layout introduces square or rectangular tables and therefore immediately requires more space as attendees sit on chairs in rows behind the tables facing the central presentation area. It is useful for events that require note taking, tests and if access to equipment, refreshments and food is needed. Common Uses: Ideal for note-taking, medium sized conferences or events, longer events, training, tests, use of computers and tablet devices, access to water.
CabaretUsing circular banqueting tables, attendees are seated around the tables. Sometimes half tables are used instead of rounds. The tables are staggered around a stage or presentation area. In a conference setting the chairs at the head of the table may be removed so that no one has their back to the activity and chairs may be angled towards the front. The downside is that you waste around 60% of table space as no one sits on the opposite side. This setup is particularly useful for events that have both meals and performances or require group work and want to encourage networking. Common Uses: Meals with presentations or performances e.g. award evenings, luncheons, workshops, conferences
Banquet Introducing the seating all the way around around tables this layout is useful for dinner based events or those that don’t require attendees to be focused on a central point in the room and can allow more efficient table positioning. It allows you to use more of the space to fit attendees as tables are used to maximum capacity. While it is conducive to networking on the table, it makes it difficult to interact with other tables and can tend to silo attendees into groups and cliques which can also be one of its main benefits if you are aiming for people to get to know each other.
Common Uses: Weddings, evening events, sit-down meals, entertainment or music based stage events that don’t require attendees constantly focusing their attention or turning around.
BoardroomTables are turned inwards to create a square or rectangle with participants all seated at the tables facing the middle to allow interaction and discussion. With larger numbers or depending on the room, the boardroom layout may be hollow in the middle. This layout is popular for small breakout sessions and meetings and to encourage participation, brainstorming and discussion. It can take up a lot of room and if there are too many participants it can have the opposite effect, making it difficult for delegates to interact. Common Uses: Meetings, conference breakout sessions, smaller sessions, brainstorming
U-Shape This is essentially boardroom style but with one end table removed to accommodate a facilitator or session leader and the ability to see the stage or front/head of the table. This helps to allow discussion but facilitated in a more structured way so it can accommodate more than a traditional boardroom layout, especially if interaction is predominantly between a leader and the attendees. Common Uses: Suitable for interactive sessions such as smaller conferences and meetings, debates, workshops, training sessions
CocktailIf you are looking to use as much capacity as possible and allow people to network freely, a reception or buffet style often involves having several long tables at the edge of the room with food and refreshments while the rest of the space is free with several high-top tables to stand and rest at. Although some chairs may be used they are generally discouraged as this can interfere with networking and movement. Common Uses: Short events, networking events, drink receptions, social events
Room layouts don’t have to be limited to the uninventive tried and tested arrangements we see time and time again. If you are looking to give your meeting design a twist consider if one of these setups could have more impact.