When planning any conference or event, you may begin by deciding the scope of the meeting, scouting a location, and finally deciding what day and time will work best for your attendees. Okay, then what?
During my 20+ years of event planning, I have discovered that once these questions are answered, it’s time to post these next two inquiries: “How many people?” and “How would you like them seated?” That second question always seems to be a bit of a stumper. The response I receive more often than not? “What are my options?” So that’s what I want to chat with you about, the options, and what makes sense for your event.
Theater Style Seating:
Theater style at the Holiday Inn Research Park in Huntsville, AL
To the untrained eye, this type of seating may at first appear to be similar to the waiting room at the DMV.
Theatre style (or auditorium style) seating means that chairs are set next to each other in rows, facing the front of the room, without tables in front of them.
This set-up allows for maximum capacity in your meeting room. Valuable floor real estate isn’t taken up by tables. This seating works best for meetings that are distraction-free; attendees are focused on what the presenter is saying and not thumbing through papers.
There is nowhere to place other materials. If you have handouts, wish for attendees to take notes or are planning to serve refreshments, this set-up is not ideal.
Theatre style seating is best utilized for breakout sessions, short informative group meetings or situations where you need to accommodate the most attendees in limited available space.
Classroom Style Seating:
Classroom style at the Four Points by Sheraton-Huntsville Airport
This is the meeting room that looks like every seminar, in every movie, you’ve ever seen.
This seating consists of rows of tables with chairs. Tables are usually 18 inches but can be as much as 30 inches in depth and either six or eight feet in width.
Classroom style seating gives your attendees a place to put their stuff: a cup of coffee, their laptop or tablet for notes, booklets or even just their elbows. It is much more comfortable for your guests, particularly for all-day meetings.
This set-up requires more space than theatre style. It also is difficult to serve a working meal in this set-up or have smaller group activities. Sure it can be done but it’s clunky, awkward and uncomfortable for your guests.
Classroom style seating is perfect for day-long educational meetings where you might be serving coffee breaks and reviewing printed materials, but it is best to let folks have lunch in a separate room or on their own.
Crescent Round Seating:
This will be reminiscent of your youth and what the “Kid’s Table” began to look like as your older cousins got married and flew the coop.
Crescent round seating utilizes a traditional dinner banquet round table and it is set without chairs on the side closest to the speaker.
Crescent round seating is ideal for a meeting with a presentation involving small group interaction as well as those who would like a “working” lunch. This set-up allows ample working space as well as plenty of space for food and beverage. If you are hosting a multi-day meeting this set-up can also easily be converted to an evening banquet, cutting time between events.
This unique meeting room setting requires more square footage than any other set-up. Also, you may experience a little sound-bleed from nearby groups if working in smaller teams.
Crescent round seating is ideal for those who are willing to trade square footage for comfort and best suits any group looking to include team brainstorming activities in their event.
The lesson here, don’t assume that your meeting, conference, training or other event has to look like every other one you have ever attended. You have options! Choose the meeting room set-up that will lend itself to making your event the most successful it can be.