So you’ve decided to host an event, but now what? Well there are the obvious questions such as where will this event be held? Who will be in attendance? What kind of food and refreshments should be served, if any? While these questions are important to consider, perhaps the two most important questions to begin with are:
- What is the purpose of this event?
- What type of room layout will help me achieve this purpose and ensure guests get the most out of the event?
When hosting an event, understanding it’s purpose is critical to it’s success. Whether you’re setting up a conference, presentation or workshop with education as its purpose, or you’re hosting a dinner gala where celebration is the purpose, the seating arrangements will either reinforce or work against this purpose. A great way to ensure your seating arrangements align with your purpose is to think about your event from the audiences’ perspective. If a person is coming to your event to learn lessons from an expert, then you need to make sure everyone has the best possible view of the presenter and perhaps a surface to take notes on. If networking is the purpose, then you need to select a set-up that allows for maximum flow through the space so people don’t get stuck talking in silos.
To help you choose the best room layout for your next event, we’ve highlighted the eight most popular seating styles and their benefits.
8 types of room layouts to consider when hosting an event:
Theatre style seating is great for presentations, conferences or events where extensive note-taking is not necessary for attendees. This seating style mimics the seating structure you find in a theatre, where chairs are lined up in rows to face the speaker and aisles are created for easy access to seating rows. There are a variety of ways the rows can be setup including straight horizontal rows, herringbone style or in semi-circular rows.
Sage Tip: When setting up this seating style, consider staggering the chairs so attendees have a better opportunity to see the presenter.
Similar to theatre, classroom seating involves creating aisles and rows that face the speaker but includes the addition of tables. This type of room setting is great for longer meetings such as training meetings, working sessions, and lectures where attendees must refer to materials, take notes, or use their laptop.
Sage Tip: Keep in mind the addition of tables will reduce the overall seated capacity of the room. Be sure to double check the size of tables your venue uses for this type of set-up because that can affect the number of tables the room accommodates. Standard classroom tables are 18″ wide and either 6′ or 8′ in length.
A classic meeting room layout involving a larger, elongated conference table, where attendees are either seated on all four sides of the table or on only three sides when a presenter is required. This room layout is best for smaller, more intimate meetings where each participant needs to be able to see other participants for face-to-face discussion or collaboration purposes such as executive level board meetings, short presentations, team briefings, and group interviews.
Sage Tip: While any meeting room can be transformed into this style of set-up, many venues offer rooms with existing boardroom tables and chairs that also have built in Audiovisual equipment. Another added bonus is that existing boardrooms typically come with more comfortable executive chair seating. A far more comfortable experience for your guests than the standard banquet chairs used to create this type of set-up in other rooms.
As suggested by its name, this room layout involves configuring rectangular tables into the shape of the letter U with chairs positioned around the outside facing inwards to create a presentation area in the centre. With lots of space to move around the centre area, a presenter is easily able to move around and directly engage participants. This seating is best used for events with relatively small groups where the attendees are expected to participate and interact with the presenter and with each other such as workshops.
Also known as a “Half Moon” or “Half Round” set-up, this type of room layout traditionally involves 60″ round tables where chairs are strategically removed on one side so all people face the same direction. This style seating is best used for events that involve a meal as well as a stage performance or presentation such as awards ceremonies and luncheons. By removing the seats along one side, all attendees are able to enjoy their meal while viewing the stage presentation without having to turn their chair around or strain their neck.
Sage Tip: Standard round tables come in two sizes. A 60″ round will accommodate 4 – 5 people on one side, while a 72″ round will accommodate 5 – 6 people on one side.
Banquet seating is great for more formal events such as weddings, galas or corporate holiday parties where attendees are mainly seated for dining purposes. This room layout is similar to a round dinner table, with guests seated around the circumference of the table facing inwards. As half the guests would have their back to a stage, it is best used when speakers are not the main focus of the event or have limited time on stage.
Sage Tip: Standard round tables come in two sizes. A 60″ round will accommodate 8 – 10 people and a 72″ round will accommodate 10 – 12 people. Space permitting, we always recommend seating less people at a table to give your guests more personal space. Brushing elbows with the individual next to you isn’t the most comfortable dining experience.
Similar to banquet seating, imperial seating is another great option for dining and entertainment events. To create this layout, rectangular tables are placed end to end to create a long communal table and chairs are placed on either side of the table. More and more couples are selecting this style of layout for their wedding reception because it results in a cleaner and sleeker look. It is also beneficial as a space saving configuration for larger events.
Sage Tip: With this style of seating, it’s critical to consider accessibility to seats. Avoid excessively long table set-ups and consider using table breaks to give people easier access to their seats.
Also known as a “Cocktail” set-up, this type of setting is commonly used for networking or mingling events where the main focus is on guest interaction. This style of room layout is typically less structured and the use of chairs is minimal to encourage guests to stand and walk around. If food and beverage is required, having a small number of seated tables is a good idea so people who want to sit down and eat can. A standard reception set-up involves 30″ round tables that are 42″ tall called “high-top”, “cruiser” or “standing” tables. These are perching tables so chairs are not required, however bar stools can be added for additional seating if needed. 30″ round tables also come in regular table height so standard chairs can be used.
Sage Tip: If you have extra space at your event, consider a lounge area with couches and ottomans for a more relaxed atmosphere. If space is limited, consider long rectangular bar height or standard height tables placed around the perimeter of the room.
When thinking about your event room layout consider your attendee’s perspective and experience. Ask yourself if you were to attend the event what type of set-up would you appreciate and benefit the most from? It’s the small details that guests truly appreciate. Considerations such as staggered seating when using a theatre style room setting or selecting a half-round instead of a full round to improve sight-lines make a huge difference in attendee satisfaction.
Additionally, never be afraid to ask questions. Your venue manager is an expert on the intricacies of their event space so can give you guidance on what works best and what should be avoided. Need a little extra help with your space planning? We’re always here to offer support. We have tons of experience with room layout calculations and we’re always happy to offer our Sage Advice.