The setup of the meeting room can make the difference between a productive or a non-productive meeting. The setup you choose depends on how many people are attending and what the meeting is to accomplish.
There are many basic seating arrangements. Whichever you choose, your primary objective should be to devise the most comfortable arrangement possible, and one that will promote open discussion among attendees as well as with the discussion leader.
To select the best setup for your meeting, first consider the following points:
Bearing these points in mind, the four most common setups include:
Seats or chairs in rows facing a stage area, head table, or speaker (with no conference table)
This is the most efficient set-up when the attendees will act as an audience. This set-up is not recommended for food events or if note taking is required.
Theatre setup is the arrangement of choice if you're featuring a number of speakers, a performance, or elaborate audiovisuals, and if you want to maximize the space in a room.
This setup, however, is crowded and there is less likelihood of getting good participation from attendees. In a typical group, one-third will actively participate, another one-third will moderately participate, and the other one-third won't participate at all. In addition, there is no place to put notebooks, handouts and other belongings. Those sitting in the back of the room may have difficulty hearing questions being asked by those in front and writing can be difficult.
Rows of conference tables with chairs facing the front of a room (and usually a speaker), providing writing space for each person.
This room set-up is ideal for note taking, meetings requiring multiple handouts or reference materials, or other tools such as laptop computers. This is the most comfortable set-up for long sessions and allows refreshments to be placed within reach of each attendee.
Classroom setups allow the introduction of team projects during the course of the meeting by having participants at every other group of tables turn to face those behind them to form small discussion groups.
This setup takes up a lot of room because of the many tables and the spacing between attendees. Provide two-and-a-half feet between participants and two-and-a-half to three feet between rows.
When selecting a room for this setup or any other, it will be difficult to get attendees to participate. Unless microphones are provided, it may be difficult for attendees in the back of the room to hear or see people talking in the front since those in front.
A square room is best. If the room is not square, a good rule of thumb is that the length of a room should never exceed its width by more than 50 percent, i.e., a room 20 feet wide should be no more than 30 feet long.
A rectangular or oval table set up with chairs around all sides and ends.
This table layout is often used for Board of Directors meetings, committee meetings, or discussion groups. In the conference style setup, participants sit on three sides of a rectangular table and focus on a power fiqure at the head. This arrangement makes it easy for participants to see one another and also provides a writing surface.
Square conference tables arranged in a square (or rectangle), leaving the center open. Chairs are placed around the outside of the tables.
The hollow square setup has four or more tables arranged in a square or rectangle. Participants sit on all sides, everyone has the same amount of space and there is on emphasis on a power figure.
Setup is critical as far as participation is concerned. Conference style or hollow square is best for under 30 people. If the group is larger than 30, this setup is stretched too far. If the participants can't hear or see well, there is no feeling of collegiality. Allot two to two-and-a-half feet between individuals.
A series of conference tables set in the shape of the letter U, with chairs around the outside.
This layout style is often used for Board of Directors meetings, committee meetings, or discussion groups where there is a speaker, audio-visual presentation or other focal point.
The U-shape is one of the most popular of seating arrangements for groups of less than 30 participants. This seating style, optimal for training sessions and speaker presentations, positions the leader either in the middle of the connecting end of the U or in the middle of the U.
The openness of this setup gives attendees a sense of freedom that encourages wider participation, while the amount of space between attendees avoids the effect of compression. Also there is no sense of preferential seating because all seats have an equally good view of the meeting leaders.
Small, round cocktail/reception tables (usually 15-30 inches or 38-76 centimeters in diameter) with chairs.
A group of round tables, each seating 8 -10 people, set to facilitate serving food, usually in a hexagonal or square pattern.
Similar to banquet seating. but the chairs are placed around one-half of the table. The chairs all face the front of the room in this style of seating.
Provides place for beverages and elbows.
Most interactive of large group setups.
Promotes a sense of participation.
About 20-23 square feet per person.
Can be setup with or without tables.
Can be setup with or without tables.
Improves visibility of speaker and visuals from side sections. More interactive than Theater or Classroom.
Seats can be on either outside or inside of tables.
Instructor can survey students' work.
Easy exchange between presenter and audience.
Center usable for exhibits or demos.