Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Quickie Guide to Room Sets

There are many approaches to setting up a room for an event but, if you think about it, there really are only so many ways that you can fit people, chairs, and/or tables into any room. So what are the common types? Let’s take a look at the five standard sets…

Banquet Seating: This one seems pretty self-explanatory; people sit around a table and eat. Yes, that is true, but there are other possibilities. Typically, a 60” Round will seat eight people and a 72” Round will seat ten (60” or 72” refers to the tables diameter). This is a good style to use for banquets, hence the name, but can also be used for meetings where you might have to have people work in small groups. Each table forms a pre-made "group". This style of seating is also often used when a planner wants to have a meal function in the same room as the meeting. A common variant is something called crescent rounds. This uses a standard round but seats fewer people around it. I will usually use a 72” Round to seat 6-7 people, removing the chairs that have their backs facing the front of the room. This allows everyone at the table to face the presenter, yet still be in a small group for planned activities.

Classroom (or Schoolroom) Seating: Again, a fairly obvious description. In this case, you are providing long tables (18” or 30”, referring to the depth or width of the surface rather than the height or length of the table) at which chairs are placed along one side. All of the chairs face the front of the room, with the tables providing a space on which to work. Tables are typically either 6’ or 8’ in length.

Theater Seating: This is simply using rows of chairs, all facing the front of the room. And, just like going to the theater, you do not usually have a surface to write on. This style maximizes the number of people that you can fit into a room for a session.

Reception Seating: Huh? A Reception has seating? Sometimes, yes, it does. When I provide seating for a reception, we’re typically talking about a mix of tables. “Highboys” stand waist-high to chest-high and provide attendees with a place to set their drinks and snacks while socializing. I’ll often provide a few regular Rounds as well for people who wish to sit down rather than stand the whole time. In both cases, the number of “seats” is generally far less than the total expected attendance. Among other things, this helps encourage mingling.

Hollow Square: This is a rectangular formation of tables (not necessarily a true square) with chairs spaced along the outside, all of which are facing inward. This style is great for board or committee meetings. However, it does use a lot of space and can become a bit unwieldy when your numbers grow beyond about 20 people or so. A variation of Hollow Square, called Conference Seating, is often given its own category. It is typically a single table with seating for 1-2 people at either or both of the short ends and the rest of the chairs along each long edge.

I have seen many more seating arrangements than just these five – and I’m sure I haven’t seen every possible combination either. Some groups use just one kind of seating for their events and others mix it up from one event to the next, while some mix styles within the same room – whatever they need to use to support their program effectively, really. However, you don’t need to know every possible set or style to be an effective meeting planner. As long as you keep this basic set of five styles in mind, you can find an appropriate seating style for nearly any meeting.

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director