Friday, December 9, 2011

What are Rounds?

[This post is the third in a series of pieces looking at the different types of room sets in more detail than we have previously. Earlier this week, we covered Theater and Classroom Seating. In this post, we’ll look at Rounds...]

Rounds (RND). What is that exactly? Well, in the case of the meetings industry, it is a style of seating where people sit around a table, one that is nearly always round or oval in shape (hence the name). The easiest way for most people to visualize this is to think of a banquet or a wedding reception. Eight to ten people sit around a table and there might be 20-30 tables set in rows to accommodate all of the guests.

• Size: 60” and 72” diameters are the standard options.
• Seating: 8 to 10 people per table
• Space Requirements: 15 square feet per person

Why is this style common? Primarily for one reason that I’ve already mentioned: banquets. Seating in Rounds is a good way to feed people and allows for social interaction during the meal – something which most people, at some level, enjoy most of the time. But, how well does it work for meetings?

Well, it depends on what your goals for the meeting are. Rounds are good for workshops or trainings where participants will need to work together in teams. This style lends itself quite well to creating pre-set teams without any real effort on the part of the speaker or the organizers. It is also good for sessions where participants need a lot of table space to work on projects. Regardless of whether each person is working with others or on their own, Rounds provide ample space for shared supplies and materials while leaving enough workspace open for them to do any projects.

Rounds do not do so well with traditional, presentation-focused sessions. No matter where you are in the room or how you orient the table, at least one third will have to place their backs to the presentation or give up a surface to write upon. Perhaps another third will be sitting with the table to one side or the other, which can create just as many problems for note taking if the table is not on your writing hand side. This means that only one third (or a little over that) of your audience will have a good view of the presentation and an effective surface to write on. However, let’s not write this style off completely just yet…

The variant of Rounds that does work fairly well for meetings is called Crescent Rounds. With this approach, you remove the roughly one third of the seats with their backs to the speaker, leaving six or seven chairs remaining (out of ten originally). Furthermore, you don’t redistribute the chairs around the table to “space them out”. Instead, you keep them in their original spots. That means one section of the table will have nobody sitting in it – but it also means that more people can have both a writing surface and a good view of the presentation.

So, why would you use Crescent Rounds instead of Classroom, for example? Well, use of Crescent Rounds allows you to harness the advantages of Rounds (such as for small group work) while still allowing effective participation in lecture-style presentations. The downside of Crescent Rounds is that, since you have fewer people sitting at each table, you will need more tables and, hence, more space to accommodate the same number of people. The space factor is one reason I think we don’t see this frequently as a room set, though it is still used often enough to be one of the basic sets that all planners should know.

Another alternative, if you have enough space available, is to use a double set. (Check out this post for more information about double sets.) This would allow you to have a presentation in one half of a room and small group activities or meals in the other half. Such a set reduces transition time (no needing to find your way around the hotel if you are just going to another spot in the same room) and can help moderators keep track of participants a little easier.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

View and download a Seating Capacity Chart here.