Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What is Classroom Seating?

[This post is the second in a series of pieces looking at the different types of room sets in more detail than we have previously. On Monday, we looked at Theater Seating. Today: Classroom Seating.]

Also called Schoolroom Seating, Classroom Seating (CR or SR) is one of the most common types of room sets used for meetings and conferences. So, what are the characteristics of this type of seating?

• Length: 6’ or 8’ per table
• Table Height: 30”
• Table Depth (width): 18”, 24”, or 30”
• Seating: 2 – 4 people per table

Why is it used so frequently? Well, one of the reasons classroom seating is popular is because it gives attendees a surface on which to write (as well as a place to put snacks and drinks). This makes it an ideal choice for all-day training sessions and workshops in which attendees need to take notes, work on projects, or just need to do a lot of writing.

Generally, the tables are set up in rows facing the front of the room. Since most meeting rooms are essentially rectangular in shape, this basic setup fits quite well into them. For oddly shaped rooms, though, this may not be an efficient style. And, in any case, this is not the seating style that allows the maximum number of seats in the room (that prize goes to theater seating). Since it does not provide the maximum possible seating for a room, you may need to do a double set or a different set entirely for larger groups.

Sometimes, especially in larger rooms, those who sit at the far edges of the room may have trouble viewing the screen (or the speaker) simply due to their angle relative to the screen. There is a way to address this while still using Classroom Seating, though. The planner will angle the rows slightly to create a variant called Chevron Seating. Using this variant requires a bit more space than the basic classroom style to accommodate the same number of people. However, the benefits of having everyone with a direct view of the speaker usually outweigh the loss of a few seats or the extra space needed.

“Basic” Classroom and Chevron Seating can be mixed as well, which is commonly done in larger rooms and with greater numbers of attendees. The seats directly in front of the stage are set square to the front of the room, while the rows that are off to either side are angled. The goal here is to ensure that everyone in the audience is able to have a good view of the presentation.

Classroom Seating, regardless of the variant used, does have one other drawback: it is generally not conducive to interaction among the participants. The focus of this seating style is typically the front of the room. That positioning highlights the speaker and subtly emphasizes the didactic (lecture) nature of most presentations.

So how much space does this style use? You’re looking at approximately 15 square feet per person if the tables are 18” wide and 20 square feet per person if they are 30”. In the rare cases where I have come across 24” wide tables, I use the 20 square foot number to be on the safe side. Here’s a handy-dandy seating chart to help you figure out how much space you’ll need based on your expected attendance (up to 1,000 people).

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises