Monday, December 5, 2011

What is Theater Seating?

[This post is the first in a series of pieces looking at the different types of room sets in more detail than we have previously. This week: Theater Seating.]

Theater seating is probably the most common seating style in use today – especially for large events. Needing just ten square feet per person (eight if no AV), it allows you to fit the greatest number of people into any meeting space (while not violating fire codes). However, that is not the only reason it is popular. It is also flexible and quick to set up or strike, making room changes easier than with many other room sets.

The standard configuration for Theater Seating is to place the chairs in long, straight rows. The area in front of the stage is set with the chairs directly facing it. All of the rest of the rows in the room are set in line with and parallel to those. However, there is much more that can be done with this style and the possible configurations are not limited to just this one method.

For instance, you can change the angle of the rows, or even the chairs themselves, to provide better viewing angles. Better yet, set the chairs in an arc around the front of the stage, giving everyone a “head-on” view of the speaker. You can even place the chairs in a circle to promote sharing and interaction. Placing chairs in concentric rings creates a “stage” in the center, which creates a more intimate space in the room.

If your attendance soars (a great problem to have usually), you may find yourself running out of seats. With Theater Seating, it is easy to bring in more seats (assuming you’re not already at capacity for the room). With many conferences I work on, I will recommend planning to use another seating style first if possible, one that uses more square footage per person, and shift to Theater Seating when the numbers increase beyond the capacity for the original style.

Fortunately, the math for this style is pretty easy to do in your head. Simply multiply the number of expected attendees by ten and you have the approximate total square footage you need (including space for AV, aisles, etc.). If you know the total amount of usable space in a room, you can figure out how many people should fit by dividing the total square footage by ten. And, if you don’t want to do the math, here’s a room capacity chart I whipped up to help you with the numbers.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises