In the Hot Seat – Room Setups That Work

By Lain Ehmann

Imagine nabbing tickets to the seventh game of the World Series and then being seated behind a large pillar, unable to see the action. You’d be wondering why you wasted your time and money when you could have had a better experience in front of your own TV screen.

Annoyance might not be quite as high for someone who gets the worst seat in the house at the annual sales meeting, but why not make sure every attendee has a good view? Here are the major types of room configurations and the pros and cons of each.

  • Theater. Theater-style setups typically have one, two or three sections of seats, all facing a single focal point at an angle. Space needed: 9 to 13 square feet per person, according to the International Society of Meeting Planners (ISMP). Pros: This configuration maximizes the number of people who can fit in a given space and is ideal for a lecture-based presentation. Cons: It’s difficult for audience members to interact with others outside their immediate vicinity and there’s little room to spread out.
  • Classroom. Arranged like the theater style above, but includes tables. Space needed: The ISMP recommends between 14.5 and 24 square feet per person. Pros: Great for long presentations when attendees need to take notes. Cons: Again, it’s difficult for meeting goers to interact with each other.
  • Reception. No seating. Space needed: 7 to 15 square feet per person, says ISMP. Pros: Lots of opportunity to meet and greet. Cons: Not appropriate for long functions or classes.
  • Banquet. Round tables that seat between 6 and 12 people each. Space needed: 80 to 150 square feet per table, depending on seating, according to ISMP. Pros: Perfect for food functions or roundtable interactions. Cons: In a presentation setting, half the group will have their backs to the speaker.
  • Boardroom: Rectangular or oval table seating for any number of individuals. Space needed: Varies. Pros: Great for small group interaction, breakouts and brainstorming, as all members face each other. Cons: Not appropriate for larger groups.

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