Just as you would marry the food and beverage plans to your meeting attendees and meeting agenda, you should also pair your activities to the appropriate room design.

 

The physical aspects of meeting design have many components and each component may be best suited to a different type of situation on your agenda.  Lectures, video-heavy presentations, instructional classes, discussion sessions, group exercises, each have a different physical arrangement that is best suited to them.

Theatre style is the typical set up for a large audience viewing a speaker in front of a presentation.  Aisles and seating groups can be arranged to facilitate viewing and speaker/guest interaction.  But this arrangement also makes it awkward if the team is trying to take notes or interact.

The Internet offers a nice array of guidelines for meeting set up. Before you read through the plusses and minuses of the T-shape vs. a Hollow Square arrangement, know that these diagrams are just suggestions and that there are other things to consider to ensure the best seating fit to your real life activity.

 

Aside from the basics, there are a few items that you should take into account as you review different seating templates:

 

  • The size of your group.  Fire codes; ingress/egress, and other physical issues need to be accounted for.  While the Horseshoe arrangement may be the design that best fits your presentation plans, there may not be enough room in your room for that particular shape.  Your attendees need to be able to get into and out of their seats safely without too much maneuvering.
  • Your company style.  Are your presentations lively multimedia presentations that with visuals coming from all sides of the stage, or are attendees used to a more formal environment, reviewing detailed handouts that supplement power point slides?
  • Other activities planned for the room.  Be sure to leave space for a coffee bar, or other service that may require space (power station?).  You should also consider your overall schedule – do you have time in your agenda to transform the room into different configurations as your day progresses?
  • Privacy.  Are people able to be heard in the room, but not outside of it?  Is there a way to control entry and exit to ensure that only invitees are in attendance?

 

The good news is that there are plenty of options.  The army has some published guidelines here.  Professional speakers groups also have designs, with commentary, available for review.  (http://www.finespeakers.com/room_setup.htmlhttp://robsonsquare.ubc.ca/files/2010/11/Room-Set-Up-Guide.pdf).