Meeting planners spend hours planning meetings to select everything from a catering service, to the correct meeting room, to the right audiovisual equipment. Seating arrangements for meetings are often an afterthought, but it’s important to consider your seating plans very carefully when planning meetings because the way that meeting participants sit can influence the overall effectiveness and outcome of your meetings.
Whether you’re hosting a training session, lecture, business presentation, or product launch, the goal of a meeting is to communicate with participants. Seating arrangements can affect how well you’re able to get your message across. The right seating plan has the power to maximize the impact of your message.
When planning a meeting and determining the most appropriate seating arrangement, factors you ought to consider include the following:
• Number of participants
• Meeting objectives
• Desired level of interaction
• Participant safety and comfort
• Whether the meeting is formal or informal
• Whether or not there will be a designated leader
Selecting the right type of seating arrangement is crucial to ensuring that your meeting’s objectives are met. Studies have shown that seating arrangements are one of the most important factors in determining the success or failure of a meeting. Seating affects how participants interact with the presenter and with each other.
If you’re planning a training meeting, it’s important that the trainer remain visually accessible to all participants. It’s also ideal to maintain an open seating plan that facilitates participation. A great option for training sessions is the U-shaped arrangement, in which rectangular tables are set up to form a U. Visuals can be set up at the opening of the U. The trainer can move freely throughout the group, giving each individual one-on-one attention when needed. This seating plan is best suited to small groups that are expected to interact frequently with one another.
Problem-solving meetings require the equal participation of all attendees, so a circular seating pattern is an appropriate choice. It’s best to avoid seating someone at the head of the table in a problem-solving meeting because it indirectly places that person in a position of power. A circular pattern creates a sense of contribution among all attendees.
For collaborative meetings that require group work, it’s best to use a pod set up, which involves seating guests in groups of four to six at square tables. You can remove any chairs with backs facing the presenter so that all participants can make eye contact with the presenter.
In a meeting where decisions need to be made, such as a board meeting, participants typically sit at a long, rectangular conference table. It’s important to identify a leader who can facilitate and guide the discussions. This leader will usually occupy one of the end sections of the table, and that end section will serve as the focal point during the meeting.
Finally, be sure to consider your meeting’s audiovisual requirements. If catering is required, determine whether the meeting room you choose has access to this service. In addition, take a meeting room’s size and layout into consideration before booking it.
Using meeting room software like Resource Central can help you quickly find the most appropriate meeting room for your needs. Resource Central is a meeting room booking solution for Microsoft Outlook®. It allows you to search for available meeting rooms at one or more locations and filter rooms based on various parameters, including available equipment and the room’s maximum capacity. You can get a quick overview of available meeting rooms and view images of the rooms to find one that suits your objectives and intended seating plan.