Most delegates attend your event to learn and to be inspired, so the priority for us as event management professionals is to design an environment that facilitates engagement.
An important part of designing an engaging and impactful conference or event is considering the physical and emotional environment you create for delegates.
How information is retained is influenced by factors such as air temperature, lighting and even the chairs delegates sit on. When designing the flow of your room layout you should put delegate engagement at the forefront of your mind.
The size of your audience and their preferred style of engagement will determine which room layout your opt for.
In this guide, we look at some of the most popular and successful room layouts used by event professionals such as ourselves.
What is your goal?
Before you select the layout of the room, determine what the desired outcomes of the event is so you can match the space to the end goal. For example, if attendees are expected to network, seek open plan spaces. Breakout rooms are great for fostering small group work, whilst auditoriums are more suited to presentations which will draw a crowd.
We’re all familiar with classroom style! Attendees are seated in straight rows at trestle tables, facing the front of the room where your speaker tends to present and onscreen content is displayed. This allows for comfortable note-taking and enables attendees to eat during sessions. However it tends to restrict movement and interaction between delegates, speakers and other stakeholders.
Whilst theatre style has attendees seated in forward-facing rows without tables. If you need to maximise the capacity of a particular space this is the room layout you should opt for. If the seats aren’t fixed, you may prefer herringbone style, where the seats are placed in mirrored angled rows or to create a semi-circular set up. These layouts mimic the structure of a theatre with multiple rows and aisles for easy access.
Cocktail style is great for large numbers as there is very little furniture in the room. Utilise this set up for networking sessions or short presentations. The benefit of this room layout is the freedom of movement which will facilitate networking. You will also find that cocktail-style menus are traditionally cheaper…
Ensure you organise dry bars so attendees can rest their drinks as they rove about. If appropriate you may consider adding a couple of lounges or ottomans around the edges of the room.
A speaker’s podium with a handheld microphone may be required for speeches and announcements.
Boardroom is a classic meeting room layout involving a large, elongated conference table, where attendees are seated on all four sides.
This room layout is suited to smaller, more intimate meetings where each participant needs to be able to see others for face-to-face discussions or for collaborative purposes such as executive level board meetings, short presentations, team briefings, and group interviews.
The table provides room for documents, laptops and catering. Larger groups may not work well with this layout as the extended length would interfere with whole-table discussions.
Banquet style is large round tables which allow attendees to share a meal or to workshop ideas with a smaller group. Chairs circle each table to allow for maximum seating.
If there is entertainment or a presentation, the chairs can be arranged on one side to allow for viewing – known as a cabaret style. This will either reduce your seating capacity or increase the number of required tables.
These options are not suitable for smaller spaces as use of the floor space is significantly inefficient. We tend to deploy this layout for awards presentations, gala events and select conferences.
Similar to a boardroom layout, the imperial style sees many long tables laid out with attendees facing each other. This style is an alternative to banquet style, and best suited to wedding receptions or gala dinners.
The benefit of the imperial layout is that it will accommodate more seated guests than any other dining-centric styles. Guests may have difficulty seeing presentations, and will likely be limited in conversation numbers.
Other things to consider…
Do you need a stage?
Not every event needs a stage. They can take up a lot of room, which restricts your flexibility in terms of seating layouts. If you don’t need a large stage but want to elevate your speaker consider a small platform or podium instead. If there’s workshops or a more egalitarian atmosphere, floor-level presentations may work for you.
Can everyone see the speaker?
Be sure to consider sightlines when finalising your floor plan. If attendees cannot see all elements of the event they can feel left out and become easily disengaged.
Do any of your attendees have accessibility or special requirements? Asking the question during the registration or invitation process will enable you to design a floor plan that will accommodate these needs.
A successful room layout is one of many factors to consider when organising a conference or event. At Nectar, we’re all about achieving real engagement – and real results by creating a physical and emotional environment that enables our clients to create change – in knowledge, perspectives and behaviours.
If you would like to effectively engage attendees at your next event, subscribe to our newsletter for tips, tricks and updates!