event seating

You have a big meeting coming up. One of your first big questions should be on seating arrangements:

  • What is the best seating etiquette?
  • Is there an ideal business seating arrangement?
  • Does seating matter?

First things first. Seating matters!

In fact, it can change the entire tone of your event, meeting or get together. You want to get it right!

There are so many different kinds of seating arrangements.

Staging Connections put together a great overview of 11 different kinds of seating arrangements for your meeting. They have kindly allowed us to share them with you here:

11 Seating Arrangements Used for Events

#1 Theatre

Positives:

  • All of the seats are facing forwards towards the front of the function room.
  • Maximum seated capacity is achieved for the function room.

Negatives:

  • The audience is closed in, needing to push past other audience members to enter/exit the seating area.
  • Aisles are required to ensure sufficient access to seating area.
  • There is no provision for note taking or consumption of plated food and beverage.
  • Audience interaction is hindered as audience members don’t face each other.

This set-up is popular for meetings and product launches.

business seating

#2 Classroom

This style reflects the seating found in a school or lecture theatre, with chairs and trestle tables aligned in consecutive straight rows.

Positives:

  • All of the seats are facing forwards towards the front of the function room.
  • Allows for note taking and consumption of plated food and beverage.

Negatives:

  • Again, the audience is closed in, making it difficult for audience members to enter or exit
  • Aisles are required to ensure sufficient access to seating area.
  • Seating capacity is reduced by the trestle tables.
  • Audience is less likely to interact as they are not facing each other.

This set-up is popular for training, conferences, sales kick-offs and product launches.

business seating

#3 Herringbone

This style is very similar to Classroom, however each consecutive row of chairs and tables are angled inwards. 

Positives:

  • All of the seats are angled inward towards the podium.
  • All of the seats are facing forwards towards the front of the function room. 
  • Allows for note taking and consumption of plated food and beverage.

Negatives:

  • Again, the audience is closed in, making it difficult for audience members to enter or exit.
  • Aisles are required to ensure sufficient access to seating area.
  • Seating capacity is reduced by the trestle tables.
  • Audience is less likely to interact as they are not facing each other.

This set-up is popular for training, conferences, lectures.

business seating

#4 U Shape

As the name suggests this style is in the shape of the letter U, with the tables & chairs arranged in an open-ended configuration with the audience facing inwards.

Positives: 

  • The open end allows for a focal point or presentation area. 
  • Allows presenter to approach and engage with each audience members. 
  • Audience interaction is enhanced, with audience members facing each other.

Negatives:

  • Inefficient use of floor space, with seating capacity reduced.
  • A large proportion of the audience are seated side-on to the presentation area.

This set-up is popular for training, conferences, workshops, meetings.

business seating

#5 Horseshoe

This style is very similar to U Shape, however there are no tables, only chairs arranged in an open-ended configuration with the audience facing inwards.

Positives:

  • The open end provides a focal point and allows for a presentation area.
  • Allows presenter to approach and engage with each audience member.

Negatives:

  • Inefficient use of floor space, with seating capacity reduced.
  • Aisles are required to ensure sufficient access and egress to seating area.
  • There is no provision for note taking or consumption of plated food and beverage.

This set-up is popular for large meetings, presentations and team briefings.

business seating

#6 Hollow Square

This style is similar to U Shape, however there are four sides and no open end, with the audience all facing inwards.

Positives: 

  • Audience interaction fully enhanced, with audience members all facing each other.
  • Allows audience to consume plated food and beverage easily.

Negatives: 

  • Seating capacity is reduced
  • Does not allow for a main presentation area or focal point.

This set-up is popular for discussions.

business seating

#7 Boardroom

This style is a smaller version of the Hollow Square or U Shape, however there is a large elongated table, with the audience all facing inwards.

Positives:

  • Encourages audience interaction as they all face inwards.

Negatives: 

  • Restricts the position of a presentation area or focal point, typically to the end of the table 

This set-up is popular for small meetings, one on one interviews, small presentations and team briefings.

business seating

#8 Banquet

This style is similar to a round dinner table, with the audience seated around the circumference facing inwards.

Positives: 

  • Audience interaction fully enhanced, with audience members all facing each other.

Negatives:

  • The audience is closed in, needing to push past other audience members to enter/exit the seating area.

This set-up is popular for gala dinners, awards night, Christmas parties, weddings and other informal events.

business seating

#9 Cabaret

This style is similar to Banquet style, however there is an open end, with the audience seated in an arc facing forwards.

Positives: 

  • The open end allows for a focal point or presentation area.

Negatives: 

  • Inefficient use of floor space, with seating capacity reduced. 

This set-up is popular with meetings such as training sessions, awards nights and gala dinners.

business seating

#10 Cocktail

This style is unlike any others with no chairs or tables. It is literally standing space.

Positives: 

  • Most efficient use of floor space, with maximum room capacity available.
  • Audience interaction greatly enhanced, with audience members able to freely mingle and roam.

Negatives: 

  • Audience is standing with no opportunity to sit and rest.
  • Does not allow for note taking or consumption of plated food and beverage.

This set-up is popular for cocktail parties, weddings, Christmas parties and other social events.

business seating

#11 Lounge Zone

To refresh the formal vibe and encourage networking, event planners are opting to include a new seating arrangement in their mix – introducing the Lounge Zone. Add sofas, chairs, coffee tables, bar tables and ottomans in clusters to form this creative space.

Positives:

  • Great for encouraging networking and giving attendees an informal seating area to relax and mingle.
  • Can be used to create a sense of space within a larger venue space and the style / type of furnishings can be used to enhance your event’s theme.

Negatives:

  • Some venues don’t have the space to allow for a lounge zone.
  • A relaxed, styled area may not suit all event types.

business seating

We hope these ideas help you for your next event!

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and human behavioral investigator in our lab.

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