3 Easy Steps to Creating the Perfect Conference / Meeting Room Layout
As many event professionals have discovered from experience, one effective method of enhancing the attendee experience and maintaining the attention of guests is to lay out your conference or meeting space in an innovative or unexpected setup.
By using novel or unconventional conference room layouts, you give your attendees a new, fresh way to collaborate and interact with each other and the physical space itself, stimulating thought and conversation. For example, changing how people are seated and orientated to each other and/or the focal point of a room can have a big effect on how they interact with speakers, materials and other attendees, and this can apply to both small groups or large groups.
To make the most of your next meeting, here are some ways you can enhance, tweak or completely change up the old and boring traditional meeting floor plans and expose your attendees to something new.
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#1 - Consider the Purpose and Itinerary of Your Meeting
Before trying to figure out how to position tables and chairs and where you should seat attendees, you should brief yourself on what you and others are expecting from the meeting. Understanding the purpose or projected outcome of the meeting helps you determine if your meeting room layout should accommodate for collaboration and group work; tasks that require focus like note-taking or computer use; listening, viewing and/or spectating; networking or open socialization; or other modes of participation and interaction.
Scanning through your meeting schedule will also tell you what elements need to be added to your meeting room design and how those elements should be arranged.
If there's a litany of speeches planned or an awards ceremony, you might need to incorporate a larger stage into your conference room layout. If presentations will be projected onto a screen for a larger group, you’ll need to ensure that all guests have a clear line of view of the screen or stage. For team building activities or breakout sessions for smaller groups, you’ll want to make a group-friendly seating arrangement with extra space for people to get up and move around, and you may even want to include high top tables for them to gather around.
#2 - Choose a Meeting Room Setup Style
Once you know what your meeting is about, you’ll want to design the perfect floor plan for it. Remember, creating the ideal conference room layout doesn’t mean that you have to come up with something entirely new. Familiarize yourself with some of the most popular meeting room floor plans (as we will describe below), then look for new and innovative ways you can adapt or enhance them to give your event the perfect balance between familiarity and freshness.
Here are some of the most common conference room layouts:
Theatre Style / Auditorium Style
This style consists of a seating layout with rows of seats positioned in straight lines or a half-circle arcs in front of a stage. This conference room layout is best if you want to limit conversations and interactions amongst attendees and direct their focus to what’s taking place on stage or at the front of the room.
Tip: Instead of placing chairs directly behind one another, create staggered rows. With staggered seating, those in the rows further back will be seated behind the gap of the two chairs in front, making it easier to view the stage.
Panel Style Setup
The panel setup is excellent for hosting a public dialogue between a host and several experts, leaders or other people of importance. For this, you will need chairs for the panelists and the host on a stage or elevated platform. If you want to create a more relaxed vibe, you can trade out the hard tables and chairs for comfortable, cushioned chairs and sofas.
Tip: Let the audience play host and ask questions by employing a polling app and displaying those questions on a live screen behind the panelists. Other attendees can up-vote or down-vote questions to show which they are most interested in hearing. You should still have a host to moderate the questions coming in.
Classroom setups can take a few different forms, but generally they consist of individual or small group workspaces, complete with a chair and a small table space to work at. The students then face an instructor’s desk or podium at the front of the room, which is facing the class.
Tip: If you have a small class or if your event involves interaction, you can place students into groups at a single rectangular or oval table or position desks in a circle, square or half circle.
Hollow Square Style
The hollow square layout consists of long rectangular tables arranged in a square with an open middle. This is a great room setup if you are hosting a slightly larger collaborative meeting and would like all attendees to be able to view, hear and address each other throughout the session.
Tip: If you are planning to show videos or presentations, you should have at least two screens placed across from each other, showing the same thing. This will avoid having people craning to view a screen located behind them.
Just like the hollow square, but minus a side, the U-Shape provides the same benefits of the hollow square but also lets you utilize the empty space in the middle. Presenters can walk in the middle, or screens and whiteboards can be placed at the opening so that everyone has a perfect view.
Tip: U-shaped rooms can also make great classroom setups, where the instructor can easily teach, walk to students who need help, encourage group discussion or ensure honesty during test taking.
The most common meeting room layout is the boardroom layout - a single, long conference table, with attendees seated around all sides. Boardrooms are excellent for quick meetings that are relatively small in size and require group conversations.
Tip: To make your go-to boardroom more versatile, break the single long table into four. This way, the boardroom table can be quickly transitioned to create groups, classrooms or audience-style seating.
Banquet-style meeting room layouts consist of large round tables with about eight to ten chairs placed around each. These are quite common when serving meals or hosting a luncheon, awards-style banquet, networking sessions or even product launches. Remember, banquet tables aren’t just for food!
Tip: If you want to encourage collaboration amongst attendees - like conducting breakout sessions, team competition or workshops - banquet tables can create a naturally intimate setting within a larger conference or meeting, making it easier for peers to connect, collaborate and work together.
#3 - Create a Floorplan for your Meeting Room Layout
Now that you know what you need and have a conference room layout or two in mind for your next meeting, you’ll want to make sure it all fits together. Instead of hauling in chairs and tables and trying things out in the actual space, start by building a digital floor plan. With digital event floor planning software, you can add in the exact measurements of the room, tables, chairs, banquet tables, equipment and other items and insert them into a true-to-scale layout.
You also need to ensure that you have a proper amount of spacing between aisles, tables and pathways. Attendees should be able to access their seating, exit and move around the room easily, and event and wait staff should be able to easily move from A to B to serve guests.
Tell us your favorite meeting room layouts!
Now that you’ve taken the three-step approach to nailing the perfect meeting room layouts, let us know which one you love best or use the most.