Event planners know that the design and set up of a room can have a profound impact. Therefore, rooms should be arranged and altered as needed to accommodate different types of events. If people are comfortable, they will have more fun, stay longer, and recommend your venue for future events.
Here are some tips on how to set up a room for two of the most common events — banquets and panel discussions.
Industry Tips You Should Know
Banquets and Dinner Parties
When planning your dinner party, consider the flow of the room. It’s important that serving staff can access tables without disrupting guests and that attendees can come and go from their tables with ease.
For this reason, among others, round tables are often preferred to long rectangles.
COMMON SET UP
This is a typical room set up for banquets and dinners held by community centers and small organizations. Although common, this setup doesn’t provide the best use of the space or offer the best experience for guests.
Due to the layout of the tables, guests can only talk to those seated directly in front of or next to them. It’s also difficult for guests to talk with those seated at other tables because they must walk all the way to one end of the table before crossing to another table.
Those who have attended dinners with this room setup likely remember it being noisy and difficult to hear the person sitting across the table. That’s because everyone is facing one of two directions, so conversation isn’t dispersed throughout the room. The placement of the banquet tables is also not ideal because those at the back of the room must walk a long way to get to the food.
RECOMMENDED SET UP
A more practical setup uses round tables spaced throughout the room. This way, guests can converse with everyone at their table (up to 10 people) instead of just a few people.
It’s also easier to mingle with those at other tables. In this room layout, the banquet tables are also more accessible, especially if the food is put against a center wall instead of at one end.
In addition, the room will be less noisy and dinner conversation will be easier because people are facing in several different directions and sound is dispersed throughout the room.
Ensure there are at least four feet between each table to allow guests to move about the room comfortably. There should be 24 inches of open space behind each chair when it’s pushed out so that guests and serving staff can move freely without bumping the backs of chairs.
Round tables often take up the same amount of square feet per person as rectangle tables. A 60” round table typically seats 8 people – just like a 30”x96” rectangle table – and both take up about 20 square feet.
With a panel of experts, you want to ensure they can address each other while still being visible to the audience. That’s why we recommend a unique layout.
COMMON SET UP
Many organizations set up panel discussions with the speakers seated in a straight line facing the audience. This makes it difficult for the panelists to see each other and most spend the discussion turned to one side or the other rather than facing the audience. This format also requires the moderator to sit on one end or the other which makes it difficult for him or her to see all the panelists.
RECOMMENDED SET UP
A better option is to put three tables in a U shape so that the panelists can talk directly to one another and still be visible to the audience. This set up might also put speakers at ease and help them feel like they are having a discussion or meeting with each other rather than being put on display. This also enables the participants to see the moderator better. The moderator can walk freely around the tables, stand to one side, or even stand in the middle of the tables.
If you have the technical capability, put a camera in the center of the tables and play real-time video on a screen so that audience members in the back can see the facial expressions of the speakers.
These tips can help you select the right furniture for your venue and design rooms that make your events more successful than ever.