Setting Up Meeting Rooms for Success

How to set up seating arrangements for certain styles of meetings
Business meetings are an art of discussion and planning. Through collaborative discussion businesses are able to produce new ideas, solve difficult challenges and grow as a group. However whilst meetings are invaluable they are sometimes conducted in ways that can be seen as somewhat "counter-productive". For this reason it is important to become a maestro of the meeting room if you want to get the very most out of meetings.
One important element of any meeting that is often overlooked is the structure of the seating arrangements. Whilst seating may not seem like the most integral aspect of organising a meeting, seating positions can affect everything from attention, focus and concentration levels of the audience to the perceived tone of the presentation. We take a look at some of the different styles of meeting room arrangement to give you the best start.
Meeting Room Style: Auditorium

Background: The auditorium style meeting room is specially reserved for large scale gatherings and conference style meetings. It's history stems back to as far as ancient Greece however the structure remains the same. The main speaker is placed facing the audience either behind a central support structure (a pedestal) or without any support structure as part of a stage. Seats are then arranged in rows facing this staging area that are curved around the stage or in straight rows. The main benefit of this meeting room style is the ability for the main speaker to address an extremely large audience. However this does leave one major disadvantage – audience interaction is greatly hindered. The structure of the auditorium style of speaking means that the main speaker talks at the audience rather than facilitates discussion.
Good For: Large scale Presentations, Company Performance Overviews,
Not So Great for: brainstorming, product testing/troubleshooting, morale boosting sessions
Meeting Room Style: Conference (Boardroom)
Background: A rectangular (or oval) table set up with chairs typifies this style of meeting. Unsurprisingly due to the simplicity of set up it is often the most widely used seating arrangement for business meetings. Usually the ends of the table are reserved either for important/high authority attendees or presentation technology. The formality of the meeting is dependent upon the requirements of the delegates – it is thus the easiest style to adapt for different purposes; from brainstorms and group discussions to small board meetings. Table space make conference style meeting rooms useful for smaller regular meetings that requires note taking, discussion and short presentations.
Good For: Smaller project meetings, brainstorming, small board meetings
Not So Great for: Large meetings, company reviews, product demonstrations
Meeting Room Style: Hallow Square Style
Background: The Hallow Square Style can be considered more formal than even the boardroom style. Tables are arranged in a square with all delegates seated on the outside of the square. All delegates are able to see one another and have space for writing and note taking. This style also clearly defines the meeting leaders as they are seated at the head of the main table.
The Hallow Square best suits meetings with multiple speakers and question and answer situations. Similarly this meeting room environment suits interview style meetings.
Good For: Departmental reports, project updates requiring smaller teams, presentations
Not So Good For: Large groups. The more people the wider the distance between opposite delegates and those sat perpendicular to the line of sight.
Meeting Room Style: U shape
Background: The U shape works extremely well for presentation style meetings whereby the focus is visual communication – e.g. a product demonstration to a small group. Tables are arranged in a U shape with audience members seated on the outside of the U. The main focus is on the join of the U where the speaker is presenting or where the main audio visual equipment is placed. This arrangement not only allows the main speak to convey information to the group but also there is the opportunity to facilitate discussion with reference to a main focal point.
Good For: Board of Directors meeting, committee meetings and discussion groups
Not particularly good for…: Large groups of delegates, conveying body language of speaker
Meeting Room Style: Class Room
Background: As the name suggests this style is likely to follow a very familiar arrangement. Tables and chairs are arranged in rows facing the point in which the main speaker presents. Usually the tables are quite small with enough space for up to 2-3 people per table. As such meetings that require the speaker to give instruction, briefing or requires a lot of note taking lend themselves well to this style of meeting room.
Good For: Project briefs
Not particularly good for…: Large company meetings, informal meetings
Different audiences require different styles of seating arrangements. If your main focus is the demonstration of a project to a small group of stake holders then a hallow square or U-shaped arrangement is likely to best compliment your presentation requirements whilst giving delegates enough opportunity to ask questions. If there is a large audience then an auditorium style arrangement with a central focal point will enable the speaker to convey a lot of information to a lot of people without interruption. Of course seating isn't everything however if the meeting room does not match the requirements of the meeting then it is unlikely that participants will get the most out of the meeting.
Jonathan is a freelance business writer currently writing articles for De Vere Venues – a business venue, training centers and meeting rooms ( specialist.
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