The layout of your meeting room can have a significant impact on the engagement and education capabilities of your event. It is important to get the balance right between the number of attendees and the most engaging layout.

The impact of choosing an incorrect layout can change the guest experience for the entire event, regardless of how effective other elements may be. For an event where extensive note taking is necessary, a theatre layout may not be the best option. A layout can help or hinder an event, regardless of if you’re looking to promote networking, initiate small group work, brainstorming, inform etc.

Firstly though, we must consider the factors which may influence your decision on which layout is best.

1. How many delegates will there be?
2. What size is the available room?
3. Do you need a set and stage? If so, would you need front or back projection?
4. What are your objectives for the event? What is the best environment to relay this in?
5. Are there any additional costs associated with the furniture required?
6. Are there any group activities involved?
7. Are you adhering to the venue’s Health and Safety Guidelines for your numbers?

So, what does your room layout mean and how is it best utilised? Below, we have complied a list of the most common event room layouts.

Theatre set up

Theatre style, a mimic of the seating structure you find in theatres, is ideal for group presentations, lectures, plenary and keynote speeches of any size. The set up consists of chairs in rows facing either a stage, panel table or podium at the front of the room.

As a result, this best utilised when extensive notetaking is not necessary for any attendees. The chairs can be set up in a variety of ways including straight-horizontal, herringbone or semi-circular.

Classroom set up

Similar to theatre, this particular set up is ideal for events involving teaching, testing, or meetings where participants will be writing or requiring space for their laptops.

This setup consists of trestle tables and can vary on the number of chairs per row, and involves creating aisles and rows. The stage and presentation area is at the front with all tables facing the same direction.

Cabaret set up

This room layout traditionally usually involves using 5ft or 6ft trestle tables, or half-moons when venues have them. Chairs are strategically placed around the back and sides of the table, removing any from the front. This provides a workspace from which the attendees can take notes. All attendees face the same direction towards the presentation area.

A modern take on the Classroom set up, this is one of the most commonly used room layouts, however it does take up a significant amount of space.

Boardroom set up

Often used for board meetings and smaller group sizes, the boardroom layout involves a larger, elongated table where attendees are seated on all sides, unless there is a particular presentation area. Venue boardroom tables can either be a combination of trestle tables or a fixed table within the room.

Providing a more intimate feel where each participant needs to see each other’s faces, most boardroom set ups are used when requiring discussions or collaboration between attendees.

U-shape set up

Although similar to the boardroom style set up, as the name suggests this room layout is configured in the shape of the letter U. Chairs are positioned around the outer sides, facing inwards to create a natural presenting area within the room.

U-shape generally lends itself to facilitating discussion with participants facing each other and is ideal for seminars and group meetings with presentations to smaller group sizes.

Hollow square set up

Again similar to a boardroom set up, this layout is often used for larger groups, usually up to ca. 40 pax. It lends itself to a panel session where all attendees are able to see the panel seated on one side, or where there is a group leader involved requiring each individual needing to see the persons presenting or leading the discussion.

Banquet set up

A banquet layout is often found during more formal occasions, such as gala dinners or weddings. The guests are seated around the circumference of the table, facing inwards. Tables are often 4ft (6-8 pax), 5ft (8-10 pax) or 6ft (10-12 pax) in circumference, or a combination of these, depending on the space within the room.

This layout is best used when there is no speaking element to an event as some guests would have their back to the presentation area.

There are of course many other layouts than those above; cocktail, lounge, mixed, round circle, semi-circle to name a few. It is most important to consider the aforementioned questions first before selecting your layout.

For visuals of these layouts, please visit Hippo’s “About” section and download our “Meeting Room Layouts” file