Can meeting and event planners improve the experience of a meeting or conference by the way the meeting space is arranged?
The answer is, of course, yes. The meeting itself will help dictate the appropriate meeting space and setup style, and successful meeting planners and event managers know the room setup should be designed to support the purpose of the meeting in order to create successful results.
“It's critical to sit with your client and understand the overall goals of the program and build the room based on those goals. Think of the room as setting both the mood and the stage for the program”, says Todd Bludworth, Chief Operating Officer at American Meetings, Inc, (AMI).
Here are some tips to get started:
Will there be a speaker or multiple presentations that require discussion or feedback among the group? Try a U-SHAPE design, utilizing multiple tables to shape the size and space you need. Set seating on the outside of the U to allow easy viewing for all in attendance. This shape naturally draws attention to one end of the room and is ideal for projector set up or a speaker podium.
Will your attendees need to take notes or complete forms/paperwork and therefore require table space? Try a CLASSROOM set up where space for meeting reference materials and a writing surface are provided. Set all chairs facing forward. Remember to provide at least 2’ of table space for each attendee. Classrooms are also ideal for sessions where meals or snack may be taken.
Will your attendees need to be able to interact with each other? Try the CONFERENCE set up which allows you to establish eye contact and conversation with others surrounding the table without having to raise your voice. Keep the group relatively small, however, as bigger groups set in this style can lose their effectiveness and may present frustrations.
Will you have a large group and/or a long presentation, and need to provide a good view for all? Try THEATRE STYLE arrangement. You can set up multiple rows at any angle desired and even stagger seats from one row to the next so no one’s view is blocked. Think of leg space and remember to allow enough room between rows for an easy exit should the need arise.
Will your meeting or event have a presentation that takes place during dinner or another meal function? Use BANQUET ROUNDS to create a cozy, dinner atmosphere while still being able to accommodate 10-12 people per table. You can also set as half-rounds if there is a presentation during the meal, so all seats face forward and make for easy viewing.
Will your meeting or conference have a presentation that requires discussion and feedback? Try the HALF MOON design, where tables are set half way or three-quarters around and all seats face forward toward the speaker. Table top space for note taking is available and pitchers of water can be placed at the center of the table where they are easily accessible.
Will your attendees need to move around the room, or are you trying to create a reception atmosphere?Try a RECEPTION orCOCKTAIL setting by using taller, smaller table rounds, strategically placed. These don’t require chairs, and allow for table top space for food & beverage or activity.
Things to consider:
- Personal space and other comfort factors of the attendees.
- Are you in compliance with the latest Americans With Disabilities Act guidelines?
- Budgeting: Different costs are associated with each setup.
- The number of attendees may dictate/limit your room setting
- The right set up will encourage good energy and create positive thinking
Work with your conference service manager to determine which set up is best for your meeting based on your meeting objectives and the number of people you need to comfortably accommodate.
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