Was the Round Table Really the Best Move for Arthur?

Or Choosing the Right Seating Style for Your Event

Ah, the good old days when battles took a break for morning tea, no one shot the drummer boy, and you knew where your seat should be at the battle after-banquet. Oh, if only life were still so simple.

According to lore, they kept it easy with long trestle tables, and a strict seating hierarchy, none of the chaps at the top table wanted to hear from the plebeians anyway. There were apparently a few knights who had a round table, but it caused some controversy. These days, lords and ladies hardly ever turn up at conferences so by necessity, we turn to other considerations to guide our seating arrangements.

The best seating style for your event depends on its purpose, how much interaction there will be between participants, and how many guests you expect.

So, what are you plotting?

FIRMLY FUN: Social or celebration. If you are organising a sociable event, like a birthday celebration, team bonding, community fundraiser, wedding or exhibition have a look at these 4 popular styles of seating arrangement designed to facilitate the easiest communication between guests.

Banquet: There are two styles commonly referred to as Banquet style. You will need to check with venues to clarify their interpretation.

  1. Banquet style, long trestles: Guests are seated facing each other in a small number of loooong rectangular tables (think Medieval banquet hall).

Great for large staff dinners, large birthday celebrations, Christmas functions, weddings, and informal events where the main focus is the people not a stage.

U-Shape

Pros:

  • Fits more seated guests into a space
  • Forms cohesive groups within a large crowd.

Cons:

  • Cuts guests off from communicating with other than those few immediately around them
  • Guests have to contort their necks to see any focal event at front.
  1. Banquet style, small tables: This style recalls your dinner table at home, with small groups of guests seated facing inwards around a number of round or square tables.

Great for staff dinners, birthday celebrations, Christmas functions, weddings, and fundraisers; informal events where the main focus is the people not a stage.

Banquet_120

Pros:

  • Promotes maximum conversation between guests as you can see and hear everyone around your table without getting a crick in your neck.
  • Gives an informal, relaxed feeling, as setup is not linear.

Cons:

  • Takes up more room, as space for passersby or waiting staff is required around each table.
  1. Cabaret: This style is similar to Banquet with small groups seated around round tables, but with an opening at one end.

Great for: Shows, awards dinners, fundraisers, training sessions, weddings.

Cabaret_120

 

Pros:

  • Allows presentations/training/speeches to be conducted at the front of the room, while encouraging interaction between members.
  • Guests can enjoy food and drink while listening to speeches, keeps momentum and timing of the evening moving.
  • Everyone has a clear view to the podium/top table, can see the show/presentation/wedding speeches without turning around.

Cons:

  • Fits less guests into the floor area
  1. Cocktail: OK, so this isn’t really a seating plan – you can’t enjoy a cocktail sitting down! You need to sashay in your sparkling dress to the next round of witty repartee. This style is milling around with finger food and glass in hand, standing up, no seating provided. Working the crowd.

 Pros:

  • Most efficient use of space – can fit the most guests into your space.
  • Greatest opportunity for guest interaction – guests able to roam and mingle at will.

Cons:

  • No opportunity to sit down, no rest for sore stilettoed feet or aging dowagers.
  • No place to put your glass or canapés (though sometimes you can arrange a scattering of leaning tables).

 

STRICTLY BUSINESS: If you’re organising a business conference, meeting, or sales presentation your primary concern will be communication – from the presenter and the audience, and between audience members. The degree of interaction required and numbers of participants will dictate which of these styles works best for your event.

  1. Theatre: Formal. As in a theatre, seats are aligned in straight rows facing the front with aisles in between.

Great for: Larger meetings where audience participation is not a key feature; product launches, AGMs, movie screenings, sermons.
Theatre_large_175

Pros:

  • Fits the maximum number of people in smallest space
  • All seats are facing forward i.e. good line of vision to podium/panel

Cons:

  • Difficult access to and from seats, and aisles are required
  • Audience interaction is limited to side comments to neighbours
  • No provision for note-taking or food/drink
  • Impersonal
  1. Classroom: Formal. As Theatre style above, seats are in forward-facing rows but behind tables or trestles as per traditional classroom or lecture theatre.

Great for: Conferences, training, product launches.

Classroom_large_90

Pros:

  • All the seats face forward – good line of vision to presenter
  • Facilitates note-taking and limited food/drink
  • More space for each individual

 Cons:

  • Interaction is limited between audience members as not facing each other
  • Audience participation is discouraged by formal setting
  • Seating capacity is reduced by tables and need for aisles
  • Audience access to/from seats is somewhat limited
  1. Herringbone: Formal. Similar to Classroom, but the rows of tables and chairs are angled slightly inwards, like the neck of your English cousin’s hand-knitted vest.

Great for: Training sessions, product launches, conferences, lectures.

Herringbone_120 seated

Pros:

  • Good line of vision to presenter – all seats angle towards the podium
  • Facilitates note-taking and limited food/drink

Cons:

  • Seating capacity is reduced by the tables and need for aisles
  • Interaction between audience members is limited as not facing each other
  • Interaction between audience and presenter is limited by formal setting
  1. U-Shape: More interactive. This style is in the shape of the letter U, with tables and chairs arranged with an open end and the audience facing inwards.

Great for: Training, workshops, small conferences, meetings, briefings.

U-Shape

Pros:

  • Provides for a focal point or presentation area at the open end.
  • Facilitates engagement/participation from audience.
  • Encourages audience interaction with members facing each other.
  • Provides for note-taking and food/drink.

Cons:

  • Inefficient use of space, reduced seating capacity
  • Cricks in necks, as majority of audience is side-on to presenter.
  1. Horseshoe: More interactive. Similar to U-shape style with chairs facing each other in a U-shape/horseshoe and an open end, but no tables provided.

Great for: Medium or large meetings, presentations, briefings.
Horseshoe_small

Pros:

  • Provides for a focal point or presentation area at the open end.
  • Encourages participation from each member.
  • Facilitates audience interaction with members facing each other.
  • More space-efficient than U-shape, while encouraging more interaction than Classroom, Herringbone and Theatre styles.

Cons:

  • Inefficient use of floor space, reduced seating capacity
  • No provision for note-taking or consumption of food/drink
  1. Hollow Square: As the name strongly suggests, this style seats the audience on the four sides of a square, all facing inwards, at tables.

Great for: Discussions, meetings.

Pros:

  • Audience interaction is maximised, with audience members all facing each other
  • Provides for note-taking and consumption of food/drink

Cons:

  • Reduced seating capacity
  • No provision for presentation area

 

  1. Boardroom: All participants are seated at one large long table, facing inwards.

Great for: Small meetings, team briefings, small presentations.

Pros:

  • Encourages full engagement and participation from all individuals.

Cons:

  • Only suitable for small numbers of participants.

 

So, was the round table really the best move for Arthur and his noble chaps? You be the judge.

Now you’ve thought a bit more about your constraints and considerations, if you’d like to discuss your plans or check out our facilities contact us at mail@tetstadiuminglewood.com.

 

 It is best to rise from life as from a banquet, neither thirsty nor drunken.

Aristotle (uttered the morning after. I think.)

And you yourself always be seated at the middle of the high table that your presence as Lord or Lady may appear openly to all, and that you may plainly see on either side all the service and all the faults.

Robert Grosseteste, English Statesman, circa. 1225

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