How To Know Which Seating Layout Is Best For Your Event

How To Know Which Seating Layout Is Best For Your Event

U-shape, boardroom, classroom? When it comes to choosing how you’d like your room arranged at your next event, there are plenty of options to choose from.

But are you completely in the know about which of them truly suits your purpose?

This layout-by-layout breakdown should clear up any misconceptions.



A theatre setup is ideal for large presentations and seminars where audience interaction is minimal. Due to the row on row setup and greater number of people in the room, this layout is not the most conducive environment to a multi-directional flow of communication, even during question time. In a large space, there will be people in the room who simply don’t feel comfortable raising their hand amongst a sea of people. Choose this layout for seminars where the predominant focus remains on the speaker.

With theatre layout, you also need to be mindful attendee notetaking is made difficult by the lack of table surfaces. If this is a significant requirement, a classroom layout is the better choice.


A classroom layout is just like a theatre setup, but with rows of tables in addition to the chairs. This is ideal for instructor-led sessions where attendees need to take copious notes or work on laptops. As with a theatre setup, the dynamic of this arrangement work best for training or presentations where limited audience participation is the intention.

In large classrooms, you may need AV equipment with larger groups.


Due to the visual lines created by the inward facing tables (and/or chairs), the U-shape layout is a far friendlier setup for audience interaction.

Everyone in the room can see each other, and the room arrangement creates a more equal feel between everyone in the room.

If there’s a caveat of the U-Shape it’s the limitation on numbers. Go beyond around 20-25 participants, and you’ll begin to lose the benefits. When the U becomes too large, people can no longer comfortably see or hear one another and your participation will decline.


Want a meeting where everyone can communicate effectively and see each other clearly?

A boardroom, with its (reasonably sized) oval or rectangle table shaped table, is ideal for executive meetings, team WIPs, interviews and smaller presentations. This layout works best for up to around 15 people, with the chair person at one end.

Remember if using a projector screen on one side, you’ll need to avoid seating attendees with their backs to the screen (for too long).

Closed Pod (Banquet)

Great for when you’re hosting a gala dinner, awards evening or any sort of formal celebration involving a sit-down meal. This layout also works well for conferences where presentations are kept to a minimum. The last thing you want is your attendees straining their necks for long periods. Closed pod setup is generally the least popular setup.

Open Pod (Cabaret)

This is the most popular as it gives clear visibility to the instructor and allows a higher number of people in the room compared to u-shape. It’s ideal for workshops and group work.

In an open pod setup, tables have chairs on just one side of the table so everyone is facing the action. This arrangement is best for presentation heavy functions such as awards evenings or conferences.



A cocktail setup is great for stand-up celebrations and functions where you want to serve food informally and foster maximum networking and interaction.

Not everyone feels comfortable in open space however, or indeed standing for long periods. To ensure the room is a friendly space for everyone, have a variety of of bar tables, lounge seating and open space. Creating different zones within the room will make sure everyone feels at home.

If in any doubt about the best layout for your event and capacity, Cliftons will happily recommend the best layout to suit your purpose.

Are you planning to organise a conference? Contact us today.

© 2017 Cliftons Venues. All Rights Reserved

Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest