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When businesses need to organize meetings, they sometimes simply make use of whatever meeting room is available, regardless of the way it is set up. While any seating configuration should work in a pinch, it’s a good idea when there is time, to pay attention to the exact layout a meeting room has. Picking the right configuration for a meeting can improve productivity and help improve participant engagement.

The Theater Style Layout

The term theater style should call to mind the kind of seating arrangement you see at a regular theater where you watch movies or plays. This layout allows 200 or 300 seats placed in rows, all positioned so that participants have a direct view of a projection screen or a speaker in front.

The theater style layout is only meant for meetings where audience members are expected to passively listen to a speaker. The spaces involved are too large for questions by audience members to be heard. Since this arrangement provides for no desks, it isn’t a good arrangement to use when participants need to take notes.

Businesses usually try this kind of seating arrangement when they need to get a large number of participants into a small space. Office furniture distributors like Rapid Office are often available for consultations on the furniture choices that go with such seating arrangements.

The U-Shaped Layout

Board meetings, committee meetings and training sessions that have no more than 50 participants often use the U-shaped seating arrangement. The term U-shape doesn’t imply that the bottom of the U is curved. Rather, the seating arrangement is created out of rectangular tables lined up to form the three sides of a rectangle. One side is left open for the speaker. Participants usually sit on the outside perimeter of the arrangement.

The U-shaped seating arrangement is good for meetings that require audience interaction. Since the arrangement has participants facing one another, they are able to discuss things among themselves and also speak to the speaker or facilitator.

**The Classroom Layout Style **

The classroom seating configuration involves lining up long desks one behind another in front of a speaker at the head of a room. Participants sit at benches or chairs placed next to these desks. This seating arrangement is a good choice for meetings that have a large number of participants in a small space. Tables can even extend beyond the speaker’s area. They simply need to be angled toward the speaker.

The classroom style seating arrangement is suitable for meetings where only a little audience participation is expected. It works well where attendees simply need to listen to a speaker, consult material placed on desks and write notes. This seating arrangement is practical and useful in long meetings. It isn’t a good idea, though, when participants need to interact with one another. For a meeting where interaction is called for, the banquet arrangement is a good idea.

**The Banquet Style Layout **

The banquet style is what you see at some award shows. It involves having attendees seated in groups at round tables arranged over a large space. Usually, using the banquet style layout implies that a meal or at least an elaborate snack will be served. This layout is appropriate for committee meetings where people need to interact and take notes.

The Crescent Layout

The crescent style layout is a variant of the banquet style. In this style, round tables are placed all over a meeting in front of a small speaker’s area. The tables are usually large at 5 feet across. The term “crescent” comes from the way people are asked to sit only three to a table so that no participant has his back to the speaker.

The crescent layout is good for meetings that need a meal served at some point and a serious training session. It is also appropriate in meetings where participants need to form their own groups to hold discussions.

The Hollow Rectangle

The hollow rectangle setup is a variant of the U-shaped arrangement. While the speaker in the U-shaped layout stands in front, the hollow rectangle gives him a table at the head of the rectangle. The hollow rectangle, for this reason, is sometimes called a Closed U. It involves arranging tables that are no more than 30 inches wide to form a large rectangle. The space in the middle is left empty. Usually, the rectangle is no more than 10 feet long to make sure that attendees hear one another speak.

This seating arrangement is a good idea for small committee meetings and board meetings with no more than 30 participants. The closed square, octagon or hexagon are variants of this seating plan.

The Conference Style Arrangement

Conferences are often held at tables with people seated all around. An important power figure sits at the head of the table. Businesses that don’t have a large conference table or that need to bring more people together than their conference table will hold can easily build one by placing several small tables together and covering them over with a heavy, high quality tablecloth.

A seating arrangement of this kind is used for important food and beverage functions, committee meetings and board meetings.

Jessica Watts is a corporate management team leader. When she has time off, she enjoys writing about her insights in order to help others in business.