Meeting Set-Ups

Rationale for using a particular set up falls into the following categories:

1.  Comfort:  naturally you want your attendees to be comfortable during a presentation

2.  Safety:   fire codes exist in every city and these codes are established to ensure the safety of your attendees.  In some centres a row may only have 15 chairs, stating that in case of emergency or evacuation no one should have to move past more than 7 chairs.  There may be regulations stipulating minimum distance between rows and this distance may differ from what is considered comfortable.  Your hotel/facility knows the codes they must adhere to so if they advise an adjustment must be made to your set up due to fire regulations, pay attention… they have your participants safety at heart.

3.  Learning and Networking:  theatre seating is not good for note taking and a large classroom set up does not work for discussion groups within the room.  Pay attention to the program/session objectives and select space that can be set in the best way to meet those objectives

4.  Line of Sight:  it is important to try and set the room so participants are facing the stage, the speaker and can easily see the screen(s) if screen(s) are being used in a presentation.  You do not want attendees squirming and wriggling around to get a better view.  It is distracting for themselves and those around them.

There are also some basic principles that are used in meeting room set up… while they are not always possible they help support the rationale outlined above.

Set to the long side of the room… in other words try to get as many people as close to the front as possible.  This is even more important in large rooms, with large groups.  In a very long room, set lengthwise, you do not feel part of the action if you are at the back.

No Straight Rows Set Chairs Directly Toward the Presentation…  this will help have more people facing the stage without having to turn in their seats

No Centre Aisle…  as the middle of the room is usually directly in front of the stage, why have it empty … fill in the centre and have aisles to the side.  More people will get a straight on view

Some sample set up diagrams are available for your information

Theater Style

Seats or chairs in rows facing a stage area, head table, or speaker (with no tables)

Used for

This is the most efficient set-up when the attendees will act as an audience. This set-up is not recommended for food events or if note taking is required. 

Set-up hints 

·         This is a very flexible room set-up. Rows can be circular, semi-circular, straight, or angled toward the focal point. 

·         Offset each row so that attendees don’t have to look over the person in front of them (this will increase the space required). 

·         If using banquet type chairs, space them 3” to 6” apart as these chairs are normally narrower than most people’s bodies. 

·         If you have the space, allow for 24” between rows to allow attendees easy movement in and out of the row. 


·         Good for large groups when reading/writing are not required 


·         Elevation changes needed for large groups 
No writing surface 

·         Minimal group interaction


A series of conference tables set in the shape of the letter U, with chairs around the outside.

Used for 

This layout style is often used for Board of Directors meetings, committee meetings, or discussion groups where there is a speaker, audio-visual presentation or other focal point. 

Set-up hints 

·         A minimum of 2’ of table space is required per attendee. (preferably 3)

·         Skirt the inside of the “U” if attendees are being seated only on the outside. 

·         Avoid the “U” set-up for groups greater than 25, as the sides of the “U” become too long and may not promote participation from all attendees.


·         Good work space 

·         Good interaction between participants 

·         Ideal when audio-visual or speakers are involved 


·         Not ideal for larger group

Classroom Style

Rows of conference tables with chairs facing the front of a room (and usually a speaker), providing writing space for each person.

Used for 

This room set-up is ideal for note taking, meetings requiring multiple handouts or reference materials, or other tools such as laptop computers. This is the most comfortable set-up for long sessions and allows refreshments to be placed within reach of each attendee. 

Set-up hints 

·         Tables that extend beyond the stage or podium should be angled toward the speaker.

·         Allow for approximately 2’ of space per person at each table. (More space may be required depending on the amount of materials). 

·         Minimum space between tables is 3’. Provide 3½’ if space allows, for ease of movement in and out of rows. 


·         Presenter can see all participants 

·         Accommodates large groups


·         Minimal interaction possible 

·         Participants only see each other’s backs

Boardroom Style

A rectangular or oval table set up with chairs around all sides and ends.

Used for 

This table layout is often used for Board of Directors meetings, committee meetings, or discussion groups

Set-up hints 

·         Many facilities offer rooms with permanent conference tables in a variety of shapes.

·         If these are not available, standard conference tables can be placed together to form a square, rectangle or hollow square. 

·         Remember, the larger the set-up, the harder it is for attendees to see others at the end opposite them. 


·         Good work space 

·         Good working atmosphere 

·         Good interaction between participants 


·         Not ideal for audio-visual presentations 

·         Not ideal for speakers 

·         Not ideal for larger groups