Which Seating Style Should You Choose?

Written by Paul
Jul 31, 2014

One of the first questions we ask any potential venue booker is what seating style they require for their event. Often they haven’t given it much thought, assuming it’s something to be discussed later once a suitable venue has been found. Alas this isn’t the case! Aside from maybe location or price, set up style is one of the most important factors to consider, not only to ensure that you look for the right venue/room from the outset, but also because it’s can play a role in the success of the event. If your delegates need to be writing notes or interacting regularly then having theatre style set up could be a costly mistake.

Here’s a run down of the most popular seating and set up styles, with some further notes for consideration.


- Ideal for conferences where delegates are required to take notes and interact with others on their tables. Open cabaret allows everyone on the table to see the front while still able to make notes, closed cabaret means a few delegates will need to swivel chairs round to see the front or use the table.


- Popular, as the name would suggest, with board meetings. Delegates sit around a large closed table, all facing each other. A style to entice discussions and allow for use of laptops it’s ideally suited to groups of 20 or less. Any more than this and the table becomes too large for reasonable conversation.

Dinner/Dinner Dance

- Usually requires round tables seating between 8-12 guests depending on the size of the table. A dinner dance set up will take into account a dance floor and DJ area, if it’s for a wedding, or an event with high profile guests, the top table also needs to be considered.


- U shape generally comes into play when larger numbers mean that boardroom style is too small. Delegates all have somewhere to write/type and one end of the set up is left empty so that everyone can see the AV set and speaker.

Hollow Square

- Similar to U-Shape however the square is closed meaning it’s usually used for events where a discussion between a number (20+) delegates is the main focus. Think political summit meeting.


- Potentially to most popular style for conferences, as the name would suggest Theatre style sees delegates sat in rows all facing the front. There can be a few variations, some venues can offer tiered seating which allows for better views and more seating.


- Similar to theatre style but delegates are seated behind long rectangular tables. Suitable for events where guests are required to take extensive notes but where interaction/conversation isn’t required.


- Not really a seating stye as such, for receptions it’s generally accepted most guests will stand. When choosing a room you should think about supplying some informal seating and poser tables for perching drinks on.


Catering space

- If you’re taking refreshment breaks within the plenary room then make sure you have accounted for the space required.

Room shape

- This can impact hugely on a rooms capacities, for example an L-shaped room could maybe only seat 100 for a theatre style conference to allow everyone to see the speakers etc, however for a sit down dinner where line of sight isn’t a priority you may seat 200+.

AV requirements

- Consider whether you’ll be using either front projection or back projection, how big your stage set will and if you need to allow room for a technicians desk. Front projection will allow for more space within the room but has it’s flaws, rear projection can eat up a considerable amount of floor space.

Exhibition Stands

- If you have exhibitors attending make sure you have space for their stands.