Thoughtful seating is an important part of events. It is the awareness of where we are seated and why, and the social, political, and economic impact of where we are. Are you really at the table? Did you choose your table or were you seated at it? The same thing goes for your seatmates, the proximity or distance you have to each other, and where your table is located in the grand scheme of things.
When you are beginning to plan your event, see how you can show guests how much you appreciate them by making them feel truly welcome.
Planners tend to set up a floor plan based on space and available furniture. That completely makes sense. Unless, of course, you have the means to base your design and seating arrangements on your guests’ needs, your priorities, and helping everyone feel included.
Informal events tend to be laissez-faire—more along the lines of musical chairs (think—who nabs the seat close to the dessert table?)
Corporate events are intentionally more result-oriented. Who are the participants and what is the objective of the event: a meeting; presentation; awards ceremony; celebration; conference, trade show, or break-out social time?
Social events can include a wide range of ages. Whether the guests are related (weddings, family reunions), a cohort (graduations, Bar- and Bat Mitzvahs), or loosely connected (birthdays, anniversaries, showers), there will be a scatter and a concentration. Maybe a large number of your guests work in the same field, or live in the same city or region, maybe they share a hobby, religion, or belong to a certain age group. Use this to your advantage when planning—chose to mix it up, or choose to set up groups of like-minded folks—just don’t make your seating arrangements based on alphabetization!
One thing I repeatedly notice is how difficult it can be for people to hear each other at events—even on a good day and without a DJ or loud speaker next to them! You can absolutely take this into consideration when planning where to put people—those who want to talk (and hear) might be further away from the loudspeakers.
How many of your guests have mobility challenges or need frequent access to the restroom? Do you have anyone who has sensory or audio processing issues? How about very tall people, or the inverse, and what affect that can have on your sight lines?
Traditionally people are seated according to their position in business or in a family. Make sure that those people on the fringe can see and hear, too.
You might consider using more and smaller tables to increase interaction. A six-top is definitely more conducive to getting people to interact with each other than a 10-top or a banquet table. Although banquet tables can help people get to know their dinner partners, it can be a long, arduous evening if they can’t (or won’t) communicate!
Look at some of the ways you can facilitate meaningful, memorable, and creative interactions at your event. Enhance everyone’s enjoyment of the entire experience by creating thoughtful seating.