Meeting room set-ups

Most meeting rooms in most organisations are set up with a single table surface in the middle and chairs arranged around it as per the diagram below. Often referred to as board-room style, this approach can be trace back to Medieval times when the table really was a board on trestles, and the ‘Chair’ man was the owner of the manor and had his seat furthest away from the drafty open end of the hall.

While the design is economic in its use of space in small rooms, it is conceived out of an ageBoard room layout where ‘management’ was more directive and autocratic than in modern times. As such, it is fine for question and answer type meetings where the chair has authoritative control, but it is limited for a more facilitative and engaging style of meeting.
The U-Shaped table is less economic in its use of space, but its more open design makes it easier for u-shape layoutanybody to take their turn in guiding the meeting from the open end of the table, while still facilitating discussion between other members of the meeting.
While it may appear that this could be achieved more economically by simply removing two chairs from the right hand end of the diagram above, this undervalues the gap in the table. The gap provides the ability for the person currently facilitating the meeting to exert much more subtle forms of meeting control by using their physical position to influence the flow of the meeting.
horseshoe layoutNot all rooms however have space for such an arrangement, or the tables that can be arranged in this fashion. In these circumstances the leader of the meeting might consider dispensing with tables altogether and simply arrange a horseshoe of chairs. Current levels of technology mean that people increasingly arrive at meetings with far less paperwork and physical files than warranted the historic requirement for table space, and are easily able to use their mobile devices on their laps. It is also far easier to rearrange the room quickly for different phases of the meeting when no tables are involved.
cabaret layoutSometimes meetings have more participants than can be arranged in a shape where everyone can easily see everyone else. Typically these have been set up in ‘lecture-room’ style with the chairs in rows facing forward. However, with increasing participation required of meetings we are seeing an increase in the uses of ‘cabaret’ style shown on the right. The advantage is that the attendees can easily switch between receiving input from the front of the room, to working together in small groups, to moving to make use of wall space in developing outputs for the meeting.

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