Meeting Room Layout Ideas for Maximum Engagement
Your meeting room layout can have a big impact on how much your attendees will be engaged in the meeting. But the right layout will depend on what the purpose of your meeting is. Below, we look into exactly why the meeting room layout can facilitate engagement, some of the different meeting room layout options available to you, and how to choose the best one for your meeting.
Why the meeting room layout is important
There are many reasons why the layout of your meeting room is important. The right layout will help the team to feel more engaged and able to contribute to the meeting. It can help to facilitate ideas and discussions, ultimately leading to a more productive meeting.
Using a different meeting room layout than what might be expected can be a good way of shaking things up. It can help people to break out of their usual habits and be open to new ideas and experiences.
What to consider for your meeting room layout
When deciding your meeting room layout options, there are a few factors you’ll need to consider. These include:
Number of attendees
How many people will be attending your meeting? This will have a big impact on which meeting room layout styles you can choose. Some options won’t be appropriate for large groups, and others won’t work for smaller numbers.
Your meeting room layout will need to adhere to health and safety rules. You’ll need to ensure clear paths to emergency exits and ensure wheelchair access if required.
Size of meeting room
The size of your meeting room may restrict your meeting room layout options. If the room is too small, you may have few options for how you can layout the room. However, there will still be engaging options for you, which we’ll go into more detail below.
What sort of visual tools will you be using in your meeting? Do you require a central screen projection? Do you plan to collaboratively plan on whiteboards? The tools you’ll be using will decide the best meeting room layout for your requirements.
What equipment will your attendees be using? If they’ll have laptops, your meeting room layout will need to accommodate charging points, so people can keep working without interruption but also so wires don’t become trip hazards.
When deciding on your meeting room layout, you’ll also need to consider any extra necessities that will be in your meeting. For example, if you will be eating in the meeting room, you’ll need to include a space for food. If tea and coffee will be available, you’ll need a space for this or need to include them on the tables where people will be working.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, you’ll need to consider what you want to achieve in your meeting. This will have the biggest impact on the best meeting room layout to promote maximum engagement. Is your meeting to pass on information? Is it to collaborate and come up with ideas? Is it to teach and educate? Each meeting room layout style will have advantages and disadvantages, so your objectives for the meeting should be clear.
Meeting room layout options
The U-shape meeting room layout is maybe one of the most common layouts, especially when you have a central focal point, such as a presentation or a speaker. With the U-shape layout, you’ll set the tables up in a horseshoe shape. At the open end, you can have a whiteboard, projection screen, or speaker (or all of the above, if your meeting requires).
You can also set up a U-shape without tables, fi they’re not needed for your meeting. In this case, you can simply arrange chairs in a U-shape so everyone can see the focal point.
The U-shape allows for better communication between attendees, as they can all see each other. At the same time, attendees can all easily see the speaker and/or presentation, so it is easy for them to stay engaged. When tables are used, participants can easily make notes on their laptops or on paper.
A downside to the U-shape layout is that the majority of participants will view the focal point side-on. This can become uncomfortable if the meeting is due to go on for a long time.
The U-shape also isn’t the best if you have large groups. If the U-shape is too big, people won’t be able to communicate and may struggle to see the focal point. You’ll also need to consider that the U-shape doesn’t use space the most efficiently, so smaller meeting rooms might not be able to accommodate the layout.
The boardroom layout is another popular meeting room layout. With this style, you’ll typically have one large rectangular table with chairs around it. This layout works best for meetings that are focused on an agenda rather than a presentation, with information and potential ideas being shared.
The advantages of this meeting room layout style are that it allows all attendees to communicate and collaborate, as everyone can see each other directly. The table gives plenty of space for laptops and paperwork, as well as drinks and even food.
One of the disadvantages of this layout is that it’s not best for everyone if a presentation has to be viewed. Typically, some people will have to turn around in their seats if there needs to be one focal point.
Another downside is that attendees could find themselves distracted if they have their laptops in front of them. In this case, it’s important to communicate that emails and other work should wait until after the meeting.
Another potential disadvantage to the boardroom meeting layout is that people at the far ends of the tables could feel isolated. Sometimes, having one or two people at the ends can work great if you have a meeting chair or leader who should be the focal point. If you are conducting a meeting where everyone should be on an equal footing, using a circular or square table can help to balance things.
The theatre meeting room layout style is perfect for very large groups where the meeting objective is to pass on information or educate. Here, you’ll set up chairs in rows, like in a theatre, all facing towards one focal point. Often, the focal point will include a projection screen with a presentation for people to take in.
One of the advantages of this layout option is that you can easily accommodate large groups of people. Without tables, you can fit in more chairs while still allowing for easy access. Attendees will be completely focused on the speaker and/or presentation, as they will all be able to easily view it and won’t have laptops or anything else in front of them that could cause a distraction.
This meeting room layout won’t be best if your meeting requires collaboration between participants. There may be some scope to invite discussions between those seated next to each other if required, but generally the focus should be on the speaker and taking in information.
It can be difficult in this setup for participants to take notes. You could use university-style seats that include a small, attached table for note-taking. Or, you could make sure that the presentation is sent out to participants after the meeting, so they can refresh themselves on what was said.
The classroom meeting room layout is similar to the theatre style, but here there will be tables. So, the room will be set up like a classroom, with tables and chairs in rows facing the front of the room. This layout is great if you have a presentation and/or speaker but also requires attendees to use laptops or other devices. The tables allow for extra space to work and also for drinks and food if required in the meeting.
Like the theatre style, this layout option doesn’t allow for easy collaboration between attendees, so should be restricted to use when that won’t be a meeting objective.
Sometimes, the classroom layout can mean that those at the far ends of the rows find it difficult to see the focal point. Arranging the rows into chevrons, so they are at an angle to the focal point can help to mitigate this.
The cabaret meeting room layout is great for when you need attendees to view a central focus point but also collaborate in smaller groups. It will consist of a number of smaller, round tables. Seats will be arranged in a crescent around one half of the table, with an open space around the other half facing the focal point.
Cabaret meeting room layout styles allow for maximum engagement as participants will have a clear view of the speaker and/or presentation. At the same time, they’ll be able to discuss and communicate with each other, in their small groups on each table. This option is perfect for presentations that require brief group work throughout.
A potential downside to cabaret-style seating is that it can encourage chatter between attendees when it’s not relevant or not the right time. An engaging presentation will help to avoid this.
The banquet meeting room layout option is similar to cabaret in that it consists of a number of smaller, round tables. However, with banquet-style seating, chairs will be arranged around the entire table, with no free space.
The banquet layout is perfect when the main objective of your meeting is group collaboration or networking. It allows for easy communication between participants, and the table provides plenty of space to use laptops, take notes, and have refreshments.
A downside of banquet-style seating is that it can be tricky for networking between other groups. You could include mingling in your meeting, i.e. ask for participants to move around the tables and take some time on each one.
The banquet meeting room layout also doesn’t allow for easy viewing of a central focus point. If you have a speaker, it can be best for them to move around the room, so people don’t have to strain too much to see them and engage with them. If you have a presentation, it can be better to use an alternative meeting room layout, such as cabaret, so people won’t have to turn around in their chairs to view it.
What’s the best meeting room layout style for your meeting?
The best meeting room layout will depend on the objectives of your meeting. Each style has different advantages to help maximise the engagement of your participants.
If you have a small group and the purpose of your meeting is to exchange information, the boardroom style might work best.
If you have a small to medium group and you require participants to view a presentation or central focus point whilst still being able to communicate with each other, the U-style might be what you need.
If you have a medium to large group and require attendees to view a presentation or speaker with little or no collaboration, the theatre or classroom layout options could be the best options.
If you have a medium to large group that you need to collaborate with each other, the banquet or cabaret styles will work best.