How to Arrange Tables for a Meeting

Sitting in a circle promotes collaboration.
Sitting in a circle promotes collaboration. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Setting up a room for a meeting sets the stage for the interactions that will go on during the meeting, making it an important consideration for planning. Table arrangements should be based on the function of the meeting. In other words, define the purpose of the meeting and make your table and seating arrangements accordingly. There are some guidelines to follow that will help you decide what configuration is best for each type of meeting.

Define the parameters of the meeting. Determine the purpose and desired outcome, number of attendees, level of formality and leadership roles. These parameters will help you make seating decisions that best support your goals for the meeting.

Match a table configuration and seating arrangement to your purposes. An informal meeting among employees at a similar seniority level with a collaborative goal is best served by a large circular table that facilitates easy eye contact and participation between all parties. A formal meeting with a clear leader and lots of attendees works best with a U-shaped configuration of long tables and the boss or leader located at the head. For a presentation, rows of long tables with all the chairs facing front seats everyone in the best position to watch and listen to the presenter without distraction. If space is limited and multiple purposes must be served, two rectangular tables pushed into a square does double duty. Seat attendees around the square for discussion or eating, then pull them apart and place the chairs from one end in the middle so everyone can face the front for a presentation.

Communicate your table arrangement and seating needs to the meeting facility, or get help moving tables if you are responsible for setting up the room yourself.

Tips & Warnings

  • Head off potential conflicts by seating rivals on the same side of the table but not next to each other so that it is more difficult to make direct eye contact.

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