I don’t know about you but when I organize a knowledge-sharing event where I know that there will be under 30 people attending, I try to rearrange the seating to encourage interaction between everyone in the room.
My heart sinks when I see the room arranged in straight rows of seating. It sinks even further, if that were possible, when the rows are jammed up against one wall, only allowing one route in. If you are the person stuck next to the wall, your attention is not on the speaker but on the wall as you feel progressively more cramped and stuck with no escape!
My alternative room layout is this.
- I rearrange the rows so that there is a central aisle.
- I introduce a slight curve on both sides of the aisle, so that the people on either end can see each other. In effect, this is a crescent-shape.
- I try to leave more space between the seats so you don’t feel cramped.
I also remove the table between the presenter and the audience. If the presenter needs a flat surface, it can be placed to one side. This allows for greater connection between audience and presenter. If it is good enough for TED talks to have the presenter stand up in front of an audience, it is good enough for us.
David Gurteen’s knowledge cafes have their own room set up.
He starts with groups of 4-5 people seated around a small table. People then move around the room joining new tables, creating a new group. When the cafe comes towards the end, all the tables are removed and the seats are moved into one large circle, facing in. It makes for a more open and inclusive conversation across the larger group.