Are you at the table? Did you choose your table or were you seated at it? The same thing goes for your seat mates, the proximity or distance you have to each other, and where your table is located in the grand scheme of things. Was thoughtful seating a part of the event?
When you are in the beginning phases of planning your event, take a look at how you can show guests how much you appreciate their being present 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 or 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 share the same occupation, or live in the same city or region, maybe they share an occupation, or religion, or 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 speakers.
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, or other special needs? 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 another than a 10-top or a banquet table. Although banquet tables people to get to know their dinner partners, it can be a long, arduous evening if they can’t communicate!
Look at some of the ways you can facilitate meaningful, memorable, and creative interactions at your event. Look at the ways you can enhance your attendees enjoyment of the entire experience by creating thoughtful seating.