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EVENT DESIGN: Choosing the best seating style for your audience

SMC Conference & Function Centre, Sydney

Choosing the right layout for an event may seem obvious to some, however it is a question we are asked often. It can be challenging, as it’s such a key element to ensure your event achieves its objectives, guest engagement and the key learnings at the event.

The type of seating style or floorplan you select is dependent on several factors:

  • the purpose of the meeting

  • the size of the audience

  • the tone, mood or atmosphere, you’re trying to create

  • the result you’re trying looking to achieve

With this in mind, we have compiled a list of event room layouts you can use to accommodate attendees (safely of course), what they actually mean and how they can be used best.


A row of chairs, aligned in consecutive lines facing a stage, lectern, screen or main speaker. Also known as conference style, this seating arrangement is typically set on a flat floor and one of the easiest to set-up and therefore one of the most common for a formal setting. Food and beverage service us typically served in an adjacent space.

A variation to theatre style is tiered or auditorium style which is similar however has stepped flooring designed in straight, angled or curved rows. a tiered floor helps with a clear and unobstructed sight lines.

Most suited for // Annual general meetings, conferences, lectures, seminars, team briefings or presentations.

Venues most suited to // Purpose built or hotel event spaces, or pillar-less ballrooms.


Rectangular trestle tables and chairs arranged end-to-end and aligned in consecutive straight rows facing a single direction. This formal instructor lead learning style, aims at transferring information allowing for note taking or exams. Food and beverage service us typically served in an adjacent space. Seating capacity is reduced by the trestle tables.

Most suited for // Assessments, conferences, lectures, product launches, sales kick-offs or training.

Venues most suited to // Purpose built or hotel event spaces, or pillar-less ballrooms.


Standing up style with high cocktail style tables and chairs/ stools. The audience is predominantly standing with no opportunity to sit and rest, which is perfect for guests to freely mingle, roam and network. This style is friendly, engaging and welcoming for guests and is also the most efficient use of floor space, with maximum room capacity available however requires a strategic floorplan to ensure the venue has atmosphere. Additional furniture options include bar tables, oak barrels or cafe tables with chairs or a dance floor. Food service consists of waitstaff intermittently offering assorted canapes throughout the night, grazing or self-service food stations. The same goes for beverage service, Its important the bar is staffed adequately to serve multiple people at once or otherwise guests will be frustrated lining up for drink service.

A variation to cocktail style is lounge style and as the name suggests this layout prioritize relaxation over productivity. Featuring a variety of lounges, ottomans, coffee or cafe style tables and chairs, arranged in clusters to form a more styled and relaxed vibe. This type of set up can add aesthetics, style, colour, textures and luxe finishes to an otherwise plain space.Cocktail and Lounge style furniture can be used in conjunction with each other.

Also known as // Stand up, drink receptions or mixed seating

Most suited for // Cocktail events, end of financial events, Christmas parties, networking or other social events.

Venues most suited to // Unique venues, rooftop bars, outdoor spaces, galleries, and restaurants


A single elongated rectangle table with chairs with the audience all facing inwards. This style encourages audience interaction, where they can communicate effectively and see each other clearly as they all face inwards. This style can be immensely powerful and formal style for board meetings however can also be a way of creating a space for thought provoking and creativity for brainstorming sessions.

Most suited for // Board or business meetings, corporate retreats, private dining rooms, small celebrations, presentations, team briefings or group brainstorming.

Venues most suited to // Hotels, retreats, smaller meeting spaces or restaurants with private dining rooms.

Review our handpicked recommendations for corporate retreat destinations in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland & New Zealand.


A variation to the boardroom style although there is a greater emphasis placed on food and beverage service. Food service and selection can range from A La Carte, Chefs table dining experience, degustation, informal dining, single choice set, tasting or shared menu to silver service dining, the choice will depend on the venue, budget and audience. There are two types of private dining room experiences, semi-private and private, the selection will depend on the level of privacy required.

A private dining room is completely separated and private from the main venue or restaurant. This style ensures solidarity from other guests and a space for confidential conversations or presentations.

Semi private dining, is a sectioned off area from the main venue or restaurant. The semi partitioned area can be divided by a curtain, decorative wall or located on an open mezzanine level. This offers an intimate space without distancing guests from the ambiance and bustle of the restaurant.

Also known as // King table

Most suited for // Client meetings, corporate breakfasts, lunches or dinners and product launches.

Venues most suited to // Hotels, restaurants, or unique venues.

Review our handpicked recommendations for private dining rooms in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.


Large round tables with guests seated facing each other, resembling a dinner table for large catered events. Typically, 10 guests are seated per table although this will depend on the venue, table size and number of guests at the event. This style encourages full interaction between guests sitting at one table, an intimate way of enjoying a meal with a large audience. Suited to formal and informal gatherings where there is no requirement to constantly focus attention toward a stage or central platform.

Seating charts are recommended for banquet style as they reduce confusion (and potentially conflicts) among guests. Seating charts also allow catering staff to know which guests have special dietary requirements. And if dancing the night away is a requirement at the event, a dance floor is placed at the front and center of the room, with tables arranged around.

A variation to round banquet style is long tables, this work well to create a communal, intimate and relaxed atmosphere. Ensure to check with the venue is they can supply this or are long tables additional cost to your event.

Most suited for // Awards nights, charity dinners, sports team ceremonies, networking breakfasts, lunches or dinners, formal Christmas parties and gala dinners.

Venues most suited to // Purpose built or hotel event spaces, or pillar-less ballrooms.


Similar to Banquet style, guests are also seated at large round tables but instead of being fully closed in, cabaret style is open-ended leaving empty space, with the audience seated in an arc facing forwards the stage, allowing for direct sight lines. This style is ideal if there are presentations from the front of the room so that no-one has their back to the presenter.

Most suited for // Conferences, training or workshops sessions, awards nights or lunch and learn sessions.

Venues most suited to // Purpose built or hotel event spaces, or pillar-less ballrooms

There are a variety of seating options available when it comes to choosing a room layout for corporate events and ultimately it will depend on what you are looking to achieve. Most importantly, when it comes to hosting safe meetings and events, be sure to follow the local, state and federal covid safe guidelines. The best approach is to discuss your event with us, Key Society and together we can determine which layout will be the most suitable for your guest numbers and vision for the day.



A venue sourcing & event management specialising in corporate events, Australia-wide. We are venue matchmakers, event curators and through open dialog & collaboration, we ensure your audience understands your brand story to develop memorable experiences that stir conversations, emotions & shareable moments. From conception to delivery, it’s the personalised approach that will unlock your event's potential. Contact us to explore your event options.

Natalie Young – Key Society

0410 419 904

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