When you start to plan a conference and you’ve just booked your venue, you are often faced with a huge empty space. It’s your job to come up with a space-efficient layout to fit in as many delegates as possible, but whilst also facilitating the objectives of the event – for example, getting delegates to engage with speakers and each other.
This can be a daunting task, but we’ve come up with some useful tips that could make conference planners’ lives a little easier.
Before you can start to plan any other part of the layout for your event, you need to see how much space you have to work with. You might think that the footprint of your event tent will determine the total square footage, but this doesn’t include the space taken up by facilities. Mark off space for toilets and washrooms, cloakrooms and hospitality spaces (i.e. food preparation areas) first, then see what you have left. It would be a mistake to try to squeeze facilities in afterwards, as your event could end up being cramped or the layout not working at all.
This is one of the biggest layout decisions any conference planner will need to make. There are lots of seating styles to choose from, such as:
- Theatre. A simple style of seating where everyone faces forward, allowing you to get the maximum seat capacity in the space but not allowing any table space for note-taking or consumption of food and drink. You must also remember to leave aisles for access, and bear in mind that this isn’t the best layout for audience interaction or engagement (especially with the back rows).
- Classroom. Everyone faces the speaker in this layout and audience members have trestle tables for note-taking and food and drink. Due to the tables and the need for access aisles, bear in mind that seat capacity is reduced with this layout. It is, however, popularly used for conferences, lectures and training events.
- U-shape or horseshoe. This layout does take up quite a bit of space, but it is ideal for seminars and discussions where discussion and interaction between speakers and delegates is important. If you were taking a ‘zoning’ approach to your layout, made easier by the modular configuration of event venues like SaddleSpan tents, this seating arrangement could be placed in its own dedicated area.
Creating dedicated ‘zones’
One of the best ways to plan a large space, such as that of a SaddleSpan conference marquee seating up to 1,700 people, is to break it up into dedicated zones. This allows your event to perform many functions at once, without the space becoming cluttered and confusing for delegates. For example, the main body of the conference tent could be used for keynote speakers, providing seating for the largest number of people. In a separate ‘zone’, there could be a dedicated seminar/discussion space, whilst another module of the tent could be dedicated to networking and socialising.
Whilst it is important to create stimulating and efficient environments for your delegates, you must also provide them with space to relax, socialise and get refreshments. A few comfortable chairs won’t suffice – you need to provide a dedicated space away from the main action of the conference.