Presenting to an Audience: How to Choose the Best Seating
An important factor often overlooked when presenting to an audience is the
seating arrangement at the place for presentation. Thats because the room
layout can have a high impact on the way the audience experiences and responds
to your presentation, and accordingly has an influence on the way you need to
plan your content and organize yourself.
To help you decide the best seating arrangement, Ive developed some examples with suggestions on the seating plans for
When deciding on seating arrangement, you need to consider four factors:
- audience size,
- level of interaction between audience members and the presenter,
- whether audience members will be required to take notes,
- duration of event.
When presenting to an audience of up to about 15 people, the Circle
or Rectangle layouts are best.
Both layouts are good if interaction between participants is required as
audience members can easily see each other from where they sit. Typical examples
are informal discussion groups (Circle layout) or business meetings (Rectangle
layout). The Rectangle
layout is also better if people need a flat surface to take notes or for drinks.
Medium sized groups
For medium sized groups of around 20 to 30 people, a better solution would
either be the Open Square or Block layout.
I favor the Open Square layout when presenting to an audience of this
size especially if delegates need to interact with each other. People usually like to see each other when they talk as body
language can be an important part of the communication. The Block
arrangement has the disadvantage that people on the
inside have to turn round to see the presentation, which can be irritating if
the presentation is longer than an hour or so. It's okay, however, if the presentation is secondary to the proceedings, for
example if people are in discussion groups, only occasionally stopping to look at the
If you intend to give a presentation where you want the audience to interact
closely with each other while working on some activities (e.g. problem solving
or a staff development training day), the best choice may be the Restaurant
You could start the presentation using one of the more formal layouts then
rearrange the seating to the Restaurant layout when you start the group activities.
The Class layout is also suitable for smaller groups in, for example, a
training presentation where limited audience interaction is expected.
When presenting to an audience of more than 30 people the Theater or
Class layout maybe your only option. Interaction between participants is
limited as audience members are all facing in the same direction. This is
something you should be aware of particularly if you have a question and answer
session. In this situation, you should repeat any questions to ensure
everyone has heard clearly.
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