Audience Seating Arrangement: All You Need To Know…

“I saw this show under adverse circumstances-my seat was facing the stage.”

John David Klein

You’ve got your presentation details down pat.

Audience members and guest speakers have received their invites and confirmed their presence.

You’ve checked room acoustics and equipment.

Everything is good to go.

Wait! Isn’t something missing?

Have you checked the seating arrangement?

Your presentation or public speaking success depends on a lot of factors. Seating layout is one tiny detail that can ruin an otherwise perfect performance.

If your audience is uncomfortably seated or stuck without a clear view of the presentation spot, you’ve lost some of them already.

“Everyone is in the best seat”

John cage

How do you choose a room layout?

Seating styles depend on a few variables:

  • Room size
  • Audience size
  • Level of interaction and activity

Ask yourself these questions

  1. Can everyone see you and projector screen? Are there background objects like pillars that can block their view?
  2. Are the chairs comfortable? Are these suitable for long training sessions? Is there a table or space holder for writing material and beverages?
  3. Is there enough leg room or space for movement between chairs?
  4. Have you made special seating arrangements for members with hearing, visual or mobility needs?

Seating styles for larger audiences

1.     Theatre

Long line of chairs is aligned in succeeding rows, facing the stage. An aisle in the middle and on each side of the room allows members to reach their seats. Useful layout for non-interactive presentations like meetings, seminars or product launches where people only listen.

2.     Herringbone/chevron

Chairs and tables are arranged in consequent rows, but placed at a slanting angle towards the centre. The audience faces the front and uses the table to take notes during day-long sessions. Use layout for conferences, lectures, and training sessions.

Seating arrangement for smaller groups

1.     U shape

Tables and chairs are arranged in a U shape. The audience faces inwards and interacts with each other and the presenter. Members on side seats may have obstructed view of presentation area.  Suitable for smaller conferences, workshops, or training session.

2.     Hollow Square

The audience is seated on four sides and face inwards. They can use the table to take notes or eat during breaks. Use this for demo sessions. Not suitable for live presentations, but perfect for discussions and panel meetings.

3.     Horse Shoe

Similar to U-shaped style, but without the tables. Layout follows an open ended formation. Audience faces inward and can view the slideshow. Presenter interacts with each audience member. Reduced capacity makes this more useful for team meetings, smaller presentations, and instructional sessions.

Seating Layout for a tiny group


Chairs are arranged along an elongated table. Allow members and presenter to interact. The presentation area is restricted to one end of the table. Choose this style for small groups of 5-15 in a client meeting, managerial meetings, or team briefing.

Points to remember before your next presentation

  • Semi-circular seating works best for interactive sessions
  • Narrow, long rooms are not conducive to a comfortable viewer experience
  • Seats placed close to the wall can make audience members feel claustrophobic


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