Social dynamics play a huge factor in any event.
People care about whom they'll share a table with and worry too much about sitting with someone they might not like. This "worry" is the same airline passengers might have, especially considering where they are sitting – window, middle, aisle. Imagine enduring a long flight sitting next to a snoring stranger.
Anxiety over where to sit and whom a table is being shared with may lead to a bad experience for your guests. If you're an event organizer, your seating plan matters. There's no way around it. Unfortunately, seating plans are a pain to create, and even harder to implement because there are bound to be seating changes.
Creating effective seating plans are especially important for organizations today as research suggests that global demand for events and meetings will increase by 5-10% this year. Better seating plans result in more enjoyable events, which ultimately drive engagement and conversions.
Here are a few tips for an event seating plan that's sure to appease your guests and garner more smiles.
Know the Floor Plan
Before you plan your seating arrangements, it's a solid move to first get the lay of the land. Ask venue management for current floor plans of the area so you know where everything is. A floor plan should show you the locations of general and emergency exits, main entrance, staff entrance, backstage access, and even possible obstructed views of the stage.
Armed with detailed information, event organizers can avoid assigning seats in unfavorable locations while creating event floor plans that make sense.
Use Seat Planning Software
Forget about drawing up a floor plan the old fashioned way using poster board and post-it notes. There's an app for everything these days, and one of them is a seating planner. Seat planning software allows you to rapidly create seating charts for any room size.
Seat planning programs also have drag-and-drop functionality, making it easier to assign seats. Attendees can select their seats online. Organizers can reserve the best places in advance for added revenue. You can even set rules, manage table access, and color code tables by category.
Use Tickets for Booking Seats
Regarding reservations, tickets are a godsend in avoiding empty seats from being reserved by attendees that may not show up, and annoying those who arrive and see perfectly available seats.
Ticketing also helps prevent strangers from gatecrashing exclusive events and taking up space from invited guests. Seating is easier to manage if guests are required to show their tickets before entering the venue, while deterring uninvited individuals.
If physical ticket checks are not your cup of tea, consider alternatives like mobile check-ins or even facial recognition as a way to seat guests.
Group People with Similar Interests Together
Attendees will appreciate it if organizers assign them a seat next to people in which there is a level of mutual familiarity. This is further echoed by the fact that 68.9% of conference goers (from a survey featuring 191 Fortune 1000 executives) say networking is a big reason why they attend events.
Key reasons why people attend conferences and work-related events (image source)
Therefore, it makes sense to assign seating for guests with other attendees who share the same interests and similarities. For instance, business owners can talk shop with other entrepreneurs. Social media influencers will feel at ease with guests that operate in the same sphere, and so on.
Make It Easy for Your Guests to Find Their Seat
The last thing you want to do is make it hard for guests to find their seat.
A good rule to practice—use big and easy-to-read fonts on your seating cards. While it may be tempting to offer decorative text and images, you might end up confusing guests and bottlenecking the start of your event.
We recommend using escort cards, place cards, or seating charts to inform your guests where to sit. This removes the hassle of treasure hunting a seat, minimizes the potential awkwardness of sharing a table with strangers, and sets the mood for an enjoyable event.
Consider the Needs of Each Guest
An event is successful if attendees talk about a positive and memorable experience. Not all attendees share the same “need” profile. Think outside the box to provide a seating plan that addresses your guests’ needs. For example, older guests and persons with disabilities require quicker access to aisles, restrooms, and possibly emergency exits. Large groups should be seated together if possible, and so on.