Every one of us is an artist, and as an artist, you really can stroll into any venue that you want, as long as you take your time to learn the etiquette of that venue.Terrence Howard (*1969)
US actor and singer
Location matters. In order to have good results, both you and the participants have to feel relaxed. An ambiance has to be created that facilitates an open exchange of opinions. This is your task! Do not blame others — the hotel, the participants etc. — as it is up to you to choose the venue (and perhaps the participants, too) and to create a suitable environment [see also Dealing with resources].
Of course, we will never have the ideal environment but there are many ways to improvise. Be creative with the elements available. Prepare your venue minimum one hour before the workshop starts.
The seating arrangements are one part of the venue – not only to make participants feel alright, but furthermore to moderate successfully. Some combination might just lead to failure. So, let’s have a look!
Like the venue itself, seating arrangements create an environment. Seating arrangements can facilitate or hamper communication, enable activity or block it, can support or impede learning.
Basically, there are four types of set-up with their respective advantages and disadvantages:
- School classroom.
- Full circle/square.
Let’s deal with them one by one. Then you can make your decision on the basis of what you want to achieve.
School classroom Seating
This is the traditional form of ex-cathedra teaching in which one person talks, the others listen and are under the authority of the speaker permanently. This might be useful for dealing with children but it rarely generates discussion or interactivity. It is unlikely to create a cosy atmosphere.
- Good for focus on board/one teacher.
- Good if there is a lot of writing/computer work.
- Different distance between rows.
- No interactivity.
- Teacher/moderator always between participant and screen/board.
The second traditional form which every hotel automatically arranges — whether you want it or not. This allows people to face each other partially.
Seating arrangements in panel discussions are dealt with later [aModeration].
- Classical form.
- Good for one trainer and if there is a lot of writing/use of computer.
- Slightly boring.
- Hampers interactivity.