Take a look at this picture. What do you see?
I’ll tell you one thing I don’t see: The table for the panel I was scheduled to host in this room. But it’s there … squished up against the wall on the left side of the audience. If you squint hard, you can barely see the tops of the chairs, partially obscured by the podium.
Naturally, my panelists and I (all of whom plan meetings) opted to stand for our session — after all, we wanted to engage the audience in conversation and, quite frankly, be seen. But we were left scratching our heads over this set-up. Not only was there no elevated stage for the panel discussion, but there were 182 seats crammed so tight together that it was impossible for anyone to move around or see anyone If you wanted anything on the screen to be visible to the last row, you had to use a minimum 45-pt. font size. What’s worse is that my first session in this room was billed as an “interactive roundtable.”
How could any event organizer, knowing what sessions would be taking place in this room, have asked for this layout? Once they were on-site, how could they have walked in and approved of how this was set?
They didn’t. They couldn’t have. Right?
My best guess is that they ran out of time to check it, or they just trusted the convention center to do right by them, not thinking about whether or not any thought would be put into the attendee’s experience.
Now look at this picture. What does it make you feel?
It’s cozy right? People have plenty of space to move around. There are conversational nooks where people can gather and discuss things. It’s colorful and visually appealing. I imagine it even smells good. In Amsterdam, we’d say it was gezellig, which doesn’t have a true English translation, but is used to describe anything that makes you feel comfortable, homey and content. What a fabulous state of mind to create for people you want to connect, collaborate and learn.
In case you don’t recognize it, this is an image taken by Erica St. Angel who attended and spoke at Event Camp Vancouver. One of the event’s organizers, Tahira Endean, just published a fabulous white paper about all the thought that went into the event’s meeting design and execution. Do your attendees a favor and read it.
Life’s too short to sit in uncomfortable seating arrangements.