Event Tips 101: Choose the Right Room Layout

The simplest details can truly make or break the success of an event.  Making a lasting impression on your guests all comes down to the way your event makes them feel, and room set-up and flow is a big factor to consider. It is important to keep in mind the type of event you will be hosting to determine what layout will work best for your event needs. Here are some general tips to consider.

Cocktail or Reception Event

  1. Make sure you are selecting a room with enough space for your specific type of reception. For instance, will you offer passed appetizers or an appetizer buffet? An appetizer buffet requires room, so make sure the layout leaves enough space for easy flow around the buffet.
  2. Know your guests. Will you need any seating or small break-away areas for guests to sit and chat? Will guests be moving around freely with no seating needed? A general rule of thumb for a cocktail reception is to provide enough seating for 20-30%. If you are offering a heavy appetizer reception during dinner hours, then provide seating for up to 60%. This can be accomplished by using a mix of high cocktail style tables as well as some larger round tables for seating.
  3. Cocktail tables are a great option for gathering areas during a reception to comfortably accommodate four guests to stand and chat.
  4. Lastly, make sure you plan for circulation and mingling space where guests can easily walk from guest to guest without bumping into tables or others.

Dinner Presentation

Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your guests are all able to enjoy your upcoming presentation dinner.

  1. Choose a seating arrangement that allows all guests to easily face the screen or presenter. Classroom style, crescent rounds, or boardroom style all allow guests to be situated facing the presentation. If using a boardroom table style set-up, you should try to keep the guest count at 15 or less. This helps promote discussion among attendees and also ensures guests have a good view of the screen/speaker.
  2. Make sure there is plenty of space on the table for each guest’s dinner place setting and a notepad (if required).
  3. Do you need additional tables for display or a place for guests to sign in for your event?
  4. Where will the speaker stand, and do they need to walk around the room?
  5. Is the room dark enough to show your presentation, or can it be darkened during specific parts of the evening?
  6. If the venue has music playing through the space, can the sounds be lowered or turned off in your specific space to ensure all guests can easily hear the presentation?
  7. Does the room have AV (Audio-Visual) capabilities, and does the venue have AV equipment available for rent in house?

Formal Sit-Down Dinner

A formal sit down dinner for occasions such as a business dinner, holiday celebration, or family celebration dinner can be arranged several different ways.

  1. Round tables are always a popular choice for these types of events since they promote intimate conversations. Rounds tables are usually available in two sizes, with seating for either 6-8 people or 8-10 people per table. If you have many couples in the group, be sure to set the room with even numbers so couples can sit together.
  2. U-shaped tables allow all guests to feel as if they are a part of the discussion, and work great for events that have a guest or guests of honor seated at the head of the table.
  3. One large family-style table is another arrangement that allows everyone to feel a part of the group. This arrangement works best for smaller groups of 6-15 guests.
  4. Do you need place cards? It depends on whether you would like open seating or assigned seating. Much of this depends on the number of guests, and how well they know one another.

The right room set-up is one of the keys to hosting a successful event.  Whether informal or formal, a little thought and planning with your guests’ comfort in mind will go far.  If you don’t have time to do it yourself, one of our event directors will be happy to guide you through the details for your next event.

El Gaucho Hospitality Event Directors
AQUA by El Gaucho – Carly McGovern, cmcgovern@elgaucho.com
El Gaucho Bellevue – Whitney Twede, wtwede@elgaucho.com
El Gaucho Portland – Kate Arvidson, karvidson@elgaucho.com
El Gaucho Seattle – Robbie Berger, rberger@elgaucho.com
El Gaucho Tacoma – Merica Ocsan, mocsan@elgaucho.com

For nearly twenty years, El Gaucho has been creating experiences for our guests’ most important and personal moments.  Our team of experts has gathered a list of the most common questions received, and compiled a series of articles targeting every facet of the event planning process to help you plan a successful event.

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4 Comments
  1. That’s interesting that, if you’re going to use a boardroom style, you should keep the guest count to 15 or less. I’ve heard, too, that the different types of table cloths you use could convey different styles or moods. Is that true? I’ll have to keep this info in mind for the next time I’m wanting to throw an elegant party!

    • tamara

      Hi Troy,

      Yes, colors can help a lot with table decor and the mood of the event – check out our other event tips on that very subject!

      We recommend the board room style is kept to 15 people. That way everyone can feel engaged in the group rather than one end feeling left out from the other, depending on where the host is sitting.

  2. I think it’s important to, like you said, know your guests and their needs. You should expect to plan your event around who you plan to invite and what their interests are. The venue should tend to their interests and style as much as possible, depending on the event being held.

  3. I liked when you talked about choosing the right style tables when choosing a venue. It makes sense that remembering this can help you make sure your guests are comfortable and there is space for all of them. I would want to contact several places and compare their quotes before I find the one that suits my needs best.

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