Room Set-Up for Workshops

We’ve all been in workshops with uncomfortable chairs, poor acoustics and terrible table set-up. Whether you can’t see the whiteboard or it’s difficult to hear other participants, poor room set-up can make a real impact on how well your workshop runs.

There is no one-size-fits-all room set-up, however there are some things that need to be considered. When considering room set-up for your next workshop, it’s helpful to think about:

  • How many people are in the meeting / workshop?
  • How big is the available space?
  • How interactive do you want the workshop to be?
  • Will people need to take notes or write things down?
  • Will people need to spend much time looking at the front of the room?
  • Are there separate teams or groups that will be working exclusively together throughout the session?
  • Is this the only space you have, or are there break-out rooms or open space available?
  • Is there an internal power dynamic that you need to consider?
  • Are there any additional access requirements—particularly for participants in wheelchairs or with limited mobility?
  • Do you need to leave extra space for moving around?

Some common room set-ups include:

U-Shape with Tables
This set-up is suitable for 16 participants or less, and allows participants to see each other, while at the same time having a clear view of the facilitator. This set-up is most commonly used for training sessions or meetings, and is useful if people need to take individual notes.

U-Shape with No Tables
This set-up works with groups of all sizes and allows participants a clear view of the facilitator and each other. Compared to the U Shape Set-Up with Tables, this set-up encourages more interaction and breaks down perceived barriers. However, no tables can provide challenges if participants are required to take lots of notes.

Rectangle Tables in Rows
This set-up works if participants are working exclusively in teams, with minimal time spent facing the front. With this kind of set-up, it’s important that the facilitator moves around the room and engages participants from different places.

Cabaret/Café Style
This set-up is good when you have a large group workshop, and you want small group work to take place. Having round tables, with no chairs on one side, means everyone gets to face the front. Participants can see everyone in their own group, but not necessarily everyone in the room—so it’s a good idea to get people moving around for different activities.

Circle with No Tables
Circle set-ups encourage a sense of equality and vulnerability, and are a great way to break down barriers. Circle set-ups require careful facilitation and the ability to hold space for participants who wouldn’t normally contribute.

This set-up is suitable when working with small teams who need to plan or brainstorm together.

For a downloadable copy of these room set-ups with diagrams, click here.

Once you have set up the room, it’s a good idea to sit in different seats and get a sense for how the room looks and feels from that space. Sometimes you discover that your desired room set-up doesn’t work, so make sure you leave plenty of time to make changes before participants arrive.

What is your favourite way to set up a space?

Kerri Price
Kerri is a professional facilitator with over 20 years experience in facilitation roles. She is the founder of The Facilitators Network and regularly facilitates workshops on Facilitation and Building a Facilitation Business.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top