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Pearl Events Austin - Customer Story

How Table Selection and Layout Affects Guest Experience

It’s the beginning of December already, I can’t believe that Thanksgiving was already almost two weeks ago! I don’t know about you, but as I get older my appreciation for the holiday season shifts. It wasn’t long ago that I cared about the festive decor and the holiday shopping and wrapping my presents to impress.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like all of those things. But as time goes on, I find myself caring about the people I decorate with, and the gesture of giving, much more than the actual stuff. It seems like an obvious, but as a designer (and at times a control freak), it is easy to get caught up in the staging of an event and completely overlook and appreciate why the event is even happening.

This Thanksgiving my family’s table was the biggest it’s ever been. I come from a small family and for as long as I can remember our extended family gatherings have consisted of eight people. Total. Over the past few years some kids have come along, and this year family friends joined us as well. We had fifteen people! If this keeps up, we’ll be filling more than one room in no time. But my point is, it wasn’t about the adorable place settings and decor my aunt had done, or the turkey competition between the BBQ or roasted bird. It was about all of us coming together around a table to spend time appreciating one another.

Banquet room with tables ready for guests.

This got me thinking about how different table shapes, sizes and layouts affect the way that people engage with one another at events. The last time you planned an event or hosted a gathering, did you think about how a round table affects the conversation or the sense of togetherness differently than a single long table? In making your table layout decisions, my challenge for you is to consider what’s truly important. Think about why the event is happening and what you hope to achieve from it before spending hours pouring through Pinterest for the perfect centerpiece.

And please don’t forget about how the layout makes your guests feel. If it’s important that your event supports conversations and socializing, ask yourself, ‘does this layout support guest engagement and conversation?’ If it’s important that your event focuses on a specific person or topic, ask yourself, ‘does this layout really focus on what is at the heart of this event?’ Add a level of thought to your staging and styling. Go beyond simply what “looks” good and is trendy. Your event will be much more meaningful and your guests will thank you for it.

Plan Events Seamlessly

Here is some inspiration from my Pinterest board I Love Group Dining for different table layouts that will affect your event in different ways. Get creative, break the rules and don’t forget about the people and their feelings. Cheers to the holidays!

Long tables in rows. This layout gives the feeling of a packed house with close family and friends near. Circulation throughout this room would be tough, but I’m sure no one feels left out. Found here.

One single long winding table. In this case this decision seems to focus on the scenery and outdoors. Think about how you would feel as a guest at this event? Would your feelings change if you were placed at the end of the table instead of the middle? Found here.

Really large square table. To me this is more of a graphic decision because I can’t really figure out what the point is otherwise. What do you think? Found here.

Don’t forget to check out Social Table’s Room Layout Maker!

The Event Planners Guide to Modern Meeting Design