Event Venues love their capacity charts – it lets them know exactly how many people they can fit in their event spaces at any one time. These are generally derived from a CAD plan or in some cases from previous events they have held at the venue. It can all be a little confusing for someone new to events to figure out what the event seating types mean though – Cabaret, Boardroom, Classroom, Theatre. What do they mean and how do I know which one to look at when determining whether my event will fit?

Events Outsourced have put together an outline below that will show you what each of the 6 most common event seating types mean and which would be the most appropriate for your event. We have even thrown in a few images to help you sort through the seating styles visually.

1. Theatre

Theatre Style is one of the most common event seating types and will allow you to fit the largest number of people in the room. Essentially theatre style is just chairs, generally split into sections by aisles to make it easier to access. Theatre Style is most commonly used for an event that entails keynote speakers and a large audience who usually seated for the duration of the event listening to the presentations. Venues will often set up a few water stations around the outside of the room and some may place notepads and pens on each chair for the delegates to use (check with your venue on this).

2. Cabaret

Cabaret is generally used when the attendees are required to listen to a presenter for a portion of the day and then break off into smaller groups for workshop style sessions. The setup involves a number of round (or oval) tables with 6-8 chairs around each. There is a space left at the section of the table closest to the presenter so that everyone has a clear view of the presenter without needing to turn around. For this reason, we generally try to limit the seats per table (for round tables) to 6 as it allows everyone to sit comfortably. It’s important to ask the venue whether they have round or oval tables and how many chairs per table the capacity chart is based on – generally they base this on 8 per table. Cabaret is a good option as it offers all attendees the opportunity to lean on a table to take notes and makes it easy to break off into the workshop style sessions. Venues will generally set the table with a glass, notepad and pen on each place setting and a jug of water to share.

3. Boardroom

Boardroom style is exactly as its name suggests – it is the type of setup you would expect to see in a boardroom. This style involves a long rectangular table running down the centre and the chairs are placed around the outside of the table. Boardroom style is generally used for smaller groups (10-20people) as the idea is that everyone can see each other which helps to facilitate discussion. If the table is too long you will end up with separate conversations or attendees at either end unable to hear each other. This style of seating is also readily used for conference calls as it allows all members to be close enough to the conference phone to be heard. Boardroom style seating may or may not include a presenter & screen however if it does, they are usually placed at one of the short ends of the table to allow for maximum capacity. Venues will generally set each place setting with a glass, notepad and pen and then place some jugs of water to share in the centre of the table.

4. U-Shape

U-Shape seating again is as its name suggests – the tables are set up in the shape of a “U” and the chairs are placed around the outside of the tables with the open part of the U being where the presenter and screen are located. U-Shape allows for a similar interaction to Boardroom style but can (depending on the shape of the room) allow for more attendees. U-Shape allows all attendees to see each other and is easily accessible for a presenter followed by a group discussion. When setting U-Shape venues with generally set a notepad and pen on each setting along with a glass and then jugs of water are placed on every few settings to allow attendees to share. U-Shape requires the room to be quite distinctly shaped and therefore the capacities for U-Shape are generally not very high.

5. Banquet

Banquet style is most commonly used for events involving food being served in a sit-down format. It consists of a number of round tables (some venues have oval) and approx. 10chairs around each. Sit-down dinners, lunches, breakfasts and award ceremony’s where meals are served are often set up in this way. Generally, each setting will be prepared according to the function (cutlery, glassware, centrepieces etc). Banquet is not often used for conference events as the set up means that at least 2 people on each table will have their back to the presenter.

6. Classroom

Classroom Style seating is most seen in university or school style venues – this event seating type is made up of individual tables (which may or may not be joined together into longer tables) and a seat. Often this style of seating is used for exams however some event managers utilise this style as it allows each attendee access to a table to use when writing their notes. If that is what you are looking for, we would advise you to look for a theatre venue or similar that offers theatre style seating with a small table attached to each seat that can be flipped open if required – this will allow a higher seating capacity than the Classroom style.

7. Cocktail

And last but not least (we know, we said 6 right – we love to give out extra info!) is Cocktail style. Technically this doesn’t fit in above as they attendees aren’t really sitting however Cocktail is listed on most venue capacity charts so we didn’t want to leave it out! Basically, it lets you know how many people you can fit in the space for a standing cocktail function. Venues generally factor in their serving tables etc into this number and try to ensure it indicates how many can comfortably fit – nobody wants to play sardines at a cocktail party!


We hope that the above information will enable you to better select the venue for your next event. Of course, it is always better to run your ideas past the venue sales manager when you conduct the site inspection – sometimes elements such as adding a stage & AV equipment may reduce the number of people you can fit into the space. Please don’t hesitate to contact Events Outsourced should you have any queries about event seating types or need any assistance with planning your next event.