Tom has done many talks in settings where meals are part of the program.
ROOM SET-UP (Many of these tips work whether food is being served or not)
Avoid spacing round tables widely apart in an attempt to fill the available space. Distance makes
audience involvement and participation much more difficult. A better idea would be to space the tables
as close together as practicable (allowing enough room for comfortable waiter and waitress
movement). Empty room space could be filled with a decorative divider of some sort.
Avoid a great distance between the head table/dais/speaker area and the first row of tables. Again,
distance is a great barrier to interaction.
Try to set the head table/speaker area on the long side of the room. This means that the back row
participants will be closer to the speaker than if you set the head table/speaker area on the short side of
the room (participants will feel they are really far from the action).
Consider allowing the speaker an option of speaking areas. Many top speakers can do a better job
if they are not confined behind a head table and/or lectern. Most audiences like being closer to the
speaker too. To accomplish this, place extra chairs near the front of the room to be used by the head
table participants after dinner (of course, this would depend on your overall program). You would not
want them seated behind the speaker during the program. Set head table back from the front of the
podium. Speaker can perform in front of the head table.
Set buffet tables far to the side or on the opposite end from the speaker area. If someone goes back
for late seconds or arrives late, he or she will not be disruptive.
Discourage use of doors anywhere near the head table/speaker area.
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