Choosing the Right Set Up for Your Event

By Kristina Thorne, Event Director at AQUA by El Gaucho and El Gaucho Seattle

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 are a big factor to consider. A well-organized and thoughtfully arranged room can enhance the attendees’ experience, boost engagement, and contribute to the event’s success. The type of event you will be hosting will determine what layout will work best for your event needs. Remember, attention to detail, effective communication, and adaptability are essential throughout the planning and setup process.

Creativity stands as a cornerstone when considering our venues for your event. Our event planning experts thrive on challenges, always seeking innovative ways to transform spaces. A space configured for a formal dinner one day could effortlessly morph into a fully-fledged awards ceremony the next, complete with staging, sound systems, VIP entrances, and entertainment.
Our venues cater to both unconventional thinkers and those seeking a formal setting. Below, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of recommendations to guide your setup selection for your upcoming event with us.

Cocktail or Reception Event

  1. Make sure you select a room with enough space for your specific type of reception. Opt for a setup that encourages mingling and socializing. 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 and guests.
  2. Know your guests. Will you need any seating or small breakaway 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% of the total attendees. If you are offering a heavy appetizer reception during dinner hours, then provide seating for up to 60% of your guests. This can be accomplished by using a mix of high cocktail-style tables as well as some 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. Arrange cocktail tables and seating in various areas to facilitate conversations and movement.
  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. Plan the room setup to facilitate smooth transitions between different segments of the event, ensuring a cohesive and organized flow.
  5. Work with the event director at the venue to ensure a well-stocked and efficiently staffed bar area. We recommend one bartender per 100 guests. Consider having a specialty cocktail that represents the event theme or organization.
  6. Use decorations and displays that align with the event’s theme and add to the overall aesthetics. Be mindful of not overcrowding the space, allowing guests to move freely. Our event team works with local florists and vendors to personalize your event.

Dinner Presentation
To ensure an enjoyable presentation dinner for all attendees, consider the following points:

  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 18 or less. This helps promote discussion among attendees and ensures guests have a good view of the screen/speaker.
  2. Ensure the event team has available technical support during the event to handle any audiovisual or equipment issues that may arise.
  3. Make sure there is plenty of space on the table for each guest’s dinner place setting and any extra properties of guests (If required).
  4. Do you need additional tables for display or a place for guests to sign in for your event? Do you need place cards and menus for arranged guest seating?
  5. Where will the speaker stand, and do they need to walk around the room? Will the speaker eat before or after the presentation and where will they sit?
  6. Is the room dark enough to show your presentation, or can it be darkened during specific parts of the evening?
  7. 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? (Test the audio and sound system to ensure it works flawlessly for the presentation and that all guests can hear clearly).
  8. Does the room have the necessary AV (Audio-Visual) capabilities, and is outside sourcing for AV available to purchase?
  9. Consider creating a designed space or table for networking before or after the presentation to encourage interaction among guests.
  10. Will there be any support staff onsite and do they need a table set up outside of the room?

Formal Sit-Down Dinner
A formal sit-down dinner for occasions such as a business dinner, holiday or family celebration dinner involves meticulous planning and attention to detail and can be arranged several different ways.

  1. Round tables are always a popular choice for these types of events since they promote intimate conversations and allow for efficient space utilization. With no distinct head or foot, everyone seated can easily see and engage with each other, fostering a more inclusive and collaborative atmosphere. 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. U-shaped tables create more of an engaging atmosphere than traditional straight rows. This allows guests to move more freely without disrupting the entire row.
  3. Boardroom table is another arrangement that allows everyone to feel a part of the group. This setup typically conveys a professional and formal atmosphere, which can be ideal for business-related events, conferences or meetings. This arrangement works best for smaller to medium-sized groups of 6-25 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.
  5. Plan a sophisticated table setting to facilitate networking and create a pleasant atmosphere. Add tasteful decorations and displays to match the theme or purpose of the dinner.

A meticulously planned room setup is pivotal for hosting successful events. The atmosphere you create shapes the guest experience, whether casual or formal. If time is scarce, our event directors are poised to guide you through the planning process. Additionally, we can provide customized digital floor plans for your review if visualizing the setup proves challenging.

El Gaucho Hospitality Event Directors

Aerlume – Caitlynd Davison,
AQUA by El Gaucho – Kristina Thorne,
El Gaucho Bellevue – Whitney Twede,
El Gaucho Portland – Greg Dills,
El Gaucho Seattle – Kristina Thorne,
El Gaucho Tacoma – Merica Oscan,
El Gaucho Vancouver – Kate Carr,
Witness Tree – Kate Carr,