After a speaking event recently, 40 of us were taken out to a restaurant which had set aside 4 long tables for us.
Long tables are terrible for having a good social experience. You can’t talk to the person on your right without ignoring the person at your left.
If you’re at the end, your potential speaking partners are cut in half.
A better option is to have either smaller tables for groups of 5 (large tables are just as bad as long tables) or no tables at all.
At SPRINT we remove tables entirely. People can get their lunch and set up their own picnics around the building. This keeps the dynamic fluid. People leave groups they’re not connecting with and join others.
This is the key to large group situations. You want to balance the need for people to interact within a small group with the ability to let people mix between different groups. They shouldn’t be trapped within a group or limited in who they can speak to.
If you want to design a better social experience, find a way for people to move around between multiple small groups as they please. The tables you see for formal occasions are terrible for informal events.
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