The Frustrated Nights At The Long Table

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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  1. Sarah Hawk says:

    This is an interesting one for me.

    While I hear your point about giving people the opportunity to move away and join another group, the flip side is people that don’t have a group, and feel awkward imposing on others. Being seated beside someone negates the need to walk around and try to find someone to talk with in a room where you know no one. That onus has been removed.

  2. Bas van Leeuwen says:

    @hawk, that’s true, but I feel that you should always be able to connect the lonely-ones; always try to have an army of volunteers (your employees work well for this) pounce on anyone looking lonely and you’ll be fine :smile:
    (bonus points if you forbid them from leaving any conversation without connecting/introducing someone else ^_^)

    This is an often neglected part of event management, but it really helps. I always compare it to a party that you host in your home, it’s your duty to make sure everyone feels at home

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