People expect to walk into your meeting room and see a row of chairs and tables.  The first thing think they’ll see when it’s time for lunch is a bunch of round tables.  How boring is that?  It’s time to switch it up and get creative with seating and food styles at meetings.

1.  Start the day with large bowls of whole fruits like bananas, apples in all colors, and pears; serve this with a hot breakfast sandwich.  Just enough to get the attendees fueled up at an early hour.  Choose theatre style seating at the morning general session.  If you want your guests to listen there’s no need to write or take notes.  Create seating in a semi circle facing the stage.  Place several aisles between sets of chairs to give a small intimate feeling to the large ballroom.  Keep the general session to no more than 45 minutes or you’ll lost our audience as their minds start to drift off of the topic at hand.

2. After the opening session offer your guests a small food break before sending them into their breakout sessions, something more substantial than the continental breakfast while keeping in mind low carbs and fiber-high food items like a fruit and vegetable smoothie bar with peanut and jelly sandwiches but like tea sandwiches; into quarters.  Everyone likes a little surprise nibble and a small bite will give your attendees fuel for the brain power they need to keep chugging forward.

3. Place the breakout sessions in the corners of the general session.  Don’t separate your groups into private meeting rooms.  The energy and buzz that generates a noisy breakout will entice the other breakout groups to work harder and smarter while giving an air of competition to increase everyone’s participation.  No one wants to be outdone by another group.

4. Serve lunch at crescent rounds.  Place no more than 6 guests halfway around a round table to ensure maximum conversation between all guests.  Use place cards and put people together from various departments and job descriptions.  What one can learn from someone in the same organization from another division or another part of the country or world is astounding.

5. After lunch have a scheduled group walk.  If the weather is not cooperating or it’s difficult to walk outside plan in advance a walk through the “back of the house” to see how housekeeping or an engineering department operates.  Give your guests some exercise while the hotel banquet staff has the time to remove the lunch dishes and clean the same room set in crescent rounds for the afternoon session.  You can have your a/v already set up in this room prior to lunch.

6. The afternoon session set in crescent rounds will enable your guests to write and take notes during the various presentations and speakers you hire to address the group.  People really like this style of seating as it gives everyone plenty of room to sit for longer periods of time comfortably.

7. Surprise your guests will an uplifting PM break such as a 10- minute nail polish changing stations, minim manicures, chair massages, shoe shines, make your own salt or sugar scrubs, and a mix and match nuts, seeds & fruits mixture to munch on later or take home on the plane.

8.  The last session of the day should be set up in a meeting room with tall, cocktail tables where 3-5 guests can stand around together for the closing presentation.  Place drinks in this room so your guests can quench their thirsts while being educated and enlightened and ending the day with a powerful presentation sending everyone off with a huge recollection of how the day flowed with lots of twists and turns compared to the old fashioned meeting seating and eating style of days gone by.