The Unintentional Trainer’s Guide to Training Room Layout

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The training room layout that you chose for your session can have a big impact on the success of your session.  You can set your room up to encourage small group working, delegate interaction or to have the delegates focus on you are the trainer/facilitator.  More often than not, trainers run with the room layout that they have been given by the venue and don’t put that much thought into how the room set up can help them create the learning environment they want.

Training Room Layouts

This diagram gives an overview of the most commonly used room layouts when you are training.  We’re going to go through the pro’s and con’s of each one so you can make informed decisions.

Theatre

  • Great for large groups as you can fill rooms to capacity.
  • Good for short “lecture” style sessions which involve looking at a screen and/or Trainer for the duration.
  • It is very difficult (although not impossible) to encourage interaction between delegates and small group work is virtually impossible to manage.
  • The facilitator/trainer will struggle to see everyone.
  • It can be difficult to manage questions if it is a very large group.  You might need to arrange to have microphones so they can be heard at the back of the room and can repeat questions for the benefit of the rest of the delegates.

Classroom

  • Very much like theatre style, this is a good layout for larger groups who will be required to do some work during the course of the session.
  • It doesn’t allow for a great amount of interaction between delegates, it naturally encourages people to work on their own.

U-Shape

  • This layout is more likely to generate interaction between learners as they can easily make eye contact with each other.
  • It allows the trainer/facilitator to remain the focus of attention, which is good if there are a number of “lecture style” sessions.
  • The trainer/facilitator can get closer to each individual learner and importantly will be able to make eye contact with each of them as they move around.
  • This is a good layout to use if you have giving a demonstration as it can be done in the centre of the ‘U’, affording everyone a good view. It also gives a good view of a screen to all learners.
  • You can’t use this layout with large groups as the U becomes to large and it becomes harder to manage.

Boardroom

  • Most rooms that are used for training are also used for general meetings and are typically set up in the boardroom style.
  • If people are seated at all sides of the table, then the trainer/facilitator will always be talking to someone’s back.
  • There isn’t a natural focal point – if learners needed to watch something on a screen some people wouldn’t be able to do this comfortably.
  • This is the best layout to use for a smaller group who will spend most of the session talking and listening to each other.  For example during some team development sessions, action learning sets etc.

Banquet

  • Encourages interaction between learners.
  • Allows for great levels of small group work.
  • Good for larger groups, although you would be able to fit more people in using a classroom or theatre style layout.
  • Trainer/Facilitator can circulate around all the delegates easily during small group work.
  • There will always be people who have their back to the screen and/or the trainer.

Cabaret

  • Very similar to the banquets layout, but limits the number of people you can have present by limiting the number of learners at each table.
  • Does allow for a natural focal point at the front of the room for the trainer/facilitator or screen.

My own personal preference is to use either a cabaret or u shape set up, but it really does depend on what you are trying to achieve and how your session is structured.  What room layout do you prefer to use?  Let me know in the comments below.

About

Founder of Zostera Ltd and The Trainers CPD Club. I've worked in L&D for over 16 years across both the public and private sectors.

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