Jul 17, 2009 13 Corporate Event Planning Tips for Successful Dinner Seating
This is one of my least favorite corporate event planning tasks. I remember sitting in the dentist chair one afternoon and he asked (with more than a hint of sarcasm), “What’s the worst thing that can happen with your job? You seat someone at the wrong table? Big deal!” Well, if you’ve been there, you know that it is a BIG deal. It’s always a mad dash the minute before the dining room or ballroom doors open. Seating promises to be a challenge for even the best corporate event planning company. In the hopes of saving you from those heart-pounding moments of seating madness, here are a few corporate event planning and seating tips I’ve learned over the years:
1. Wait until the bitter end to write in table numbers on the escort cards. Believe me when I say, it will change…and change…and then change again.
2. Make sure you know if the guest is indeed in attendance (while this seems obvious, it is not always the case)
3. Read up on the protocol, especially when dealing with high-ranking guests. Try etiquette expert Letitia Baldrige’s New Manners for New Times: A Complete Guide to Etiquette. This will help you know where to seat guests at the table and proper protocol for titles, etc.
4. Have a no-show contingency plan, ESPECIALLY for the head table.
5. Stage a staffer next to the head table to assist guests to the proper table and to help ensure that that table is filled.
6. Get executive buy-in in advance.
7. Have a few staff at the door with the seating lists for those who forgot their cards or just plain have lost their way.
8. Don’t be surprised if someone sits at the wrong table, expect that it will happen and have a contingency plan.
9. Have a face book of the VIP guests so your staff may escort them to the host table without having to ask them for table number.
10. Don’t rely solely on a floor plan. When choosing the right tables for your hosts or special guests make sure you walk the room after the tables have been placed. Check for site lines, access, stage access, noise, views, etc. It’s a good idea to place your host’s seat where he or she will have maximum exposure to the entire room.
11. Once the guests have been seated, take a walk around the room to look for empty spots and adjust accordingly. Tighten up the table seating if needed to support the conversation.
12. Once the guests are all seated, have the servers remove the table numbers.
13. If you do this often, consider investing in seating software.
A VERY big deal indeed.