Chameleons everywhere in Australian meeting venues
Director of Conference Focus, Max Turpin is sharing his insights on a range of topics with a regular column in BEN. Topics include new generation events and making events effective and valuable.
THIS article covers the concept of the cabaret and cabaret style seating, including its origins, what it means and why the meetings industry has adopted this style of seating. What encouraged me to focus on this topic is the realisation that there’s a key aspect of it that’s been lost on many venues and venue staff. The word ‘cabaret’ is derived from an ancient Middle Dutch word, ‘cambret’, meaning tavern. By the early 20th century, the word ‘cabaret’ came to mean a pub, restaurant or night club offering food, drink and entertainment, especially stage performances. So a cabaret (show) is a venue at which you can sit and watch a performance while eating and drinking at the same time. The seating at these venues is both practical and comfortable – it allows guests to eat, drink and watch a performance without the need to move their seats, swivel or crane their necks in order to see the stage and entertainers. In today’s meeting rooms, cabaret style seating is created using banquet rounds with the end facing the stage left open. This allows guests to sit and watch a speech or presentation while writing notes and having a drink in front of them. During breakfast, lunch or dinner presentations, it also means guests can be served food. I tend to think we all have that basic understanding. However, when dealing with venues I often encounter a fundamental part of this concept that seems lost to them. Yet to me, it’s the most important part of all. To start with, an evolutionary reminder: Unlike snakes and lizards that have eyes on the side of their heads, or chameleons with eyes that independently swivel, homo sapiens have eyes positioned on the front of their heads that face forward. My experiences reveal that many venue staff have the belief (or teaching) that cabaret style means having eight people sitting at a banquet round for 10. However, this will undoubtedly result in some people sitting with their backs to the stage and others sideon to it. How is this practical or acceptable? In my world, cabaret style means having a maximum of seven people, preferably only six or even five, seated at a round for 10. This creates adequate open space at the front of the table so that no-one has to move to see what’s going on, swivel their chairs around or make an attempt at being a chameleon. I wish venues would realise this fundamental. From a meeting design perspective, the other purpose of cabaret style is that it facilitates discussion and interaction with others seated at the same table. If you host a meeting with no participation or interaction intended, there’s really not a great deal of point in setting up your room that way.
If you’d like to learn more about how to make your events fresh, innovative and effective, please contact Max Turpin at Conference Focus on 02 9700 7740 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.