"What's A Hollow Square?"

In my 30 years in the hospitality industry, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that question. Truth be told, I’m sure I asked it myself when I was first getting started in my hotel management career.

As in any industry, hotels and conference centers sometimes have a language all their own. This can be pretty frustrating for folks trying to plan a meeting or retreat, especially for those who don’t do it very often. With that in mind, today’s post on meeting room setup will be the first of several dealing with hospitality terminology and operations

  • Hollow square and conference – Tables are set up in a large square, or rectangle. This setup is excellent for interactive discussions and extensive note-taking for groups of 25 or less. Most hotels and conference centers, including Ridgecrest and Glorieta, will have dedicated executive boardrooms for 10-16 people that are ideal for small group meetings.
  • U-shape, T-shape, E-shape – Just as it sounds, tables are set up in a configuration that is similar to the letter. These setups are good for groups of 40 or less where the primary interaction will be with a leader seated at the head of the setup. Seating is typically set on the outside, but seats could also be set on the inside to accommodate more people.
  • Classroom/Schoolroom – Tables are set in rows facing the presenter. This is the most popular setup for medium to large-size lectures. Having participants seated at tables gives them room to spread out and be able to easily take notes. Downside is that it requires a large space. Tables are typically 18″x72″ and will have 3 chairs per table. For large gatherings using a classroom setup, would definitely recommend utilizing staging for the presenter(s) so as to improve sight lines.
  • Theater – Chairs only, set in rows facing presenter. Ideal for large sessions, this setup maximizes the number of people that can fit in the space being used. It’s also a good setup to use before breaking out into discussion groups as the chairs can be easily moved.
  • Rounds – Room is set with round tables (5′ or 6′) and chairs. Generally used for meals and sessions involving small group discussion. Typically, 5′ tables will be set with 8 chairs and 6′ tables with 10 chairs.

This covers the primary room setup terms. Have we missed any? If so, please let us know and we’ll update the post.


  1. Vera Turnbull says:

    A hollow square makes for friendliness, understanding and lets everybody see and hear everbody.
    It is the best in most circumstances where people come together for pleasure or business

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