“We should talk in the morning,” one Auction Chair told me, “I’ll be tied up with the seating meeting all afternoon.”
Ah, the seating meeting.
It’s one of the most dreaded of auction committee meetings.
What is the seating meeting?
It’s when the Gala Co-chairs (or a small sub-section of the gala committee) convene to determine the auction seating chart.
Why is a seating meeting important?
Where a guest sits determines their impression of the event.
Guests stay longer and have a better time when seated with those they like.
Your auction seating chart will depend on your event style.
1. Are you primarily selling individual tickets?
Your committee needs to decide which table and oftentimes next to whom each guest will sit.
2. Are you primarily selling to sponsors?
Your seating meeting will focus on which sponsor should be seated at which table.
Some nonprofits are diligent in getting the sponsor to provide names of those seated at the table, though it’s up to the sponsor / host to decide where each person sits at the table.
Does every fundraising auction require a seating meeting?
Cocktail / reception-style events rarely have tables.
And some other auctions offer open seating. Guests sit where they’d like, finding seating on a first come, first served basis.
My preference is for table assignments. I am impartial on assigned seats, but I prefer assigned tables.
- Auction engagement: You can control where your most active bidders sit. (You want them near the auctioneer.)
- Social circles: You can ensure people like their table mates. To help this process, some nonprofits include this on the RSVP card: “We’d prefer to be seated near or next to ____________.” This allows guests to sit with people they know. Even if a guest doesn’t know everyone at the table, they have a connection with someone.
- Meal preference: If it’s a seated, served meal with various meal options, a seating chart helps the caterer direct servers to place the right meals with the right guests. If vegetarian meals need to be served first, knowing where to deliver those meals ensures guests receive them promptly.
When it comes to determining table assignments, there are different methods to assigning seats.
Here are three approaches I often see:
1. White board
Gala tables are drawn on a white board and names are written (and erased, and re-written) for all to see.
2. Sticky notes
Table names are written on sticky notes, placed on a wall or tabletop, and shifted as needed.
Professional event planners often use software to manage this task. Social Tables offers a free tool to manage a seating chart.
Do you have any tips for a smooth seating meeting? If so, post them below.