Standup Reception Style vs Traditional Sit Down Dinner - Calgary Event Planner

Standup Reception Style vs Traditional Sit Down Dinner


Which is best for you and why you might want to try something new?!

When I started planning events in Calgary 14 years ago, there were few options for décor in the city and events had a very standard format and feel. At the time – it was normal to have a ballroom or convention space with round tables that held eight to 12 people around them. There were  plenty of options in terms of table coverings, chairs, chair covers and even centre pieces.

This similar format usually included a three to five course dinner with some entertainment; however, you would only be able to socialize with those seated at your table during dinner. After dinner, many individuals would move tables or mingle near the bar or dance floor to see and socialize with other friends and colleagues. Don’t get me wrong, this format worked then and still does when appropriate today – but these days there are so many more options available to us.

Traditional sit down reception style

When it works best

  • This format is tried and true and there are many instances where it works well.  If you’re hosting a wedding, an awards ceremony or a charity gala where you prefer to have your attendees’ attention focused more on the program than each other – this is the way to go. Also if you have guests who prefer being seated and wanting the meal to be delivered to them – then this is also makes sense.

The down side

  • This format can be awkward as eventually people do want to mingle and those large tables can be cumbersome and difficult to move around.

  • We’ve all been seated at a table that was located on the dance floor and informed we’d have to move once the night started to get going.

  • The other issue is space – those big round tables take up a lot of space. If you’re limited on space but have high numbers, it can be hard to accommodate all of your guests without having people seated in the farthest corners of the room.

  • This formal seating  requires either a seating chart or leaving it up to your guests to determine where they’ll sit. Often when we don’t place people and they place themselves, tables are difficult to fill or are too full – as people want to sit with their friends, spouses and colleagues. Generally speaking, if you don’t plan it yourself, the seating rarely works out as you would have intended.

Stand-up reception style

This format has been gaining popularity over the last 10 years or so, yet many people are afraid to try it because it’s outside their comfort zone.

I have had a few clients entrenched in the old way of doing things and once they took the leap and tried this format, they never want to go back to the traditional sit down experience.

Where it works best

I have found this format works really well for Calgary events that fall within the social corporate categories – such as holiday events, Stampede events, charitable events and of course the standard – celebrating “anything” events. Essentially it can work for almost any event.

How it works

Instead of having a room full of large round tables, we work with multi level seating options that include both traditional newer options. There are many options table / seating options for this format like cocktail tables, which can accommodate up to five or six people. Longer stand-up communal tables  which hold over 12. Bistro style tables which hold 4-6 people. This combined with soft seating – ranging from sofas and love-seats to ottomans and chairs can also work. The sky is the limit. And working your you Calgary event planner and Calgary event designer will ensure that you get the best design for your event.

Why it works

  • Most of these social corporate events are built with the objective in mind of creating opportunities for celebration and networking.  The stand-up style is the most effective for networking and socializing as it lends itself to the best and friendly format that I have ever seen.

  • People are free to move around the room and in fact are encouraged to do so in order to find the food!

  • Your guests can come and go as they please, which provides flexibility and allows them to fit your event into their busy schedule.

  • You can accommodate more people in a smaller space, as you don’t require the same footprint required for the large round tables.

Things to consider in terms of the menu

This format will often require food stations for your  guests to visit. This means smaller portions yet more of them, combined with  passed options. It’s the perfect combination. However, it’s surprising that doing so can make the food costs more expensive than your traditional three-course dinner.

If you’re going with this option, you should extend the time you offer your food service. When people mingle they tend to forget to eat. If you have a tight window to provid food, your catering plan should include a later offering for those who didn’t take the time to eat or perhaps arrived late.

Depending on what type of equipment your venue has in-house for tables and chairs, you may need to supplement the décor slightly or perhaps even entirely. This will of course also impact your budget.

If you haven’t considered doing this format or have been sitting on the fence, Contact Jennifer James Events at 403-294-1644 or email and we would be happy to walk you through what will work best for your next Calgary Corporate Event!

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