Tip #239: Impact of Room Arrangements: U Shape

Some trainers prefer the U shape room arrangement, where the top of the U is the front of the room.


  • All participants can see each other easily.
  • All participants can see the trainer at the front of the room.
  • All participants have a writing surface.
  • It is easy for participants to come and go from this seating arrangement.
  • It is easy for the trainer to move into the group to interact or to dipstick during individual or small group activities.


  • It is less conducive to small group interaction: because the participants are seated next to each other, it is difficult to see or hear those seated further away.
  • It can be difficult for participants to see those seated to either side of them.
  • It creates an uncomfortable sense of exposure for participants (at least for me).

I probably should explain this last comment. Many years ago, I was part of a consortium to draft a monograph in response to Dr. W. Edward Deming’s 14th quality improvement point against the idea of performance evaluation. We were seated in a U shape. Although he had not been formally invited, Dr. Deming appeared and sat in the very front of the room. I was seated at the bottom of the U. When I made some statements in favor of employee-friendly performance evaluations, Dr. Deming stood up to his full 6+’ height, extended his long arm to point his finger at me, and came toward me booming in his loud and deep voice: “NO, NO, NO!”To say the least, it was very intimidating! As a result, I have a negative transfer to that incident whenever I see a U shape!

The rest of that story, by the way, is that later we had a conversation where we both AGREED that there was value to employee-friendly performance evaluations that involved ongoing communication between the employee and the supervisor regarding performance standards that were reasonable, objective, measurable, job-related, and within the employee’s control. Unfortunately, I can’t prove that the dialogue with Dr. Deming ever occurred, because there were no witnesses to our conversation!!!

There are trainers who have told me that they prefer this room arrangement. If you happen to be one of them, please write in to explain your rationale. I would hate for my bias to stand uncontested!

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