It may be necessary and helpful to have seating arrangements in place for high-ranking official events, e.g. customer events or visits, as well as for certain internal events.

During such events, there are always a number of guests to whom special attention must be paid when it comes to the following:

  • greeting them personally
  • how they are addressed / mentioning them in speeches (welcoming them)
  • their particular placement, which is reflected in where they are seated for each individual event

The success or failure of an event may hinge on the seating arrangements that are in place; careful consideration (flexible, using good judgement and tact) and professionalism should therefore be used when drawing up seating plans.

There are many different types of placements (seating arrangements) as well as factors that determine how successful these will be. It is not possible to cover all variants and possibilities and this document only serves as a guide and orientation.

Seating arrangements are particularly important for high-ranking, official internal as well as external events such as the following

  • Seated lunchtime and evening events
  • Receptions (when these include elements during which guests are seated for organisational, scheduling or hierarchical reasons)
  • VIP visits (and any placements that may be required during the event)
  • Customer events (such as deliveries)
  • Communication events (see also ‘Event Directive’)
  • Conferences and lectures (see also ‘Event Directive’)
  • Events for the internal VVIP target group: BoD, CEO, EMT or GEC members

However, seating arrangements only make sense if guests are able to find their way around, i.e. if they know where they are being asked to sit or that seating arrangements have been made.

Table and seating plans should always be displayed in prominent places and made as legible as possible

  • Seating arrangement for each table: it is useful to number or ‘name’ each table at large events so that guests can find where they are to sit.
  • If tables are to be numbered or ‘named’, please ensure that very narrow, tall table stands are placed in the middle of each table holding a table name card (i.e. telescopic variety). Please choose table stands that are narrow enough not to block the view but tall enough that they can be seen from a distance.
  • Seating arrangement for each row: please ensure that rows are always numbered for large events. Where aisles are needed between the rows, please split the seating into appropriate blocks
  • Do not forget to create an overview of all seating
  • Also provide an overview sorted alphabetically by name so that guests can more easily find where they are to sit

Place cards should also always be placed on the tables

  • These should be as small as possible but large enough that the names can be read
  • It is recommended that table name cards be printed on both sides for meetings, lunchtime and evening events as well as receptions (reason: this will allow guests to find their seats when walking around the table, and it will also allow other guests sitting at the table to know who they are sitting with if they do not already know each other)

The following criteria may be of relevance to seating arrangements; however, these must be given careful consideration and must be coordinated with great care

  • Occasion and objective of the event (‘Parameters / Overall context’)
  • Where and in whose ‘territory’ the event will be held (Airbus, state, city, municipality, organisation, etc.)
  • Who the main guest is (customer, politician, someone from the business world, etc.); it may help to group guests in ‘clusters’ (rankings within each ‘cluster’ must be tailored to the respective event)
  • Who the host is (Airbus, co-hosts: i.e. a national politician?, etc.)
  • Conversation skills (for discussions): linguistic, technical, culture specific, common interests, etc.
  • Fair and balanced distribution of the various representatives of the groups/‘clusters’
  • The ‘preferences’ of the guest or the host
  • 'Discord’ between participants (always take known discord into account; ask (the appropriate point of contact) if unknown)
  • When speeches are to be given: sit the speaker at the front, ensure they can make their way to the stage easily and that access is unrestricted
  • Room layout: where the doors and windows are. Where possible, do not seat guests so that their backs are to the doors. Be aware of draughts. Avoid seating anyone where there will be significant footfall
  • Should ladies and gentlemen be mixed? (please note it may not be wise to separate married couples, for example. It is advisable to ask the guest’s contact person in advance)
  • Seat guests/speakers with disabilities where it would be most appropriate for them (be sure to ask the guest’s contact person) and cater to any needs/specific requirements

Hierarchical rankings

Each country has general and specific criteria for ‘official rankings’; these should be used as a basic guideline for that specific country (and reflect state practice to a certain extent) although they can serve as a ranking guide and orientation for industry events, for example.

Events are aimed at the following Airbus target groups / audiences

  • Customers (CEO and general)
  • Suppliers (CEO)
  • VIP visitors (internal VVIP: BoD, CEO, EMT or GEC members)
  • VIP politicians or politicians from regions of relevance for Airbus (both at a national and an international level)
  • Opinion formers of relevance for Airbus (‘CEO external Stakeholders’)
  • Investors
  • Others: such as representatives from the worlds of research and technology, celebrities, etc.
  • And many more

General note

Protocol can only provide advice, which is why seating arrangements must always be agreed with the host or the customer before the event!

Pro Tip and No Go

Pro Tip
Protocol can only provide advice, which is why seating arrangements must always be agreed with the host or the customer before the event! Beware: high-ranking or main guests and guests of honour should always be escorted to their seats! This is one of the particular tasks for which Protocol is responsible. All of those entrusted with this task have printed plans at hand to help guests find their seats.

No Go
Avoid consulting non-professionals about seating arrangements! It is simply too complex a ‘minefield’!