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I'm organizing a conference and we have the option to set up the seating either around multiple tables ie a wedding arrangement or in the classroom style. There are benefits to either strategy but the way I see it, the tabular format allows people to put their stuff down and relax. On the other hand, the classroom style creates a much better learning environment for people to actually pay attention to a talk and creates a more cozy impression for the speaker.

I'm curious, what do people typically expect out of a conference and what is the ideal scenario for a one day conference? Does it make a difference if it's a bunch of students or a bunch of of professors?

2 Answers 2

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Since it's a one-day conference, I'm assuming it's a little more relaxed than a powerhouse 3-day affair. But even then, I think the classroom format is a little more appropriate. Here's what happens with the table format:

  • either people will have to move chairs around to see the speaker, in which case you've effectively created a classroom format with much less desk space.
  • or people start talking to each other and ignoring the speaker. I've seen this happen in particular at business meetings, where arguably it's less important to listen closely, but the level of noise created is still annoying.

Either way, it's not serving its purpose. By all means use the table format for the coffee area or break spots. But I don't think it makes sense for the conference itself.

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  • I agree that using caberet format (ie tables) costs space, especially since only half of each table is occupied. However, I disagree that encouraging people to talk is a bad thing. Obviously talking during presentations is rude and unhelpful, but when I've been to conferences that have adopted this format it has greatly improved the networking opportunities, as it is natural to chat to people at your table before and after presentations and during breaks.
    – Flyto
    Dec 14, 2013 at 10:13
  • but how do you stop people from talking during the presentation ? I think the hybrid model (with tables for the presentation area and small-table seating for the breakout areas) works best.
    – Suresh
    Dec 14, 2013 at 18:58
  • We have the option to do the hybrid. Tables for lunch and interaction with the stadium seating for the talks.
    – bobthejoe
    Dec 17, 2013 at 2:01
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Different seating arrangements are best suited for different types of conferences. Auditorium style seating is best for listing to talks. For conferences that are built around breakout sessions then tables large enough for the size of the group are best. For conferences that are built around posters, small tables are the way to go. Ideally you decide how you want your conference to work and then find a venue that supports it, practically you find a venue that you can reserve and tailor the conference to fit the venue.

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  • Depending on the size of the venue and the number of rooms being used, it need not be a one-way-or-the-other affair. Plenary sessions can be in an auditorium format; breakout sessions can have round tables. It might be good to think about what will go on in each room (best you can), and then arrange the furniture accordingly.
    – J.R.
    Dec 13, 2013 at 22:45

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