We have compiled a list of 10 commonly used conference seating styles, with details and diagrams, to help you get the best results from each seating arrangement.
Firstly, there are no hard and fast rules with seating styles. We suggest you use these styles as guidelines, whilst allowing creativity and individualisation into your layout. Putting together tailored arrangements will begin to create the back drop of a memorable event. For example, you could meet in directors’ chairs on a rooftop boasting panoramic city views, or perhaps couches and beanbags alongside manicured gardens. Seating style has an impact on the atmosphere of your conference. It is easy for a conference to become boring, creativity is your first line of defence against nodding heads and general snoring.
Theatre style or cinema style:
Think “a night at the movies”. This seating arrangement includes rows of chairs (no tables), and allows you to pack a venue to its maximum seating capacity. A few venues have theatre halls with fixed seats, while most are set up with chairs, interspersed with aisles.
Theatre style works well for medium and large meetings, presentations or launches where the audience isn't required to take notes, or interact with one another.
Conference or boardroom style:
A boardroom table surrounded by chairs. Well suited for smaller groups, (15 to 20 tops) and great for interaction and group discussions.
This style lends itself to the small. Small meetings, small presentations, team discussions, strategic sessions, interviews…
For a presentation themed conference, where note taking is a requirement, classroom (or schoolroom) style allows delegates a view of the action, along with some writing space. Arrangements of tables and chairs in rows, facing the front of the venue, with views of the screen and presenter.
An ideal seating arrangement for lengthier conferences and training, where desk space is required for the shuffling papers and the occasional bout of doodling.
Herringbone / Fishbone style:
A twist on the Classroom theme, fishbone style lays desk and chair in the shape of a fishbone (surprise). Tables and chairs are positioned at an angle, and faced towards the centre front of the venue.
The angles involved, allow for longer tables and better views for the audience, however, they also reduce the number of attendees that you can squeeze into a venue.
Audience attention is directed to the front and centre, creating helpful focus for training and lectures.
U shape seating style:
A little less formal and a touch more chatty, U shape seating encourages dialogue between delegates and the presenter. Tables are arranged in a U shape with delegate seating facing inwards, towards presenter.
As this style utilizes a lot of floor space, it will reduce the seating capacity of the venue.
If delegates are simply required to listen (or maybe a little extra luck), the Horse shoe shape may be in order. As a variant of the U shape, the Horse shoe shape removes the tables, leaving only chairs, and is set in an open ended configuration.
Double U shape seating style:
You can see where this is going. As the name suggests, Double U is two U shapes, one larger one behind a smaller one, with an aisle between. Double U allows for a more delegates and slightly better space efficiency.
The Banquet style is the traditional gala evening layout. An arrangement of large round tables, with 8-10 chairs seated around. Ideal for team workshops and group brainstorming sessions, whilst typically used for dinner functions, and awards evenings. The Banquet style is great for encouraging guests to socialize.
The Cabaret style is a similar set up to banquet seating, with a section of the table seats having been removed. Chairs are placed around half or three quarters of the circumference of the table, allowing delegates a view of the action, whilst maintaining a comfortable engagement with one another.
This seating style is ideal to promote interaction within groups, as well as the facilitator, or presenter.
Hollow square style:
As the name suggests, a large square arrangement of tables with seating on the outer side, creating a hollowed out portion in the middle. Better suited for smaller groups, where all participants need to interact with each other.
This seating works well for group discussions, where no presentation or main speaker is present.
Reception or cocktail set up:
Utilising the maximum capacity of a venue, the cocktail setup is usually used for informal networking, celebrations or more social type functions. Guests are left to mingle amongst tall stand alone cocktail tables and seating is kept to a minimum. Exhibition stands and long tables look great around the outskirts of the venue, displaying products, demos, as well as landing place for snack platters and drinks.
Let us know which seating styles you prefer, and why. We would love to hear your opinions and suggestions!