- Birmingham NEC
- Conference Organisation
- Hampshire and the New Forest
- London Heathrow Airport
04th May 2008
While choosing a seating layout for your conference might seem like a boring topic, it’s a very important part of your conference planning.
The most popular seating layout of the day appears to be Cabaret Style seating which means delegates are seated at round tables. True cabaret seating should allow for no more than six delegates per table, ideally five. If more delegates are added then some delegates won't be facing the front and will have to turn their chairs around to face the presenter. While your meeting room might allow for this, it’s a very awkward way of sitting and can be disruptive.
The benefit of cabaret style is that it’s a relatively informal way of seating and allows your delegates to interact more than if they were in rows of seats (theatre style, see below). The downside to using cabaret style seating is that you will require a much larger room and invariably your minimum delegate number required by the venue will be much higher and this will increase your conference costs.
Seating more than six delegates on a round table will assume the air of a Banqueting Layout. When organising a banquet it’s better to seat a maximum of between 8-10 guests per table as any more will result in cramped conditions and make life difficult for the waiters who will be serving your dinner and will increase the risk of one of your guests wearing their dinner.
Classroom Style is seen as a good alternative to a cabaret style set up as it requires less space. It also provides a table giving your delegates somewhere to rest their writing pads or PCs and is particularly good for training courses and sales conferences where lots of note taking is required.
Theatre Style seating is probably the most formal seating layout but it does require a much smaller meeting room and you can seat alot of people in it. Smaller meeting rooms cost less and will almost certainly mean your minimum delegate number required will be much lower. The biggest downside to a theatre style layout is it doesn’t afford much interaction with delegates, other than that with the delegate sat immediately to the left or right, however for a presentation style event or question and answer session, theatre style seating works very well.
A U shape or Horseshoe shape set up is very popular with trainers as it allows great interaction between delegates attending training courses. The perfect number for a U shape is 24-25 as any more will make the group very unwieldy and you will run the risk of losing the intimate set up you can achieve from using this set up.
Finally the last set up open to conference organisers is The Boardroom – this is perfect for small conferences or an interview processes where delegate numbers are around 12-15. As with U shape, if there is an increase in delegates beyond the recommended number then the boardroom table becomes too big and delegates end up having to shout at each other across the table.
To recap, when it comes to choosing your seating layout think about the type of event you are hosting, whether interaction between your delegates is important and consider the increased cost of hiring a larger function room to seat delegates in a cabaret style set up Vs a smaller room set up in theatre style.