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Top 7 seating styles for conferences

January 2024


If you’re organising an event, you’ll be asked what seating style you’d like for your meeting rooms. Picking the right arrangement has a significant effect on your audience and changes the dynamic of your event. We’ve compiled the top 7 seating styles for conferences with diagrams.

1. Theatre

This is the most common layout for conferences. It consists of chairs set out in rows, all facing the same direction. These rows are usually straight but can be curved so that all audience members are facing the speaker. The Theatre style set up does not include tables or other furniture.

This is perfect for large groups such as Ground Level whose conferences involve teaching, worship and seminars.

A diagram of theatre style showing straight rows of light blue chairs facing the front which has 2 chairs at a table.

2. Classroom

A Classroom layout is chairs set around one side of a trestle table, usually in rows facing the front. These rows can be arced or in a U-shape but will always be positioned so the speaker is seen. This is ideal for educational settings where notes need to be taken.

A diagram of a classroom set up with green chairs behind tables in rows facing towards the front where there are 2 chairs behind a table facing back towards the set up.

3. Cabaret

The Cabaret arrangement is a popular seating style for conferences and it consists of large round tables with chairs around the outside facing the front. One side of the table is left empty so that chairs don’t have their backs to the front. This seating style is commonly used for entertainment such as quizzes, awards etc.

A diagram of 6 round tables with chairs around them leaving a gap that is facing the front.

4. U-Shape

As the name states, this layout is chairs set in a U-shape with the gap in the U facing the front. This allows for everyone to see each other and the speaker.

During conferences, you may have a U-shape layout with tables or even a double U-shape which is simply adding an extra row. This seating style adds a level of intimacy and is quite often used for more interactive sessions.

A diagram of chairs set out in a U-shape with the gap facing the front.

5. Boardroom

This seating arrangement involves a large, long table and chairs around the outside. It is ideal for team meetings and there is usually a screen at one end of the table making it perfect for presentations and Zoom meetings.

A good example of a boardroom arrangement is The Boardroom at The Hayes Conference Centre.

A diagram showing chairs around a table with a screen on the top end, displaying boardroom style.

6. Banquet

The Banquet layout is comprised of large round tables with chairs around them. Unlike the Cabaret style, a Banquet seating style has chairs around the entire table. This arrangement is perfect for conferences with entertainment.

A diagram showcasing banquet style with chairs surrounding 6 round tables.

7. Circle

A Circle layout is, as the name suggests, chairs laid out in a circle. This seating style is ideal for smaller, more interactive sessions. This layout does not include tables or other furniture.

A diagram showing circle style with charis laid out in a circle leaving a one chair gap to allow people to walk in and out of the circle.

Now that you’re familiar with the 7 main seating styles for conferences, it’s time to start planning for your events. We have written a guide to help you with this.

4 steps to preparing for a conference

Our large conference centres host a full range of events for Christian groups, from exclusive-use residential conferences for 400 delegates, to team meetings, church weekends away, youth group breaks, exhibitions and training events.

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The Hayes

The Hayes

Swanwick, Alfreton
Derbyshire, DE55 1AU

High Leigh

High Leigh

Lord Street, Hoddesdon
Hertfordshire, EN11 8SG

Highgate House

Highgate House

Grooms Lane, Creaton
Northamptonshire, NN6 8NN

Residential conference

Residential conference

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Day event

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