Conference Seating Styles
Conference Planning

Conference seating arrangements and room layouts provide access and comfort for delegates, setting the foundation for productive meetings, training sessions and functions. Handled correctly, everyone will feel settled and receptive to the proceedings.

Organisers must select a conference venue proportionate to the number of people attending. Not only is this cost effective for the host, it is a strong indicator of how well the conference has been planned.

Choosing the appropriate conference seating style will support the aim of the event and the goals of the presenter. Organisers must fully inspect the conference venue and think everything through from a delegate and presenter point of view.

Conference Venue Layout and Tips

  • Ensure easy access to seats and that the aisles are wide enough
  • Accommodate people with special hearing, seeing or mobility needs
  • Choose adjustable chairs for day-long training
  • Place the entrance at the back of the room to avoid distraction
  • Check that the speaker can be seen from the back of the room
  • Speaker tables can have a skirt around the front to screen belongings

Large Groups (usually more than 40 delegates)

  • Cinema / Theatre Style
  • Classroom
  • Chevron and Modified Chevron
  • Banqueting for when meals are served after the conference

Cinema / Theatre Seating Style

This style of conference seating has rows of seats with aisles (3 columns) facing a stage or podium.
Best for - Formal presentations, lectures, Q&A sessions
Downside - No tables for note taking; no interaction between delegates

Classroom Seating Style

Best for - Note taking / PCs at presentations, training, sales talks
Downside - limited interaction between delegates


Chevron style has a centre aisle with rows of 4 seats on either side (2 columns) facing a table, stage or podium. The chairs are in a line and angled inwards, with or without tables. Delegates can interact across the aisle and with the speaker.
Best for - Interaction; table space for notes / PC's and drinks,

Modified Chevron

This is the same as Theatre style, but the 2 outer columns are angled inwards to give better visibility for the side sections and there is more interaction.
Best for - Same as Theatre but with more interaction for discussions.

Banqueting Seating Style

This is the bigger version of Cabaret Style conference seating for small groups; seating between 6 - 10 delegates per round table with a rectangular speaker table at the front. It is used when the conference is followed by a meal. Tables should not be any bigger as it will cramp the room and hamper the dinner service.
Best for - Interactive conference before a meal / award ceremony
Downside - Not all chairs face the front; crowded, noisy over mealtime

Small Groups (usually less than 40 delegates)

  • Boardroom
  • Hollow Square
  • U-Shape


Conference seating is around a long rectangular table with not more than 12 - 15 seats; over 15 and the people at the far end feel left out and form a separate unit.
Best for - Small meetings, training sessions, interviews
Downside - For delegates of the same or similar rank

Hollow Square / Rectangle

The tables are arranged together to form the shape with a space in the middle, conference seating is around the outside. Suitable for meetings where rank is not an issue.
Best for - Interaction with a facilitator; note taking
Downside - Visuals are awkward to use

U Shape

Tables are arranged to form the shape with seating around the outside. There can be a screen or a speaker table at the top of the "U". The centre area can be used for media camera people, demonstration and role play. Suitable for a maximum of 25 people.
Best for - Press conferences, collaboration, training, brainstorming, notes / PCs
Downside - No more than 25 delegates

Conference Planning - Importance of Selecting the Right Conference Venue

Selecting the right conference venue in Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban is made easier if you first talk to one of Siyabona's conference consultants about your requirements...more
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