Organizing a conference is not an easy task. When you make up your mind about venue and room, it would be a good idea to choose the right arrangement. There are many options to choose from and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. Which arrangement is the best for a meeting of 40 people and is it equally good for 100 people? How do particular arrangements differ and why do we choose them? These questions will be answered by Marta Zaciera, Marketing and Sales Specialist at Qubus Hotel Legnica, one of the greatest conference centres in Lower Silesia.
Conference room arrangements
Cinema (theatre) arrangement - enables you to organize a very large conference with the speaker facing the audience as the key player. This arrangement makes the best solution for lectures, shows or presentations. Its drawback lies with inability to take notes and enjoy one's coffee break, as participants are forced to hold their cup of coffee throughout the conference.
Semicircle (U-shaped) arrangement - it is the most popular with trainings that involve practical exercises during which the central area is used for role-playing. It works best with a group of 30-40 people. Then eye contact between all participants can be maintained easily. With larger groups the distance between rows gets bigger which results in a large, free space in the middle of the room.
Boardroom (island) arrangement - if you plan to organize a business meeting to discuss some issues or conduct negotiations, it might be a good idea to consider this type of room arrangement. It is also comfortable and ergonomic with a narrow circle of participants (about 20 persons). In case of such groups each participant can easily communicate with anyone in the group.
Classroom arrangement - if you want to organize a training or examination, it seems to be the most rational solution (one table - one person). This type of arrangement works best with academic groups, during language or accountancy tests and some recruitment procedures. This type of arrangement is perfect for comfortable note-taking and use of learning materials. Yet, it provides limited potential for group integration and discussion. Classroom arrangement can also be modified, for example to provide 2 joined tables for 4 persons.
Banquet arrangement - it provides you with a number of tables arranged for group work. It is perfect for trainings based on exercises and team work. You will get maximum comfort with up to 8 persons sitting by each table. Curiously enough, this solution is often used by cosmetic companies.
Unusual arrangements and requests
Companies usually decide to use one of the standard solutions: semicircle, classroom or cinema arrangement. Yet, it is not so uncommon that the arrangement has to be changed in the course of the conference. For instance the meeting starts with U-shaped arrangement and then it has to be adjusted to meet the requirements of group work. In case of large rooms we can prepare 2 different arrangements in advance. Then Guests can spend part of the meeting in one arrangement, and move on to the other one when needed.
Banquet arrangement is a good solution for business events and parties. Depending on the number of participants, it can either take form of round tables surrounded with chairs or a few, small standing areas. Large conferences are often organized as a combination of cinema and banquet arrangements, as it is trendy to invite participants to some refreshments after the lecture.
Many facilities can prepare some unusual elements requested by the organizer, if needed for the purposes of training. Recently one of our clients asked for a beam (2 m long, 13 cm wide, 20 cm thick) to be used in training with elements of coaching. Sometimes we are asked to prepare some sets of marketing materials, including felt-tip pens, stick-on notes, tags etc.
Number of participants and the choice of arrangement
Conference room arrangement depends on the size of rooms available in the facility. Taking advantage of 17 years of our experience we can say that the most comfortable solutions for a group of 20 persons are U-shaped, classroom and banquet arrangements. Groups of 50 to 100 persons are best seated in classroom or cinema arrangement. In case of 200 participants only cinema arrangement is used.
Coffee break - inside or outside the conference room?
Our Guests usually choose to have their coffee break inside the conference room to provide all participants with easy access to the buffet. If the buffet is to be available throughout the day, it would be advisable to make some arrangements with the speaker about the times when the waiter can access the conference room to replenish the buffet.
It is best to have the buffet outside the lecture hall if the conference is attended by a large number of people (about 100). Large conference centres provide special areas for catering. It is also more expensive as it requires some additional space.
If there is more than one meeting at the conference centre at the same time, coffee breaks are held inside individual conference rooms. Such solution makes us sure that participants of different trainings can find their respective buffets without any difficulties.
A few tips to bear in mind
Proper number of tables and chairs seems to be an obvious element, but it is fundamental to the success of any conference. Proper distance between the speaker and the audience is another key element. Some speakers prefer to keep some distance from participants of training. It is worth the trouble to give them the comfort of a larger distance in comparison to standard solutions. It is also very important to provide proper passageway between chairs. The distance to other participants also matters, as it enables everyone to move their chairs without disturbing other people's position. In case of events like cabaret performances or concerts some fire protection regulations must be met as well.
Aesthetic elements of interior decoration are also important. We always make sure that all tables and chairs are clean. We make sure that all Guests will use the same type of furniture (style and size). Rickety tables are absolutely unacceptable. Experienced conference centres provide some additional materials for the organizer, such as laptop table, elegant valance or table cloth on the main table. Last but not least, it is good to remember about proper quality of Internet access, conference equipment (microphone, slide projector etc.) or a cloakroom for Guests.