We’ve always wondered why the seating arrangements at conferences aren’t more varied – why do we tend to revert to the same old three options?
Admittedly the logistics are trickier with larger audiences, but as anyone who has been to or seen a wedding banquet in Asia or the Middle East, there's still a way to create a sense of intimacy and community among 1000 guests.
If your total group size is under 100, we recommend (round or square) tables for no more than six participants. Why six? Think about the last business meeting or dinner party you attended. Six is still small enough for all the guests to jointly converse. Beyond this number, we naturally end up splitting into sub-groups and you instantly lose the opportunity for more connections to be forged during your conference.
(Yes, we know most venues are designed for 10-to-a-table, but there are often solutions to that just need to be discussed!)
It’s within these smaller groups that the real magic happens. Because everyone has an equal opportunity of being heard and hearing others’ contributions. And that benefits the group as a whole.
That’s not to say as an orgainser you can sit back and just let it happen. Weaving into the programme the need for participants to consult table-mates gives rise to the desired outcomes. Or take things to the next level by pre-arranging the seating so that people are already matched by interest area/challenges faced. It’s possible, with a little bit of extra effort!
And what about the events with larger audiences, where theatre-style feels like the only way? At the very least it would pay to ensure there are moments for engagement woven into the programme AND encourage the movement of people to a different seat during each break. It's not actually a theatre with assigned seating after all! So encourage participants to make the most of their participation by mixing up whom they sit with.
Let's inspire your community - Team UC