Types of Conferences – Glossary (Quick Reference Guide)

Conferences can include a variety of events such as roundtables, workshops, lectures, etc. Depending on what you want to achieve with your conference, you might find it useful to familiarize yourself with the different types of conferences:


The largest type of conference, which is usually a gathering of delegates from various groups


The most general term to indicate a meeting for discussion – most commonly adopted by associations and organizations for their regular meetings. It is usually associated with the most traditional type of presentation, that is, papers followed by questions.


Nowadays, this describes a meeting to discuss a particular subject, but its original meaning defines it as a drinking party devoted to conversation and following a banquet. A symposium thus has a slightly more informal character than a conference.


The first meaning of this term refers to a group of students studying under a professor with each doing research and all exchanging results through reports and discussions. Its second definition: ‘debating special issues’ preserves the conversational character of the term ‘seminar’.


This term indicates both a traditional conference and a conversational seminar. Colloquia tend to privilege the aspect of debate.


Taken from the language of manufacturing, the term workshop indicates a brief intensive educational program for a small group of people that focuses on techniques and skills in a particular field. In academia, it is adopted to describe meetings reserved for small groups of specialists who come together for concerted activities or discussion.


The roundness of the table clearly symbolizes the equality of all participants. Each of them will have the same right to take the floor. Roundtables commonly bring together academics who usually are invited as key-note speakers. Discussion nevertheless plays the leading role in this kind of meeting.


A lecture is a formal presentation conducted by your lecturer. The lecture method is convenient and usually makes the most sense, especially with larger classroom sizes. Lectures will normally be held in a lecture theatre and last between 1 to 3 hours. Lectures may include the use of handouts, overhead slides and audio-visual presentations. Lecturing lets professors address the most people at once, in the most general manner, while still conveying the information that he or she feels is most important, according to the lesson plan. There will usually be less opportunity for you to interact and ask questions during a lecture, than during a seminar or tutorial.


A tutorial is a class conducted by your tutor. Your tutorials will normally last between 1-2 hours and will typically be in a smaller group than your lecture, with classes of between 15 to 30 students. Your tutorials will enable you to complete assigned activities, develop specific skills and discuss any problems you may have with the study topics. It is less formal than a lecture. A tutorial can take many forms, ranging from a set of instructions to complete a task to an interactive problem solving session.

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