Organizing a conference

a PORT for Modern Languages tutorial

1 Introduction

1.1 Different types of conference

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 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.

Annual Conference of the Society for French Studies

Biennial Conference of the Society for Italian Studies


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.

Spanish and Portuguese Studies Postgraduate Symposium


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'.

IGRS: From Textual to Visual

Departmental Research Seminar (Italian, UCL)


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

Colloquium for Police History (SSEES)


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.

Mutual Perceptions in Travel Literature (SOAS)


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.

Berkeley Germanic Linguistics Roundtable

Urban Environmental History