Thank you for asking this great question!

I’ve experimented with this approach in Forum classes and the impact is notable. While the table provides a convenient, comfortable place for people to write in their books, it also serves as a physical barrier between people. So, when we’re doing a high-depth exercise, facilitators often like to move the group away from the conference table and sit in a circle. People are closer together without the barrier, and the level of depth, openness, and vulnerability tends to rise as a result.

A similar concept is the usage of laptops in meetings. The laptop screen becomes a barrier of sorts between the person typing and the rest of the people at the table. Cell phones create a similar barrier. And both are distracting, keeping people from being fully present in the conversation.

By moving to a circle without a table (and without electronic devices), people are veritably forced to be 100% present in the conversation. IMHO, the ideal conference room is large enough to have both options – a conference table for more tactical conversations, and an area without a table where people to sit in a circle for more high-depth conversations. Having two areas provides the flexibility to choose the area most appropriate to the conversation. Also, moving back and forth between the two areas increases energy and offers new perspectives.