Your conference General Session might be the room with the big speakers, big announcements and big budgets, but you’re missing a trick if you underestimate the importance of your breakout agenda! These smaller, supplementary sessions are your chance to target delegates by interest, by department or by skillset, and by doing so, tailor the content and activities even more effectively. Breakouts can be anything from product training, to idea gathering, to simply networking and building your contact list, and you’re competing for every attendees attendance and attention, so another room full of chairs pointing at a presentation isn’t going to cut it – here’s a few of our tried and tested ideas to spice up your breakout sessions!
1. The Campfire
With storytelling still one of the biggest trends in marketing and events, campfire sessions are intimate, informal spaces with a focus on conversation and collaboration. Run by a knowledgeable and confident facilitator, these sessions encourage group discussion and peer-to-peer learning, resulting in new ideas and new relationships. Keep these sessions low-tech – phones off at the door if you can enforce it – and create an atmosphere to make your attendees feel comfortable, relaxed and open-minded. Why not try beanbags or benches instead of hotel chairs, and play up to the theme by dressing your space with plants and greenery, and offering mugs of hot chocolate and marshmallows on sticks – a fondue station is a safe alternative to an actual campfire!
2. Lightning Talks
Lightning Talks are simply quickfire presentations, no more than five minutes a pop, to keep your audience on their toes across the course of a breakout. This format challenges your speakers to leave any unnecessary information at the door, and challenges your audience to focus intently, albeit for a shorter period of time – it’s great to boost these with a quickfire Q&A, where the speaker has only 30 seconds to answer an audience question, keeping everyone sharp! Encourage minimal or no presentation materials, or limit slides to imagery only, and try to programme a variety of topics to keep your audience engaged across your whole breakout session.
3. Well-Being and Mindfulness
In a packed-out event agenda, it’s important to offer your attendees a break from the serious stuff. Whilst some people may choose to retreat to their rooms or the pub, encourage delegates to keep up the momentum and remain amongst the action by offering them chillout sessions, with food, drinks, music and relaxation. We’ve hosted everything from massage tables to meditation sessions, build-your-own zen gardens and even fruit-picking! These sessions are valuable not just to allow people to reset, but to maximise their engagement by not losing them to the hotel bar when they can’t handle another presentation!
4. Collaborative Whiteboarding
Old school whiteboarding is pretty self-explanatory – a facilitator runs the room with a handful of coloured pens and a wall to draw on, and takes ideas from the room to create a new product, roadmap or ideas board that can be recorded for posterity, encouraging idea generation and teamwork. These days however, interactive screens have taken whiteboarding to a new level, with unlimited graphics, imagery and inspiration to be dropped onto your canvas with the drag of a finger. Have pre-made maps ready to follow and add to, or ask each new audience to add to the canvas from the last session, building over the course of the event. Most importantly, don’t forget to record and share all the content generated at the end of your event – this is invaluable information with none of the effort or apathy of a feedback form!
5. Escape Room
Whilst the last few ideas have been focused on productivity and increasing the success of your event outcomes, why not have one session repeating through your event that is pure fun. An escape room is a great chance to throw together a new team of people and force them to build relationships, work together, share ideas and use their brains to win a prize. And to really get people thinking, why not work with an agency like us to come up with a totally custom room, focused on the skills and knowledge of your audience – get marketers and creatives answering riddles or building 3d puzzles to find room keys, or have a group of coders and developers grapple with convincing a robot AI to let them out – the ideas are endless and are sure to get your delegates talking for months to come!
6. The “Secret” Breakout
Finally, one for the movers and shakers, the “influencers”, and those who are simply in-the-know. Spread the word that there’s an invite-only breakout session and have people sign up through a “secret link” (that of course is shared to exactly who you want it to be). Perhaps leave teaser flyers out in the bathrooms, or stickers in their pass holders, or offer it up when attendees are flagged to have attended a certain number of breakouts, but don’t advertise this event on your agenda – let word spread naturally! Once people have signed up, let them know you’ll reveal the event location an hour before it starts, and keep it first-come first-served – this breakout is exclusive! And after all that build-up? You’ve got to give them something good! This is your chance to offer product samples, early-access demos, a meet and greet with the keynote speaker or simply a great party – and give all that missed out a reason to try harder next year!
How are you mixing up your event agendas? Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s collaborate!