5 Easy Steps to Create Awesome Virtual Event Breakouts

May 14, 2020

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The word’s out – virtual events are all of the rage. Your biggest questions have probably been answered: “What platform should I use?”, “How can we keep the feel of a live event?”, “How can I make this work for me?”. Now that those big hitter questions are out of the way, you are probably in the thick of planning the details surrounding every aspect of your conference breakout sessions.

One of the main parts of planning a fulfilling virtual event is making sure to provide lots of engagement opportunities sprinkled in throughout the event’s duration. Not having people in the same room, face-to-face means that paying close attention to the details that mean most to attendees is of your utmost importance.

Event breakout meeting ideas are just one of the ways you can bring your attendees together for meaningful conversations, thought leadership, and professional networking. The beauty of these sessions, groups, or meetings, is that their small, structured groupings lead to more natural conversation on focused topics. In addition, your speakers have a better chance to get to everyone’s questions and mingle with the group.

Virtual fun breakout groups are no different, especially when you are using the right platform. Building these sessions into your agenda and providing attendees with more tailored engagement experiences will help bring your virtual event to life. But, you have to know the tricks of the trade to really get it right. We’re here to help.

1. Choose the right speaker for your virtual event

This is a big one. Like a live event, choosing the right speakers for your virtual breakouts is a sure fire way to make a successful session. However, the difference between a live event and a virtual event will change the way you pick your speakers. At the end of the day, you will want to find speakers that will attract your audience, keep them engaged and entertained, provide fresh ideas and inspire new thought.

Bring the energy

For one, your virtual speaker will not be able to rely on the energy of an in-person audience to fuel their presentation. Yes, they will still be able to see audience reactions, ask questions, and interact, but the in-person adrenaline may be slightly different. If that’s the case, choose speakers who are comfortable on camera and can rely on their natural energy to keep things exciting. Though it may be tempting to go with your tried and true presenters, this may be a great time to expand your horizons and pick someone exciting and new.

Know your audience

Seems simple enough, right? Imagine this: your audience is full of young, excited entrepreneurs ready to learn and grow their professional careers. You wouldn’t pick someone who is stiff and traditional, right? Instead, you would go for the energetic presenter known to educate and inspire that conference breakout session. The same goes if you have a more conservative audience.

Understand the tech

A great breakout meeting idea is to prepare your speakers. Virtual speakers will need to be prepared to use the variety of platform options that virtual products offer. This includes video presentations, screen sharing, chat and Q&A tools, polling, and more. Of course, your speaker doesn’t have to be a tech wiz to understand this stuff. Instead, find someone that is willing to prepare and practice ahead of time so that the presentation feels seamless.

Know your goals

Are you trying to find a speaker to kick-off the event? Or, are you looking for an industry expert? Knowing your specific goals, theme, and audience for your breakout group will help you pick the best presenter for the job. Even though this is a virtual event, your attendees are going to be expecting the best of the best to match their high expectations.

2. Don’t plan your breakouts as a “break” in your day

Events can get long and breaks are always going to be a necessary part of your scheduling. With virtual events, it’s even more tempting to schedule breakout sessions as a natural break for attendees during their day, especially since they are likely already comfortable at their home and are able to run to the bathroom or kitchen whenever they need something. A word of advice: Don’t fall into that trap.

Did you know that the attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds? Meanwhile, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, the average attention span of human beings has decreased to 8 seconds. Shocking, right?

Attendee attention spans are short and only get shorter as your events get longer. Breaking up your day with fun breakout sessions can really help to keep your attendees engaged. But it’s important to know how to time these breakouts to get the best bang for your buck.

Take a look at the traditional TED talk model – get to the point, keep the audience engaged, and keep it short and sweet. Most TED talks are 18-minutes long and prove it only takes that amount of time to truly inspire someone, rather than a lengthy 2-hour keynote.

With that in mind, make use of your breakout sessions for topics that will draw people in and engage them through the day. Leave breaks in throughout your agenda for them to step away from the screen and decompress, it will help with your overall engagement in the long run.

3. Make sure the right attendees come to your breakout

You may think it’s just as simple as choosing the right speaker and the attendees will come, but it’s not that easy. Planning an organized conference breakout session takes work, but it can be done in a few steps:

Nail down your objective

Going into the event with a clear plan of action is the most important part to any breakout. When attendees leave, what will they be taking with them? If your objective is fuzzy, the structure of conversation could become aimless and distracted. Breakout meeting ideas like kicking off the breakout with a good icebreaker to get people engaged is a great way to start strong and invoke interest. With a virtual event, you can do this through a poll or survey, through the chat features available to attendees during the sessions, or through open discussion. Then flow into the session with engaging content that will drive your objective and get people thinking. Finish the session off with a couple of well-planned questions to reiterate the content you presented and expand on some of the gray areas.

Market yourself well

You don’t need to be a marketing genius to do this part well. A catchy title and well written of description to add to the event agenda should grab the right attendee’s attention and promote attendance. Use traditional methods of promotion like email announcements and updates to start buzz around your sessions and excite your event attendees. If you rely only on your agenda, the turnout to the session may be affected and, more importantly, the wrong people could show up, hurting engagement.

Use the right technology

Virtual event platforms like Stova’s can offer AI Network Matching to bring like-minded people together. Event attendees are asked to fill out a brief survey at the beginning of the event that will gather information about their professional interests, likes and dislikes, and preferences that will match them with similar attendees and content throughout their event. This includes your conference breakout sessions. Use this technology to your advantage and gather attendees together that match your content objective.

4. Get creative and mix up your media

The world is your oyster when it comes to what you can use in your presentations during your virtual breakout session. Traditional live events can limit you to using a PowerPoint presentation or whiteboard, but a digital platform can bring more exciting breakout meeting ideas to life.

As tempting as it is to use a simple PowerPoint in your virtual breakout, it can get kind of stale. Think of it, your attendees have likely gotten their fill of presentations throughout their day and now it’s your turn to wow them with something fresh and new. Check out our suggestions for fun breakout group inclusions:


Share clips from your favorite online videos to freshen up the audience and keep them engaged.

Live Polling

Use the event technology that’s right at your fingertips to poll the audience throughout your presentation. Use a moderator to filter questions and keep things organized, that way you can focus on answering questions and interacting with attendees.

Live Video

You don’t need to show a presentation the whole breakout, instead show your smiling face! Take advantage of your surroundings and use live video as your stage.

5. Collect session feedback

Tried and true, post-event surveys are the best way for you to peek beneath the hood and learn what your attendees really thought of your conference breakout session. Were you energetic enough? Was the technology easy to understand and use? Was your content engaging?

Virtual event platforms are even better at gathering attendee feedback than live events. Not only is everything gathered digitally, making sharing and understanding the feedback that much easier, but there are also more opportunities to survey.

During-session feedback

Live polling and surveying can occur in real-time during your breakout session to gather data to promote commentary and idea sharing. Ask attendees questions surrounding content to pick their brains. Use your moderator to filter the questions to you for ease of answering.

Post-session feedback

Post-event surveys should be similar to your pre-event surveys. Short in length, easy to complete, and asking the right – and most important – questions. But, how do you determine what those right questions are? And how do you entice them to complete longer surveys? Find out what questions to ask in your post-session survey.

Closing Thoughts: 

Treating your event attendees to engaging and well-planned breakout sessions will not only be a welcome break in the event’s hustle and bustle, but can also be the perfect opportunity to bring like-minded people together for awesome thought leadership. If you plan well enough, chances are that your breakout attendees will leave remembering your content was uplifting and inspiring, not just the same old same old.

Are you throwing a virtual event, or interested in one in the future? Talk to our team about your fun breakout group suggestions, event options, event planning, and even take a deep dive into our Virtual Event Platform.

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