6 Ways to Shake Up the Traditional Breakout Session Format

July 2, 2018

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Looking to take your event beyond presentations and Powerpoints? You’re not alone: interactivity is a rapidly growing trend among meeting planners. When done right, breakout sessions are a great way to mix things up. Here are six breakout session ideas that will get your guests moving, interacting, and making lasting connections.

Spice up the Icebreaker

We’ve all played “two truths and a lie” more times than we can remember. Why not mix it up? There are lots of inventive icebreakers to get everyone familiar with each other.

How about a snowball fight? Don’t worry – there’s no snow involved. Pass out three blank pieces of paper to each participant, and ask them to write down their name and something interesting about themselves. Participants then crumple the sheets into balls. Turn on some lively music for 10 seconds and instruct them to have a “snowball” fight – sure to get everyone laughing and moving around. Afterward, attendees pick up three snowballs and read them aloud.

Gamify your Event

Everyone loves a good game and a little friendly competition – it’s human nature. You can always set up a breakout session with a tried-and-true classic like a scavenger hunt, trivia challenge, or bingo.

If you want to mix it up, take advantage of app gamification to ramp up these classics. You can also set up a photo contest or something else unique for your event as a whole, or you can contain the game within a breakout session. Attendees will love earning points and watching their names climb up the leaderboard.

Engage All Five Senses

There’s plenty of listening at conferences. What about the other senses? People tend to remember experiences that involve different senses and get them out of the normal conference comfort zone. A simple way is to get people up and moving around.

If the weather is welcoming, hold your session outside in the fresh air. If you’re feeling creative, try setting up a simple cooking exercise (or cocktail-making session) tied back to your conference theme. If you really want to get people moving, how about a silent disco?

Get Everyone Involved

Typical breakout session examples have attendees work in small groups, with one person from the group designated the “presenter.” But sometimes, once the presenter is elected, others can become more passive. There are lots of ways to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak.

For some inspiration, look to the theatre. Attendees in small groups can write, rehearse, and perform a short scene tied to your theme or goals. The creative juices will start flowing, and everyone will be an active participant from brainstorm to presentation.

Give your Guests the Freedom of Choice

Depending on the size of your event (and available resources), giving your attendees the power to choose their agenda can significantly boost engagement. Contact attendees ahead of time and provide them with your breakout session topics.

As they pick from the menu and tailor their own experience, they’ll become more invested in the event. And when it comes time for a breakout session, they’ll be interested and ready to go. As an added bonus, it benefits the meeting planner as well, providing a clear sense of audience size and interest ahead of time.

Give the Breakouts a Break

Breakout sessions are great. But schedule too many – especially toward the end of a conference – and attendees will become fatigued. If your session is at the end of the day, consider integrating some refreshments or tasty treats. Or if you already have a few breakout sessions planned and you’re looking for more, consider offering attendees an actual break. A little downtime can be rejuvenating.

In Conclusion

Regardless of the direction you choose, remember to have fun. The more you design an experience you’re excited about, the more fun it’s going to be for your attendees too. These breakout session examples are just a few to get you started.  If you’re looking for additional ways to boost interactivity at your conference, check out Stova’s helpful resources on audience engagementevent gamification, and much more.

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