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  • Writer's pictureEvents Team

How Can Breakout Sessions Enhance Your Conference Or Event?

Breakout sessions are now regularly scheduled into conferences and events, and they can greatly enhance the attendee experience. They can help participants to get the most out of their day, and feel more personally engaged in the proceedings. Here’s a look at the benefits of breakout sessions, and how to incorporate them into your event.

What are breakout sessions?

Breakout sessions are smaller meetings or workshops that take place simultaneously but separately from the main proceedings and are usually of a shorter duration of around 30-60 minutes. The purpose of the sessions can vary, but it may be to allow deeper discussions of one particular branch of the conference topic to take place. 

They may also provide the opportunity for a brainstorming session, or for more low-key networking or discussions to take place. These smaller sessions can have a fluid number of participants, but they are generally more successful with fewer participants, because this tends to increase the engagement levels. 

How to plan breakout sessions

Define the purpose of the session

It’s fine if the session is more loosely structured than the main proceedings, but it will still need to have some overall purpose and structure to make it worthwhile. It could be to generate new ideas, dive deeper into an area of knowledge, to exchange ideas and opinions about a topic, promote discussion and debate, or introduce participants to each other.

Make sure there is suitable space

When booking your conference venue, enquire if they have smaller rooms available that are easily accessible from the main event hall. You may also want to enquire what technology they have available to support the session, such as digital screens for remote participants and so on. 

Keep numbers manageable

The sessions tend to work best with up to ten participants. This ensures some diversity of knowledge, background, and perspectives, but also allows everyone to have an equal opportunity to contribute.

Appoint a group facilitator

Assign a specific facilitator for each session who is knowledgeable about the topic, and skilled at encouraging balanced participation and maintaining energy levels. They should also have good time management skills to keep the session on schedule. 

Include some off-topic sessions

Participants may need some time away from the main conference to decompress and mentally process what they have learned so far. The breakout session can help with this by providing low-key or off-topic activities, such as wellness or meditation tips, games or puzzles, or other activities.

Make use of feedback from previous sessions

If you have organised similar events in the past, refresh your knowledge of the post-conference feedback surveys. This can help you design formats, topics, and activities that will genuinely engage and interest the participants.

A well-planned breakout session can help attendees gain more relevant and in-depth knowledge about the areas that interest them, and provide the opportunity to take a breather and replenish mental energy levels.  



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