How To Make Amazing Breakout Sessions
The event planning industry has fully embraced the benefits of virtual events. More companies and organizations see that online events have the same impact as in-person events at a fraction of the cost.
The one thing that many online events lack compared to their traditional in-person counterparts is the ability for attendees to network and build connections during the virtual event.
This begs the question- as an online event coordinator, what can you do to offer event attendees extensive opportunities to interact and network, just like they would at a live event?
The answer? Build better breakout sessions for your attendees to enjoy during the online event. Breakout sessions are a staple at many virtual events because they offer a dedicated time for attendees to mix and mingle with each other and build valuable connections.
Unlike a plenary session, which involves all event participants meeting in a larger group, breakout sessions offer a small group setting perfect for collaboration and brainstorming in real-time.
These sessions focus on a specific topic, often presented by a facilitator, and last about 30-60 minutes each.
Since breakout sessions are vital to the success of your online events, you must know how to make each breakout session valuable to your attendees. Here are five ways to make sure your next breakout session is a hit at your next online event!
1. Get Creative With Icebreakers
Your event attendees have probably seen their fair share of icebreakers, and if we are going, to be honest, we can agree that most ice breakers are awkward and unenjoyable for everyone in the room. This is especially true for attendees in virtual events where they are confined to a computer screen and can't physically interact with each other.
Rather than ask everyone for a fun fact, change it up with some innovative icebreaker ideas that will get the conversation going and make everyone feel at ease. Here are some interactive icebreakers that will energize your breakout session:
Draw Your Mood: Use a virtual whiteboard to have participants draw their moods and share what they are grateful for and why.
Virtual Coffee: Have participants bring their coffee in their favorite mug. Prompt them to share their mug and how they like their coffee. This is a great way to get people talking at early sessions and events.
Fail Of The Month: Ask attendees to share a "fail" they had this month. It could be a silly mistake or something they feel they could improve on.
Camera Roll Call: Choose a random number and have participants share that photo on their camera roll.
Inventive ice breakers use creative strategies that help everyone get to know one another. Once the ice is broken, virtual attendees are more likely to get down to business and engage in conversation with other participants.
2. Use Gamification For Fun And Audience Engagement
Everyone loves a good game and to get a bit competitive. Use your virtual event platform to organize games using tried-and-true classics like trivia, scavenger hunts, or photo contests. You can connect aspects of the game to your session content.
For example, design trivia questions around your session topic and use the time between the questions to present information and strategies.
Social media is another excellent way to engage your audience because your audience is already on social networks, and you can use these networks to connect attendees in real-time.
Create a breakout session hashtag and attach it to a contest, like cutest pet or best knick-knack.
Participants will create social media posts, which you will track with your hashtag, for a chance to win a fun prize. As a bonus, your session will gain more exposure. It's a win-win!
Incorporating games into your breakout session will wake up participants and make your session the most memorable on the agenda.
3. Allow Attendees To Choose Between Different Options
It's a no-brainer that choice significantly boosts engagement, and if you provide your attendees with options, then they will have ownership of their choice and are more likely to engage with the breakout session.
Depending on your available resources and your event's size, give your attendees the power to design their schedule and plug it into an interactive event calendar. Provide a list of breakout session topics ahead of time and allow for pre-registration.
As they tailor their own event experience, they will become more invested and interested in the event. When it comes time for breakout sessions, they will be ready to go.
Giving your attendees a choice allows you to see where the interest lies and redirect resources as needed. This also benefits your speakers because they will have a good idea of their audience size and interest before the event starts.
4. Give Attendees A Break
While breakout sessions are lovely, scheduling too many, particularly towards the end of an event, will cause attendees to become fatigued.
Consider ways to make breakout sessions flow and keep the pace moving forward. You need to make sure breakout sessions are timed just right to prevent burnout. Consider varying the format for some breakout sessions to maintain engagement.
For example, you may choose to eliminate the moderator for one session and ask the group to answer some fun, casual questions in a round table setting.
You can then bring participants back to a large group setting, share thoughts, and create new breakout rooms. They have more opportunities to meet more people and collaborate faster, which will keep audience members on their toes.
Another way to give participants a break is to mix media and engage their senses. Instead of using a standard PowerPoint, use videos, songs, and audio clips to break up the session.
5. Collect Feedback
Even if you feel good about how your breakout sessions went, it's important to collect feedback as you go from participants, exhibitors, and presenters.
Provide feedback surveys right after each breakout session that are brief and easy to fill out. Live polling is a great way to keep your fingers on the pulse of your breakout group and gauge how participants feel about your virtual event.
Once the event is over, send out a post-event survey to gather even more feedback. Not only will it allow attendees to share their thoughts, but the data will help you to make the right choices when planning your next event.
Make Breakout Sessions Even Better At Your Next Virtual Event
Breakout sessions are like seasoning on a steak: they aren't the main ingredient, but they can make or break a meal. Organizing breakout meetings with smaller groups is a great way to offer interactive sessions while engaging your virtual event attendees.
Partner with BeaconLive to bring your next virtual event to the next level. We offer highly scalable solutions that are plug-in-free and an in-house events staff with HelpDesk moderators for every event.
Contact us today to help facilitate your breakout sessions and bring your next virtual event to the next level.