The Anatomy of a CLE Event with Breakout Sessions

Posted by Sophia Duplin

Want to Increase Engagement of Your Continuing Legal Education Virtual Events and Webinars? 

Many Virtual Event organizers have found through experience that finding ways to humanize your virtual event positively impacts attendee engagement, interaction, and overall event satisfaction. 


One way to humanize your virtual event experience is through Breakout Sessions. Breakout sessions, or breakout rooms, allow attendees to engage in smaller group conversations, participate in more specific learning modules, and have more control over their own virtual learning experience. 


There are two different approaches to breakout sessions. We will explain the what, the how and the why for each below.



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1. Breakout Sessions for Specific Learning Tracks

These breakout sessions can be configured as separate, more specific learning tracks. 

These breakout sessions will have designated topics and speakers, and emulate the feeling of a trade show or conference, where there is both a main room and event, but also different rooms and sessions for people to attend at their own liberty. 


This form of a breakout session is great if you want to give your audience members more control over their learning experience and allow them to choose the specific tracks that interest them. 


You can have your attendees pre-register for different tracks, or enable them to easily move from room to room. 


Example: Your CLE event is organized around Real Estate Law. You have a keynote speaker that presents to the entire audience about Residential Closings. You then offer 4 different Breakout Sessions, each of which take the general topic to more specificity: Pre-Closing Due Diligence, Advising on the Mortgage Process, Day-Of Closing Necessities and Trends in Technology. 


Your event attendees should be able to read these breakout sessions’ descriptions and register specifically for individual ones on the main registration page for the event. As the event organizer, you can assess what people are most interested in, and delegate proper amounts of resources as you see fit. 


You may even end up cancelling a breakout session if you are seeing there is little interest in sign-ups. Having individual sign-ups is a great way to see where people’s minds are at before the event starts, and can give you great insight during your planning and preparation process. 


Although individual sign-ups may be beneficial, you can also always wait until the event starts to explain the different tracks that are available for people to attend. You can have links to the different sessions populate your attendees’ screens when it is time, and have them choose on the spot. This also will allow them to bounce in between different sessions at their leisure. 


The day of the event, your attendees will begin by all entering the main event. From there, you can either populate the links to the specific breakout sessions for people to click on or you can automatically redirect your attendees into the breakout rooms they’ve chosen. 


Allow your breakout sessions to go for their designated amount of time. Once time is up, redirect everyone back to the main event for either closing remarks, or the ability to join other learning tracks for the remainder of your event. 


An asynchronous learning style is becoming a lot more popular in the virtual event world, as organizers are seeing higher levels of attendance and engagement when audience members are able to have more control over their individual experience. Your lawyers are less likely to be passive during these presentations, because they are topics that specifically caught their interest. 


Does your CLE platform offer Breakout Sessions? Read: 7 Signs You Need to Change Your CLE Delivery Platform


2. Breakout Rooms for Roundtable Discussions

This type of breakout room is used to promote more collaboration, real-time feedback and attendee participation. It can be used as a networking experience to have your attendees meet and learn from others.


After a keynote presentation, you can organize audience members into breakout sessions to allow for small group discussions. The legal professionals attending your webinar can re-cap what they just listened to, exchange thoughts and information and network with each other. 


Example: You have 100 legal professionals attending your CLE webinar. Separate them randomly into 5 different breakout rooms, each with 20 participants. Make sure to prepare a group discussion leader who will manage the group and pose questions like: What was the most valuable piece of information you learned during that presentation? Do you have a real-world example that relates to the information presented? What do you still have questions about?


Research shows that repeating information verbally, connecting ideas and recalling information improves learning retention. Not only is a breakout room good for getting your lawyers to connect with each other, it will help them actually remember the content and information after the event has ended.


Make sure to utilize chat rooms, video chat and live polling to get the most impact out of these conversations. 


These breakout rooms will likely not have separate registration pages. The event organizer will either randomly assign or manually assign the lawyers into their respective breakout rooms. 


When it is time, a link will appear on the attendees’ screens that will redirect them to their assigned breakout room. 


The breakout room will have all the same features as the larger event - chat rooms, video chat and live polling, etc. Make sure to use all these interactive features to get the most impact out of your conversations. 


Your group discussion leader or event moderator should have access to advanced presenter controls to also manage the technical aspects of the event, like: screen sharing, presenting slide-decks, mute buttons etc. 


When time has come for these smaller group discussions to end, a link will populate on the attendees’ screens directing them back to the main event. Event organizers and event moderators will have the ability to pause and end breakout sessions at any time as well as bring attendees back to the main event as they see fit.


Make sure to check in with your group discussion leaders to get feedback on their conversations. Gauge general feelings about the discussions and take note of interesting conversations that people had - this can give you ideas for future content in the form of blogs, newsletters and additional webinars. 


3. OnDemand Accessibility of Content

It is likely to happen that there will be multiple sessions running at the same time, and some of your attendees will be torn between choosing one. 


The best way to address this is to record all of the individual breakout sessions and host them in your Content Catalog or Knowledge Base for future OnDemand access, that way your attendees will have the ability to watch all of the presentations that were offered. 


You should definitely consider including Breakout Sessions in your next CLE Event delivery! If you have further questions about how breakout sessions can optimize your content delivery experience feel free to reach out to us at BeaconLive - we’ve been specializing in Continuing Legal Education Events & Webinars for over 10 years. 


Topics: Continuing Education, Continuing Legal Education (CLE), eLearning, Legal

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