A dull and dreary setting reduces the energy level of attendees and makes it challenging for even the best speakers and facilitators to engage participants. All elements from the set-up of the room to the length of sessions combine to ensure that attendees remain energized, alert and engaged.
Here are some set-up tips based on accelerated learning principles that professional facilitators use to boost participant engagement:
- Seat participants in squares or at round tables.
- For small to medium groups, put a box of scented markers and a flip chart next to each table. These will be used during brainstorming and group exercises.
- For large groups, to create a workspace for brainstorming that is less expensive than flipcharts, cover tables with several layers of butcher's block paper or place a large sketch pad at each table.
- Arrange mikes around the room so that participants can share what they discover in their groups and ask questions.
- Place coffee, juice and water stations around the room and encourage participants to grab an energizing re-fill whenever they need it.
If possible, use outdoor spaces for small group discussions and exercises, like these settings from a meeting I planned in Dubai:
- Music stimulates the brain and increases energy levels. Use background music during small group exercise and discussions. If the group is resistant to this, use music during breaks.
- Schedule a networking break after each keynote. Thirty minutes is ideal.
- For breaks, provide couches and comfortable chairs so that participants can network, share experiences, and discuss the keynotes and breakout sessions.
- Color stimulates the brain so use a vivid color scheme.
- As an energizer, give participants the team challenge of decorating the breakout rooms to be used for group exercises. (See photo to the right.)
- Place colored note paper, Post-It notes, and Post-It flags on participant tables. (Organize them in colorful cloth pencil cases for ease of set up. At the end of each session, ask attendees to gather the items and put them back in the cases.)
For more information about attendee engagement, read 12 Strategies to Engage Conference and Meeting Participants and More on The Power of Music and Conference Learning.
Photo Credits: Executive Oasis International