10 Tips to Make General Sessions More Interactive....Immediately

DiscussionFortunately, many organizations and associations are moving to a more interactive format for conferences and internal meetings. Making a session more interactive doesn't have to significantly increase the length of your meeting or blow your budget. Here are 10 simple ways to make general sessions more interactive.

  1. Seat participants at half round, rectangular or square tables.
    This simple step alone will boost interaction between participants.
  2. Replace traditional seating with comfortable lounge seats and sofas.
    Informal seating sends a cue that this will be an interactive session in which participation will be welcome.
  3. Strategically place microphones throughout the meeting space.
    If you want to encourage participants to ask questions, it's important to make mikes accessible.
  4. Begin the session with a short exercise for participants to complete at their tables.
    This sets the tone for an interactive session from the outset.
  5. Give the group a write your own case exercise.
    Kick off the session by giving the table groups time to identify a specific business challenge related to the content in W5 format:
    • When did this happen?
    • Where did this happen?
    • Who was involved?
    • What happened?
    • What were the challenges and unresolved questions/issues?
    Hand-off the case to the next table and have one person move with the case so that they can answer questions.

    Place each case in an envelope at the center of the table. Re-visit the cases after a lot of content has been covered and ask participants to use the content to resolve the case.

    Hand the case back to the table that generated it (and the participant moves back to the original table with it to review the proposed solution.

  6. Build brainstorming exercises into your session. and
    (For small groups, have one flip chart per table and place large scented markers on the table. For large groups provide a sketch pad and thin scented markets on each table.)
  7. For larger groups, use tablets for brainstorming.
    This does not mean you have to blow your budget. Just add questions to registration forms to determine which attendees have tablets and assign one tablet to each table. (Just ask attendees who have them to bring tablets. Provide table numbers in the meeting space and an envelope with a table number in the registration packets for attendees who have tablets. A color dot on those packages will make it easy for registration staff to ask these attendees to sit at the table that corresponds to the number in their envelope.
  8. Use gaming.
    Whether you opt for card games, board games, game show format, or a game that is downloadable through an app., gaming will add the "fun factor" to your session and encourage interaction.
  9. Experiment with reverse panels.
    In this format, one participant from each table comes to the platform to share what their table has discovered and ask questions. Reverse panels can even work for large group if you ask each table to select a spokesperson and select table numbers at random.
  10. Use cracker barrel sessions.

For more tips to make general sessions more interactive, also consult Set-up for Attendee Engagement, 12 Strategies to Engage Conference and Meeting Participants, 17 Tips for Designing Shorter Meetings Without Short-Changing Attendees,   5 Alternative Formats to Traditional Panels, 8 Tips to Improve Panel Discussions Immediately, and 5 Ways to Debrief Conference Breakouts Groups (Without Boring Participants).

Photo Credit: Neil Stimler

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