8 Tips for Making Short Breakout Sessions Interactive #IMEX15

Small GroupsOne of the meeting trends that was highlighted in a number of presentations at IMEX America was the trend towards shorter meetings. It can be a challenge to cover material in depth and make sessions interactive when the timeframe is tight.

Bonnie Wallsh, Chief Strategist, Bonnie Wallsh Associates showed participants how it's done.

We previously focused on the content for the 2 sessions she facilitated. Today, we'll look at the process.

  1. Get participants to sit in their breakout groups immediately.
    A set-up in rows is not ideal for interactive sessions.

    GroupingBonnie overcame this obstacle by putting signs and flip chart paper on tables and asking participants to seat themselves in the area where they had the most expertise.

    When it was time for the exercise she gave the group permission to shift their chairs around so that they could work together more easily.

     
  2. Begin with a few quick questions that give participants a chance to learn who is in the room.

    Bonnie WallshBonnie asked participants to raise their hands to identify how many were corporate event planners, association planners, and independent planners. She also asked suppliers and members of the press to introduce themselves.

    I usually give everyone in the room a chance to introduce themselves and share where they are from and what they hope to get out of a meeting. If the groups are larger, then I give participants an opportunity to introduce themselves at their tables.
     
  3. Cover ground rules quickly.
    Bonnie encouraged participants to ask questions, share tips and learn from each other. One area that is almost always neglected is the location of fire exits. Bonnie covered this.
     
  4. AgendaUse the agenda to give participants a sense of specific takeaways from the session.
     
  5. Early in the session, engage participants through a short group exercise.
    It doesn't have to take long, but it's important to give participants an opportunity to exchange ideas. Have participants work in trios if you are pressed for time.

    For the budget saving ideas sessions, participants were asked work in small groups for 5 minutes to share their own budget saving tips related to the area of expertise they identified earlier.

    For the food and beverage session, participants worked in trios and shared their most memorable food and beverage event experiences. It was quick, easy, and interactive.
     
  6. Food and BeverageIntrigue attendees and spark their curiosity with an unexpected set-up and the element of surprise.
    When participants entered the room, there were bags on each table, a bowl of ice, slices of orange, and glasses. They were used for a short hands-on lessons on making Manhattan which added interest to the session.
     
  7. Bring the theme to life.
    Bonnie's session about food and beverage trends could have just been a lecture, but she made it interesting by providing participants with refreshments that reflected some of the themes. It was unexpected and welcome.
     
  8. Instead of just lecturing, ask questions and invite participants to share their own tips.
    The few minutes that the group took to create their own list of tips meant that they had tips at their fingertips. Bonnie then presented information to fill in the gaps. She covered over 101 tips without resorting to an information dump.

Here are more tips for making small meetings effective What You Missed at Smart Monday #imex15, 8 Tips for Planning Small Team Meetings, and Meeting Presentations: How Short Is Too Short?

Photo Credits: Anne Thornley-Brown, Executive Oasis International

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