The main reasons participants give for attending conferences and meetings are to access educational content and network with peers. Breakouts are the key to unlocking success in both areas.
Based on best practices from Cvent Corporate Meetings Summit (#cventcms) and Association Meeting Summit (#cventams), here are some tips for transforming breakouts from boring to breakthroughs.
- Crowdsource the content to ensure that it is relevant.
Use informal conversations with clients and survey apps or physical surveys to uncover participant needs, concerns, and questions. Use the information uncovered to build the agenda.
- Organize tracks based on areas of interest.
During his opening remarks, Chuck Ghoorah, Cvent Co-founder, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, shared the fact that, for #cventcms and #cventams, feedback from attendees and other clients was used to select content and organize it into 5 streams:
- Meeting Management Simplified
- Advanced Strategic Meetings Management
- Enterprise Event Management
- 3rd Parties
- Supplier Tactics
- If there are 2 or more audience segments, create and co-locate 2 or more events each with its own branding, color palette.
#cventcms and #cventams shared common opening and closing sessions as well as separate, targeted general sessions, and breakouts.
- Carve out room on the agenda and physical space for breakout sessions.
Breakout sessions fall into 2 main categories.
- Scheduled: These are specific topics are published so that attendees can select those that are of interest.
- Impromptu: Provide the time on the agenda and space for peer-to-peer networking.
At #cventcms and #cventams, the Innovation Pavilion and the Recharge Lounge were 2 of the areas set aside for impromptu breakouts. These spaces were unveiled during the pre-meetings before the official opening and they remained open after the closing sessions.
Breaks were increased to 30 minutes to encourage networking. Tables were also set up in the halls to provide ample space or networking.
- Keep the setting relaxed and informal.
For example couches and high chairs are ideal for breakout panels and interviews.
- Mix it up and use a variety of formats and session lengths.
#cventcms and #cventams really excelled in this area. From Ask the Experts and 15-minute sessions in the Mini-Theater at the Innovation Pavilion to 45-minute to 1-hour interactive workshops, there was something for everyone. Breakout formats included interviews, panels, and cases; and product breakouts at which clients could ask questions and give feedback, presentations, and roundtables (in the same room for #cventams and separate rooms for #cventcms).
- During client meetings and conferences, give clients opportunities to share best practices and answer questions.
#cventcms and #cventams included presentations by and interviews and panels with Cvent clients. (Some were 2014 Cvent Planner Award Finalists and winners).
- Remember "presentation" doesn't mean boring...keep them interactive.
Alexa Deucher's session The Inside Scoop into the Hoteliers View was a perfect example. The presentation was practical. It resonated with the group as the focus was on the top 4 questions that Cvent receives from hotels and hotel pain points.
The presentation was broken down into digestible sound bites interspersed with questions and lively interaction between corporate clients, hoteliers and, at each table, geographically close Cvent experts. Participants were so engaged that many remained and continued the discussion when the session was over.
- Use apps throughout the sessions.
Not only can apps be used to crowdsource content, use them to poll attendees live during the session, vote on questions, track attendees, and to get attendees to rate the breakout sessions. Provide a support desk for the app.
- Encourage participants to bring their preferred devices to breakouts.
When attendees bring smartphones, tablets, or laptops, this provides opportunities to make breakouts more interactive. It is important to have charging stations.
Bonus: Consider having a couple of wildcard slots on the last afternoon and day to repeat a popular session that received high ratings.
Photo Credits: Executive Oasis International