Conferences are a special time, whether they occur annually or once every two years. But, magic happens when you get teams together in a room for a day or weekend. There’s nothing like in-person interactions (especially now, in the digital age). 

A trend that has become more and more popular in conferences due to the increase in engagement is to create conference breakout sessions, where you split your big group into smaller groups to learn about different topics.

If you’ve planned a conference before, you know the venue is one of the secret ingredients to a successful event, but the conference venue is even more of a factor when you want to be able to split into different groups. 

If you want to add breakout sessions to your next conference, just make sure that you have a clear objective for the session so that it doesn’t turn into a time-wasting exercise. Here’s a few breakout ideas to get your juices flowing.

Conference breakout session ideas

1. Solutions-focused peer discussion

Engage the entire audience by splitting up the topics/roles into various rooms. Aim for several breakout rooms/areas to hosting informal ‘fire-side chats’, where the audience plays the key role in the discussion. For example you might tell them to go one at a time and discuss one of their biggest challenges in their role, and the group has to help them come up with a solution or advice. What you find is that you get people with different strengths and weaknesses, and different levels of experience, that will work together to help each other solve their unique (or not-so-unique) problems, and attendees go away feeling like they’ve really got value out of it. Your venue should offer the use of multiple small rooms at once. 

2.   Facilitated Q&A’s 

Don’t leave the Q&A for the last five minutes of the conference. Host several breakout sessions dedicated to exploring specific topics in greater depth which may be more applicable or interesting to different people. Let’s say you’re a real estate company. You can assign an expert to lead a Q&A on closing the sale, and in a separate breakout session an expert to do Q&A on how to generate more leads.

3. Targeted Talks

Some people love interactive learning, while others prefer to sit back and soak up new knowledge. Another great conference breakout session idea is to plan a talk from a few different experts in different areas of the venue at the same time, This allows attendees to choose the talk they’re most interested in, and ensures that they’re more engaged. Note: you need to think carefully about how you split up the topics around your different target attendee profiles to make sure everyone is likely to find something of interest. At the same time you don’t want everyone to wish they could be at more than one talk at the same time.

4. Trivia 

Following a talk, break the group up into smaller groups of 4-10 people for some trivia based on topics covered within the talk – try and keep it as fun but useful as possible. This will get people talking to each other, as well as ensuring that the information is repeated and soaked up better. Let people know at the start so that everyone is switched on throughout the talk. Don’t forget to offer a prize that people really want.​ 

5.   Targeted networking! 

Kick off (or end) the conference with an hour or two dedicated to ‘getting to know each other’. Create separate areas dedicated to certain specialities or interests so that people can network with others with the same interests. Provide coffee or drinks to get people talking. Then ask everybody to head to the area that interests them, and get them to start networking. The idea is to forge bonds from the start, instead of jumping straight into the content. Although it can also be a great way to wind down from the day and discuss what they’ve learned. An adjoining deck is a great location to host the networking with drinks. 

Get those creative juices flowing and start brainstorming your own conference breakout sessions ideas. Think about how can you break into smaller groups and encourage interaction and engagement and ensure that attendees come away with more enjoyment, and more knowledge from the conference. 

The Adelaide Hills Convention Centre offers all the facilities you need to host great breakout sessions. Find out more about hosting your next conference with us and enquire about our current availabilities. 

Oh, and did we tell you, it’s in the famous Adelaide Hills region? You (and your guests) will love it. 

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