Beyond Break-Outs: Successful Small Group Sessions for Your Next Conference

So, you’re planning a conference and looking for a great way to encourage participation from your audience. Yesterday we discussed the merits of break-out groups and how to ensure their success. But what if your group is tired of break-outs and wants something different? Here are a few ideas:

Small group presenters. Provide smaller presentations from a variety of speakers. Vary the topics so that participants can choose from a number of possibilities. In these smaller groups, you can also foster more discussions.

Brainstorm sessions. Present each small group with a problem, and ask them to brainstorm several possible solutions. The difference between a true brainstorming group and a break-out group is that no one has to be in agreement. One long list of many creative ideas may be worth its weight in gold.

Build something together. Have your small group build or design something on the basis of a specific problem. This isn’t a game with clay and pipe cleaners, but a real opportunity for the group to develop a logical design.

Online or webcast sessions. Have your on-ground participants mingle with others electronically. This is difficult to do in a big group, but more manageable in smaller break-outs. You can divide the break-outs into “a talk with Team China, Australia, etc.”

The trick to break-outs and other small group activities is to respect them as valuable elements of your conference. They’re an opportunity for participants to interact and produce something meaningful. If you keep the emphasis on “meaningful,” you will undoubtedly be successful.

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