How to Make Breakout Sessions a Success

Breakout sessions can help make large events more collaborative and personal, but they require preparation

During large conferences, it can be hard to get everyone to talk, which results in many of the attendees only passively participating. Breakout sessions are a great solution to help keep engagement levels high during business events.

Some of the benefits to using breakout sessions within a larger event:

It gives everyone a voice. For some, sharing opinions in front of large groups can be stressful. Breakout sessions can make it easy for hesitant attendees to feel included by allowing them to converse freely and share their ideas within a smaller group setting.

It personalizes the experience. Not everyone participating in a conference has the same level of expertise on the subject matter. Breakout sessions can be organized to cater to different levels of knowledge, such as beginner, moderate and advanced. This way, attendees can participate at a level that suits their experience. 

It lets you learn from your guests. Thanks to breakout sessions, attendees can add their valuable input in a more intimate setting without disrupting the flow that large-scale events require to run smoothly. Your guests can often teach each other (and you) a great many things, which adds even more value to your event.

Brilliant Breakout Session Ideas

Breakout sessions are only successful if planners prepare well. Here are some ideas for getting the most out of breakout sessions.

Establish clear objectives beforehand. The purpose of a breakout session needs to be clear before starting. Start off with some well-formulated questions, engaging talking points and clear objectives to keep the discussion on track. To take it to the next level, consider gamifying your breakout sessions with a little friendly competition. Guests will be more invested in achieving the goals you’ve set out for them when bragging rights, or even real prizes, are on the line.

Select the right space. It is common for conferences and seminars to be held in ballrooms or conference halls, but don’t be afraid to mix it up a little for your breakout sessions. Many venues offer a variety of smaller, creative spaces where groups can gather. Give your event some variety by sending a breakout team to the poolside or rooftop for a change of pace. Consider a venue like the JW Marriott Hotel Surabaya, which offers a wide palette of choices for creative group settings. A good room is key for any event, but it’s especially critical for breakout sessions at large events.

Choose the right facilitator. A group leader or facilitator can steer the conversation in the right direction and help keep things interesting. The facilitator can also be your eyes and ears at the group level by taking notes. This will allow you to find ways to improve future breakout sessions, even if you can’t attend each one in person.

Have food ready. If appropriate, try offering drinks or snacks at some point during the breakout session. Eating together can also break the tension and help people become comfortable with each other. Remember that food can be the best tool to transform your meeting from a cold space to a warm one.

Bonus Tips to Avoid Roadblocks

Take breaks. Don’t make people talk constantly. Talking about the same topic for even 30 minutes can lead to monotony. Make sure people are happy when they share their ideas.

Change the setting. Don’t force attendees to sit facing someone specific. Instead, create a roundtable area. This way, everyone can look at each other as they converse.

Use technology with caution. Smartphones can help with ideas, but too much of them can kill creativity. Make sure your participants don’t get distracted by technology.

Ready to Plan Your Next Breakout Session?

Breakout sessions can be a fun but productive way to get the most out of any conference or seminar. Make sure you brainstorm ways to tailor them to your event’s unique needs. And if you’re looking for help planning a large-scale event, don’t hesitate to reach out to the helpful event coordinators at Marriott.