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Q&A: What makes successful breakout sessions?

This month we asked our Director of Production, Chad Lambert, about what it takes to make successful breakout sessions at any event.

1) When multiple breakouts are scheduled, how do you schedule breakouts to best suit attendees?

CL: Any time there are multiple breakout sessions with a large number of attendees to move, I always recommend adding at least 30 minutes between sessions, even if they are in close proximity. In my experience attendees wonder and flock near restrooms and break stations, and rarely make it to their next session on time if given less than 30 minutes.

2) What tools would you suggest to ensure a breakout session encourages engagement? 

CL: I would always suggest using some form of visual reference be it the tried and true Power Point, or even the old fashioned flip-chart. Any type of interactive session to get attendees working together is another great way to drive engagement. For larger sessions, having someone to run a microphone to attendees during Q&A helps keep the rest of the audience involved in the conversation.

3) What seating arrangements seem to work best for attendee engagement?

CL: Theatre seating, in my experience, seems to be the most engaging seating set for engagement. The popular ‘classroom’ or ‘schoolroom’ style seating provides a surface for distractions be it doodling or technology.

4) What technology strategies seem to work best for attendee engagement?

CL: There are several technologies that can make a breakout more engaging such as video elements or interactive sessions, but I think the most overlooked strategy for engagement would be executing clean
audio/visual. Sloppy A/V such as projection that doesn’t fill the screen, crooked screens, and messy cables divert attendee’s attention by not matching the clean room aesthetics of most meeting and conference centers.

5) How do you make a large breakout still feel intimate?

CL: Curved or ‘Chauvet’ style seating where applicable can bring attendees closer to the presenter and immediately make a large session feel more intimate. Another golden rule is to never use a riser over 24” tall. There is very much an ‘us and them’ optic created by someone on a very tall stage that can make a large session feel less intimate.

Chad Lambert

Chad started his career in the race capital of the world with mega events such as the half a billion attended Indianapolis 500 and Super Bowl 46. Chad’s career extended into the racing and entertainment markets during his time producing Firestone and Bridgestone events, and then providing Technical Direction to one of Nashville’s largest independent production companies.

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