As event organizers, we are constantly searching for new creative meeting formats that will wow our audience. We all want to move beyond the one-size-fits-all, been-there-done-that sessions. We want to bring our participants a powerful and engaging learning experience.
Moving away from traditional keynotes, here are five easy-to-implement session formats that will add some much-needed interactivity to your next event:
There are many experts who have vast knowledge and experience in their field, but one-way presenting may not be their forte. It does not mean that they can’t shine at your event. A change in the delivery method can transform their performance from mediocre to stellar.
Meeting designer, Mike van der Vijver, advises “If a meeting is going to involve a poor speaker, the impact must be mitigated in advance. You have to ask what is the most effective way for this person to deliver their content and look for an alternative.” Fireside chats that simulate a natural conversation between two people are one such alternative.
To pull off a successful fireside chat, invite an expert who is confident with addressing a whole range of questions and a skilled moderator who can lead an engaging discussion. Since one of the objectives is to involve delegates in the discussion, many fireside chats use audience interaction tools such as Slido to crowd-source questions from the audience.
For more tips, read Why and how to organize fireside chats.
Panel discussions usually have a weak reputation among delegates. But with a meaningful use of technology and a few moderation tricks, they can be a whole new story.
The key to making your panels truly interactive is to involve your audience early, ideally “within the first five minutes” as Scott Kirsner, a seasoned panel moderator, proposes.
At the “Why Bother? Teachers & Pupils Tell their Stories” panel in London, Moderator Sir Anthony Seldon used Slido to crowd-source audience questions throughout the panel. He started to incorporate them in the discussion as soon as the brief introduction and the opening questions were over.
Since the audience was involved from the very start, this 45-minute-long session brimmed with interaction, receiving 54 questions and more than 250 likes.
At many traditional conferences, Q&A sessions are often the only time dedicated to audience interaction. And even then, they are rarely handled to their fullest potential – people don’t have questions, many say. But they do. You just need to give them space and time to formulate them.
At the Eventex conference, moderator Jan-Jaap got the audience to come up with questions before the talk. Before the speaker opened her presentation, he encouraged the participants to write down three questions on a piece of paper. During the presentation, they were to tick off the topics that the presenter addressed.
Once she was through with her talk, Jan-Jaap prompted participants to submit the unanswered questions via Slido. After 1-2 minutes, the questions started pouring in and people automatically upvoted the ones they found most relevant. Then Jan-Jaap asked the speaker the three questions with the highest number of votes. This way, he ensured that the most burning topics were addressed during the 10-minute Q&A session.
Campfire sessions were pioneered by MPI which regularly hold them at their annual congresses EMEC and WEC. They are set in a laid-back environment, simulating a campfire storytelling time.
The facilitator introduces a topic and then drives the discussion but not content itself. The content is created by discussing delegates in real-time. This format represents an excellent place for delegates to learn from their peers through sharing own experiences. As a bonus, this interactive peer-to-peer format is also an excellent opportunity for delegates to build new connections.
If you organize an event with multiple tracks, your attendees will sooner rather than later face the dilemma of which session to attend. In most cases, they make the decision solely on their gut feeling and a brief description in the agenda.
So how can you help them? It’s hard without introducing the speakers properly.
The organizers of Dell’s #Social360 UnConference at SXSW came up with a brilliant idea to help the audience get to know the speakers and their topics. Not only was the introduction super-engaging, it also helped people get their bearings.
The event started with a survey game that people are familiar with from popular TV trivia games. The presenters were divided into two teams and the host asked a series of questions based on the pre-event survey and let teams guess the right answers.
As on TV, the team which hit the buzzer fastest was allowed to answer first. If it guessed one of the top three answers from the survey results, it gained points. To make the game more informative, the moderator asked a large number of follow-up questions to enable presenters to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise.
The other advantage of asking questions openly is that it got people to think about the topic and take a guess themselves. It effectively uncovered knowledge gaps that needed to be filled in later during the day. And finally, this session also offered delegates a great overview of the topics and allowed them to select the speaker from whom they wanted to hear more.
Having worked on more than 15,000 events, we’ve had the chance to visit hundreds of conferences and attend thousands of different sessions. The formats that we picked up and described above all succeeded in creating a great interaction that made a huge impact on participants, their engagement with presenters and overall learning.