Event Industry

3 Ideas to Make Sessions a Little More Interactive & Engaging

Engaging and Interactive Sessions at Events
Written by Kaylynne Hatch
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It never hurts to go back to basics and dig in to see where you can improve your events. One thing many planners always seem to be on the hunt for are more opportunities, techniques, and ideas for injecting a little more interactivity into their events in order to coax a little more engagement from their attendees. Sometimes all it takes is a little change in the way you format your sessions, the way you invite participation from your audience, or the time you give to your speakers to make things a little more dynamic. Here are a few ideas for your next meeting, conference, or event.

Quizzing, Polling, and Q&A’s

Event Planning Interactive Q&A Sessions

Instead of just picking a speaker or selecting a presenter and letting them spend their allotted time talking over another hum-drum PowerPoint, why not invite the audience to participate by taking a poll or even try quizzing them at the end of the session to ensure you’ve kept their attention. You can use a variety of apps and tools to seamlessly incorporate polling and quizzes into your sessions. Sli.do, SpotMe, PollEverywhere and countless event apps allow for session specific polling and can often be customized to suit your needs.

You might also consider switching things with a Q&A session. The typical Q&A session can be a quick (and often abrupt) end to a session when the speaker asks if there are any questions and the audience doesn’t respond, however, if you place it in the middle of a presentation, it can be a fantastic way to wake up your audience and invite a little participation. Even if the speaker doesn’t answer questions right away, the unexpected invitation to ask a question can act as a trigger to encourage audience members to speak up. If you’re looking for a handy tool for managing a Q&A session, you might look into Sli.do or Pigeonhole Live. Whichever tech you use, be sure to find something that can be seamlessly integrated into your event and includes features like audience voting to ensure that your speaker responds to the most pressing questions.

Rearrange Your Seating and Toss the Mic (Literally)

Event Session Engagement | Event Session SeatingJulius Solaris recently wrote about how poor planning can actually limit interaction during your sessions because no one wants to sit in the front row. One of his conclusions is that event planners could find a better way to arrange seating so that the pressure is on the speaker more than on the audience. If your audience feels comfortable, they’re much more likely to speak up and interact. One thing event planners might consider trying is breaking out of the standard classroom style session and experimenting with a “Fishbowl” or “Roundtable” format (or you could go really wild and try an Open Space Technology style format). These formats can be very effective for a number of reasons but one thing you’ll likely notice is that seating is typically more intimate and often in a circular pattern, this encourages your audience to interact more with the speaker(s) because it feels like a more conversational and informal setting.

However, when you have a large group, it’s going to be difficult for the audience to ask questions and respond no matter what the layout is because you’ll have to also account for logistics like microphone placement and time to reach a microphone so that audience members can ask questions and make comments loud enough for the whole audience to hear. Fortunately, a few companies have come up with some fun solutions to this problem. Enter, Crowd Mics (which turns any phone into a microphone) and Catchbox (a wireless microphone that is soft and throwable which allows audience members to toss the mic from one person to another).

Give Perfect Pitch with Pecha Kucha & Tell a Great Story with TED

Pecha Kucha is in no way a new concept – in fact, it’s been around since 2003 when the first Pecha Kucha night was held by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture in Tokyo. Pecha Kucha is a fantastic format for event organizers who plan to incorporate some kind of pitch competition or simply have a series of speakers (such as students or interns) they’d like to include but with very brief presentations. The format is simple: the presentation is designed to move through 20 slides at a rate of 20 seconds per slide while the presenter speaks. At face value, this might sound way too short, too fast, or even dull – but it’s not. The presentations wind up running about 6.5 minutes each, allowing event organizers to fit more speakers and more information into a shorter period of time. Additionally, the brevity of the presentations forces speakers to really simplify and clarify their ideas and it forces the audience to really pay attention.

It’s for these same reasons that TED talks have been so popular. TED organizers found that talks that range from 10-18 minutes (TED talks are capped at 18 though you can sometimes find TEDx talks that last a little longer) are the ideal amount of time to tell a story while maintaining an audience’s focus.

If you’re really concerned about keeping your audience engaged and listening, you might consider trying one of these shorter presentation formats in your sessions or even just as a way to give your attendees session previews, fun (and education) cocktail hour entertainment, or for hosting a startup/product pitch competition.

(If you’re looking for some fantastic eye candy for your next presentation, be sure to check out our PowerPoint Alternatives – Presentation Tools Roundup)

Whatever You Do: Don’t Be Boring

It’s easy to get caught up in planning out session content, but it’s just as important to ensure that your session formats and the technologies that support them are well-thought out too. And it never hurts to do some experimenting in order to find what works best for your particular event. Just be sure to keep in mind who your audience is and what they might be expecting (or not expecting – because surprise can be a good thing) when they attend sessions and leverage that to keep their attention. It also helps if your speakers know how to speak so that people want to listen.

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Kaylynne Hatch

Editor / Social Media Manager at The Meeting Pool
Kaylynne Hatch is a social media expert and online marketing manager. With a Bachelor of Science in Communications and New Media from the University of Utah and a background in graphic design and entrepreneurship. She has been working in the events and travel industry since 2013.

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