Harness the Energy of a Good Coffee Break at your Next Conference

We collate a number of event survey reports. You may be surprised at how many traditional conferences the coffee break is voted the best part!

On the odd occasion the coffee is just that good! More likely though, it’s that the delegates have the freedom to chat and converse about what interests them that they enjoy the coffee breaks that much more.

Achieve better engagement by moving past standard presentations and rethinking content delivery.

Harness the value of unexpected coffee conversations and invite your delegates to create a participant driven agenda. This can be done for with the full meeting or just a section of the program depending on the objectives of your meeting.

The concept of ‘un-conference’ has been around for some time. In short this methodology allows participants to decide discussion topics, the highlighted speakers and the sessions offered.

Want to give it a try? Here are 6 quick tips:

1 Pre-plan: 

Send out polls and surveys allowing participant to vote on topics, speakers and sessions. Based on the results then form the agenda.

2 Focus on facilitation: 

Appoint strong facilitators to assist in fleshing out questions, comments and conversations.

3 Reward contribution: 

Offering incentives for contribution will increase the number of participants who contribute.

4 Embrace debate and accept disagreement: 

Unless you do this, you will limit delegates willingness to contribute.

5 Provide group note taking: 

Make use of the right technology to record the activities, presentations and actionables. Consider online wikis or shareable digital documents such as Google Docs.

6 Allow space for the unknown: 

create space for flexibility and the unexpected, sometimes this is where the greatest ideas come from.

Why do this?

  • You will tap into the power of your people! Some of the best ideas never make it to the surface because we are not given an opportunity to share them.
  • Allowing your audience to participate in the creation of the agenda will increase learning, engagement and ownership. Delegates who participate more actively in the creation process will have higher levels of retention and contributing to the process create will a natural sense of ownership.

Other great ideas:

  • Use a fun game to break the ice: Start by giving participants an opportunity to let loose and get their minds to wander. Try a “snowball fight”. Provide paper and pens and ask the participants to reflect on a topic or idea, write it down, and then add their name to it. Once they are done, everyone can ball up their piece of paper and start a snowball fight! Spit the room into two halves, have one side throw first, get them to pair up with whoever picked up their snowball, and allow some discussion of the topic or idea. Afterwards, repeat the process with the second group.
  • Consider a ‘facilitator on the floor’ idea. During workshop-style sessions, appoint a strong facilitator to walk the floor with a microphone and continually engage with participants. This works best when participants are seated at tables. It  will improve interaction and engagement.
  • End your program with a time for reflection. Give time for the audience to determine the most resonating points of the day, and then let them submit their own responses and collectively vote for and prioritise them. This is a great way to have your audience actively participate in summarising the day’s activities. An Event App or wireless keypad will do this well.

Here are some helpful posts about un-conferencing you may enjoy reading:

How to run a great unconference session.

How to Run an Un-Conference.

At Participate we offer several technologies that will support various aspects of ‘un-conferencing’, if you are interested contact us and we’d be happy to share our experience and expertise with you.