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Event Breakout Session Ideas

Last updated November 25th, 2021

While it may seem like the latest corporate buzzword, breakout sessions are actually important elements within some events. They are an opportunity to sit back and relax and be more, or less, focused for a while.

They can often add genuine value to an event, which is why we try to include them whenever we can.

If you’re planning an event and need some inspiration for breakout session ideas, this post can help!

We pooled our collective knowledge to come up with some useful ideas that could work in many types of events.

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What is a breakout session?

As we mentioned at the top, a breakout session is an opportunity to break from a large audience into a smaller, more intimate setting.

It’s essentially like a meeting or workshop where a small number of attendees will discuss events, solve problems or tackle the challenge of the day.

Breakout sessions should ideally be short, have an agenda related to the event and an achievable goal. The rest is up to you.

Inspiration for your next event breakout session

Here are some breakout session ideas we have either used ourselves or know of that have been used.

Speed networking

Speed networking is a tried and tested breakout session idea. You have heard of speed dating, right? This uses the same principles, only for networking.

Set up a room with a desk or table and two chairs facing one another. Have one delegate stay seated and another group switch from table to table in a specific direction.

You can do it manually, or use event management software that can mix it up for you.

Speed networking is great for mergers or acquisitions or teams that often work together in different locations.

Lighting talks

Lighting talks are another breakout session staple. You get a selection of delegates together and ask one to talk for between 2-10 minutes on a subject.

The subject and speaker can be planned in advance so they can prepare or be nominated at the time. Much depends on the type of event and type of delegate as not everyone will be comfortable speaking in public.

Lighting talks are incredibly flexible and offer an interesting way to learn new things and get insight into people and topics.

Facilitated Q&As

Facilitated Q&As are used a lot in corporate events or product launches. They are a way to get more acquainted with key speakers and to ask questions in a more intimate setting.

It not only gives everyone an opportunity to ask a question, it also provides a much more focused way of delivering information than a large event.

They need a facilitator to get the most out of them though. A neutral party whose job it is to keep Q&As short, concise and on topic.

Trivial pursuits

Sometimes attendees need a break more than a breakout session and trivia is a great way to keep them engaged while enabling them to rest a little too.

These sessions can be freeform where everyone has to come up with a random fact on something or moderated where someone will ask attendees the most random thing they know.

Lego or Jenga breakouts

Using Lego, Jenga or other interactive game is another useful idea for breakout sessions. They are fun, light hearted and give attendees a chance to relax while still being creative and solving problems.

There are a multitude of games or toys you could use, so pick one that would resonate well with the target audience and theme of the event.

Casino breakout

We have seen casino breakouts used at charity events with great effect. Small rooms with different games, attendees make small or modest stakes using their own cash and all winnings go towards the charity.

They are useful in breakouts as the casino or gambling theme won’t dominate the overall event, which some charities will appreciate.

Ask Me Anything (AMA)

Ask Me Anything (AMA) breakout sessions can be enlightening as well as entertaining. They work well when a company gets a new CEO or at a new product launch, or even when there’s a guest speaker at a mainstream event.

They work better when moderated but can also be freeform.

They don’t have to be a CEO or guest either. You can hold general Q&A sessions between random groups of people within a more relaxed setting if that’s more suited to the event.

Walk and talk

Weather and venue permitting, a walk and talk is a way to change the scenery, get some fresh air and network at the same time. Mix a Q&A or AMA, or even a trivia session with a walk around the grounds or through the landscape.

It’s a change of scene and a change of pace while allowing people to get to know one another, learn something and continue engaging.

Treasure hunt

Treasure hunts can be held indoors or out and can be a fun activity for mixed groups. It’s a game but also an opportunity to network, meet new people and solve problems.

Hold it within a building or outside, depending on the venue. Make sure the hunt is accessible to everyone and time-limited to maintain control, but otherwise, you can run a hunt however you like!

Targeted roundtables

Round tables are an event staple but targeted roundtables take this to a new level. Rather than grouping random people and letting them discuss, you could host multiple roundtables at once on different topics and let delegates visit the table they want.

They can book in advance using the event app or put their name down as they enter the event, however you want to work it.

The result should be more engagement as each attendee has selected their roundtable of choice and a much livelier discussion!

Silent disco

Looking for a breakout session idea for relaxing delegates? How about a silent disco?

This is useful for more serious events where the subject matter could be heavy or more involved. A session like this enables delegates to completely switch off and relax for a set period of time.

The benefit of a silent disco is that it doesn’t impact surrounding rooms or cause nuisance. Depending on the budget, you could even provide a range of music streams so everyone can choose their own.

Problem busting bingo

Problem busting bingo is relatively simple to set up. Provide small cards with a grid and ask each attendee to fill in problems they experience in their day to day that are relevant to the event.

Then set up the breakout session to discuss everyone’s cards. As a solution is found for each problem, you fill in the box. Once someone has a line, it’s house!

The activity is a bit of fun but also has a serious side. It can also crowdsource problem solving, which is ideal for corporate or charity events.

Teach me something

Teach me something is a simple breakout session idea where each attendee teaches the rest of the group something. Whether that’s work-related, a hobby, superpower or something else.

This can be either serious, or more light hearted depending on the event but is a relaxed way to train people and share knowledge without it becoming tiring or too heavy.

We think there are plenty of inspirational ideas for breakout sessions within this list. We’re sure you can think of others!

Try one, try them all and record what works and what doesn’t. After a while, you should have a go-to collection of breakout session ideas you know work for specific events and specific audiences.

Want to find out more? Download our FREE Event Management Guide
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