What exactly is Breakout Session? [+ How To Plan Your Own]

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Having gone to many meetings, I can definitely say that I sometimes get overwhelmed. While I like the content being talked about, I can feel tired and wish for a rest to decompress just before throwing my thoughts back into absorbing the data.

I’m certain I’m not alone in these feelings, that many of us want to absorb every we can while still having the opportunity to briefly disconnect and let our minds stroll.

What we’re looking for is a large session, where meeting hosts understand plus accommodate for the need to take a break and specifically carve out time on their behalf. This post will clarify what a breakout session is, explain the best way to plan for a successful one particular, and present suggestions that you can incorporate into the next meeting.

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These sessions are usually less structured compared to general meeting periods, and typically permit attendees to participate instead of simply sitting down in the audience plus listening. While these types of sessions can be related to the overall meeting content material, they can also concentrate on unrelated topics.

Breakout sessions can happen during both in-person and virtual meetings. The former typically send attendees to different areas of a conference venue, and the latter use breakout room functions native to virtual conferencing tools. These sessions are especially important during virtual conferences, where there is already an element of built-in disconnection since attendees are in their own respective locations.

Below we’ll check out some ideas that you can use to include engaging breakout periods into your upcoming meetings.

Breakout Session Ideas

There are various breakout sessions you can plan for, like those directly related to conference content and others which are entertainment-focused and involve attendees playing games with one another.

Lightning Speaks

Lightning discussions are a great way to break upward meeting sessions. They are short so people can attend more than one, and a facilitator takes a set amount of time to provide brief talks on the subject of their selection related to overall meeting content.

Nevertheless , lightning talks can also be adapted to allow facilitators to present on any kind of topic they’re passionate about, helping attendees become familiar with more about each other and let their thoughts drift elsewhere before re-focusing on conferences.

Speed Network

Speed networking breakout sessions enable attendees to meet each other and establish expert connections. You can separate people up, set expectations, and instruct participants to spend a collection amount of time talking to one person and moving on to another once the time is up.


Games can help individuals let loose plus de-stress, especially when they are interactive and encourage engagement with others. These sessions are different from the other concepts on this list because they can be less associated with meeting content than others.

Throughout in-person sessions, you can organize bingo online games, team people up to solve puzzles, or even play charades. Virtual games  are probable as well.

Goal-setting Sessions

Goal-setting sessions are great as they can encourage individuals to think in-depth about meeting content in the relaxed setting where they can have discussions with others and express their thoughts. You can assign the facilitator to every breakout room, and so they can initiate a conversation about general meeting content plus encourage participants to relate the content for their desires.

For example , suppose your bigger meeting is focused upon introducing a new business-wide workflow. In that case, attendees in these sessions can set goals surrounding what they want to accomplish with the new strategy over the next year.

Inquire Me Anything (AMA) Sessions

AMA sessions are an outstanding breakout idea, especially if you don’t have the chance to answer everyone’s questions.

Participants can be separated into different rooms and groups and inquire questions or convey their thoughts as to what has happened during the meeting, and a skilled facilitator can be presently there to answer all of them.

Outdoor Actions

Outdoor actions are best suited for in-person meetings where categories of participants can go outdoors together. They can be much less content-focused and include something like a scavenger hunt, but general breakout sessions may also be held outdoors to provide participants a change of scenery.

Nevertheless , making use of an outdoor session during a virtual conference can involve motivating participants to sign off for a few moments, go outside, and come back and tell the group about something they saw whilst they were out there, or to share a photo of an item you asked them to find and identify outside.

Open Mic Program

Open mics are always exciting, and so they can be great for encouraging engagement and providing attendees a moment to have fun and learn about their peers. Open mics can center about meeting content, like having service representatives talk about customer stories, or even unrelated and guests stand up and share a hidden talent.

Drop-in Discussions

Drop-in discussions are a great idea as you can schedule multiple different sessions to get attendees to choose from. They are also a low-pressure file format for engaging in conversation and networking. Individuals can navigate to some room where the articles is related to their curiosity, and even pop-in in order to multiple sessions if they can’t decide.

While this is not a good exhaustive list of suggestions, they can certainly be applied to create and style engaging breakout classes for your next conference.

Breakout Program Examples

Below we’ll go over some real-life examples of breakout sessions that can act as additional inspiration for the planning.

Nonprofit Leadership Center

The Nonprofit Management Center is an corporation that supports other nonprofits. It hosting companies a yearly leadership conference that includes several breakout sessions brought by industry market leaders that attendees can choose from.

A Breakout session from their 2020 conference, Courageous Discussions: Understanding & Dealing with Unconscious Bias with Margarita Sarmiento, discussed how to create function environments that were inclusive and positive for all those to be part of. The breakout session associated with the overarching theme of the conference, which focused on leading courageously.

Building On this Momentum (BOOM)

Mount Holyoke University hosts an annual variety conference called Building On Our Momentum, exactly where community members are encouraged to attend events and find out about diversity, collateral, and inclusion in live talks plus recorded content.

The 2021 GROWTH conference  incorporates numerous breakout sessions to help attendees engage with articles in smaller groupings and decompress through hard-hitting topics which they may be learning about.

One of the sessions, Wednesday Crafternoon: Zines, stimulates attendees to get innovative and create a zine while simultaneously learning about their history plus use in marginalized communities.


INBOUND is HubSpot’s annual marketing meeting that features a wide variety of possibilities, including breakout periods. During these sessions, guests can decompress, further engage with content, plus connect with other individuals.

Meetup: Dark at INBOUND, an INBOUND 2020 large session, created a safe space for Dark attendees to meet additional professionals, network, plus discuss topics of interest.

Breakout Session Template

Given the benefits that they can supply, it’s essential to learn how to plan for, and lead, a successful breakout program. Let’s go over a few tips.

1 . Set designated time frames.

As breakout sessions are usually specific periods in between main meeting classes, it’s crucial to established specific time frames in which they will happen. Take note of the session’s activity, how long it will require, and aim to stick to that schedule.

2 . Set program goals.

Breakout sessions that are specifically designed for attendees to decompress are great, but , regardless of intention, it is essential to set goals, so participants know what to expect.

Probably it’s simply just to network and make conversation, but it is also to outline private goals. Letting people know what to expect helps you ensure that these sessions stay focused and participants can accomplish almost everything within the desired time frame.

3. Style seating to complement the breakout format.

This tip much more related to in-person sessions, but essential however. It’s important to generate seating arrangements and place up meeting spaces that complement plus facilitate the session intent.

For example , a room filled with circular tables wouldn’t be conducive to a rate networking session exactly where two people are in debate with each other. Understand what you would like participants to accomplish during the decision, and design a meeting space accordingly.

4. Use the correct equipment.

Using the right machines are relevant to both in-person and virtual large sessions, as you will want to ensure you have everything you need ahead of time. For example , suppose you’re top a breakout program game. In that case, you wish to make sure that you have all the required materials to run the session smoothly, like enough pieces for those participants and savings instructions to refer to during the game.

Having the right machines are also important because these sessions are meant to assist individuals decompress, so you don’t want to leave individuals waiting or stressed about what is about to occur, especially during virtual events.

Overall, breakout sessions are usually valuable aspects of conferences, both virtual plus in-person. They give participants a chance to connect with other participants, think deeply about meeting articles, and generally have fun and engaging conversations.

Leverage the particular tips on this checklist when planning for your next meeting, and you will likely receive opinions from attendees that the sessions were interesting, exciting, and have motivated them to attend the next event.

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