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Your starter for 10: some ideas for interactive conference sessions

#ARMA2019 is getting closer! If you’re delivering a session, then you’ll be starting to think in detail about your content. We encourage you to also think about how you will make sure your session participants feel included in your session. To help you out, we’ve put together some ideas about how to make your session interactive: 

  1. Tried and tested: Breakout groups

Most of our delegates will be familiar with the breakout group, a format that enables participants to tap into each other’s knowledge in an informal way. All of our session rooms will be set up in cabaret style, so you’ll have pre-formed groups at each table, but feel free to use any space within the ICC if you want to send your groups further afield. Start with an introduction, set out clearly what you want the groups to discuss, be clear about how long they’ll have to discuss the questions, and allow enough time for each group to share their findings at the end of the breakouts. 

  • Ask your participants what they think

Polling is a great way to get your participants to open up and share what they think. You can do this using technology, built into your presentation, and there are lots of free applications to help you. Or, why not think about something different, like a ‘live barometer’? This gets people moving while also gauging their opinion on your topic. Simply pose a question or statement and ask participants to move to a different part of the room depending on their answer. You can use this as an indication of opinion or, more effectively, to start a debate between the groups. 

  • Get active

Talking about getting people moving, providing ways to allow participants to be physically active in your session provides a welcome break to being seated in sessions. Choose something that you’re comfortable leading, be that a short yoga session, some dance moves, or simply a quick walk around the room.

  • Avoid ‘death by PowerPoint’

Anyone who’s been to a conference before knows how tedious it can be to sit through session after session of too-busy PowerPoint presentations. Slides are (almost) unavoidable so if you are using them, try to make them more interesting. Less is usually more, so keep your content to key points only, use a large font, add some design, and make good use of graphics and images. You could even add some video footage or build in live polling (see 2 above). Think about how you would feel as a part of the audience and consider alternative ways to communicate your ideas. If you’re feeling brave enough, deliver a session without any slides at all!

  • Set up a game

We all love a game! Puzzles, crosswords and memory games are great ways to keep your participants engaged and get them involved with your content on a different level. An easy way to do this is to add a quiz at the end of each section of your content. This helps your participants – and you – focus on the key learning points. You could also make this more competitive by setting up ‘table teams’, asking each table to create their own identities and then solve challenges, or even complete a scavenger hunt. Add a time limit for some additional tension, and even think about offering a small prize for the winner!

  • Be creative: use props

People learn best when they’re having fun, so be creative and make them laugh. Not all of us are good at jokes, so props may be safer ground. Choose items that literally represent your subject matter or ones that are unrelated but silly enough to be memorable!

  • Use the walls

A great way to pull all these ideas together is to make good use of the space around you. All rooms have walls, so think about how you use that space in different ways. You might set up a comparison wall to get the conversation started, inviting participants to write down their ‘must haves’ versus their ‘nice to haves’. Or you might ask participants to write down questions or feedback. Or you can open up the walls to graffiti, by adding white boards or sheets where participants can share more general ideas, in words and pictures. We’re providing a massive graffiti wall in the main exhibition hall to capture delegate thoughts. 

Whatever you do, don’t be dull!

We’re really encouraging our speakers to deliver interactive sessions, so build time in to your planning to think about ways to include your attendees. Whether you get your delegates on stage to share stories or use some of the others tips above, make sure to test them out with colleagues to make sure they work – and that you feel comfortable delivering them. Attendees will appreciate the time you’ve put in to make your session more than death by PowerPoint. And if you need any help or additional materials, just let us know. We’ve added some web links below to give you some more detail behind these ideas.