April 21, 2015
An important part of many corporate retreats and meetings is breakout sessions. Breakout sessions provide an opportunity to dive a bit deeper into the subject of the retreat. It provides a more personal space for the participants to explore a subject or topic of interest. It can also be an opportunity for participants to work on a problem or project together.
The following are easy ways to build better breakout sessions.
First, begin with an icebreaker. This helps the session begin on a lighter note and really allows each member of the group to have their voice heard. It also allows the members to better understand each other on a personal level throughout the rest of the session and retreat.
Next, have a goal. Nothing derails a breakout session faster than having no clear objective. Create a problem for the participants to solve. Make sure to assign one of the members to be a leader and give them direction on how to lead the group through the topic. Make sure the objectives of the breakout sessions cater to the larger directive of the meeting or retreat. Organize the breakout sessions so that it helps the participants understand and contribute to the bigger picture.
Additionally, set a timeframe for the participants to follow as best they can. Have them reach specific goals at specific times and move according to schedule. This will help the participants allocate their time wisely and focus clearly on each subject assigned to each block of time. Without this kind of structure, it is easy to get distracted talking about many different kinds of topics and not focusing on specific ones.
Lastly, consider having different rounds of breakout sessions where participants rotate into different groups of people with new objectives and new goals. This would require each breakout session to be shorter and more concise, but would allow for participants to experience a wider variety of ideas from different kinds of people.
By following these guidelines, your breakout sessions will be comfortable for participants, have clear objectives, and give the participants the opportunity to really feel like they are contributing to and learning about the bigger picture. Always remember that your participants should come away from breakout sessions having furthered their knowledge and their skills, so make sure you are providing that to them!