Most sessions are too long. Most passing time is too short. Unless your event planner doesn’t like attendees to talk, connect, share, and learn with each other, lengthening passing time will increase the odds of serendipitous encounters. With so many events going virtual, it’s important to remember that most conferences exist for people to meet face to face, not sit and listen to a speaker onstage.
We like to plan session length so attendees are left wanting a bit more, while setting passing time between sessions a bit longer than the typical 5-10 minutes. We’ve seen far too many organizers give the responsibility of setting a session’s end time to the presenters, which takes away too much unstructured discovery.
Staggered Or On The Hour?
If your sessions are on the hour, consider limiting them to 40-45 minutes. If the presenters need more than that, plan accordingly by staggering session start times from on the hour to either 15 or 30 minutes past. Ubiquitous schedules will ease any confusion here.
Don’t Forget Internal Training
Internal training sessions are different, as most audience members already know each other. While we like to think all of our event clients aren’t boring, how often do you hear about training sessions droning on far after most of the audience has checked out? More, shorter breaks may work well for these kind of events. Perhaps 30 minute presentations with 10 minutes of passing time?
Publishing extensive presentation information is a good way for attendees to be able to research the sessions a bit, which could translate into far better audience engagement. We’ve seen professors do this in colleges, and students say it’s easier to pay attention when they’re not furiously typing or writing in an attempt to record everything on screen.
Follow The Fairs
Many fairs do a great job of this, with events every other hour, giving attendees the chance to walk around and see the rest of the booths. Non-stop sessions may seem like a good idea in planning, but all that really does is devalue the content that’s being repeatedly presented. Less presentations and longer passing time will keep your audience invigorated.
Do you do anything special to keep attendees engaged in both the sessions and the time between?