Check Out These 14 Unique Breakout Session Ideas
If you’re hosting a conference, convention, or company retreat, then you’ll probably want to plan a few breakout sessions over the course of the event. Even if you have incredible presentations and keynote speakers lined up, breakout sessions empower your attendees to interact with each other and apply the lessons they’ve learned throughout the day. Breakout sessions should take place in small groups and be relatively short and to the point, with concrete takeaways.
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for your event, check out this list of 14 unique breakout session ideas to get you started. Some of them are universal activities you can use at any event, while others are specific to certain types of events and venues. For some help planning your activities, book a venue on Peerspace and work with your local host, or use Peerspace’s Concierge team to arrange for catering, event staff, and equipment rentals.
1. Play the spectrogram game
This simple activity is a popular breakout session idea that’s suitable for small- to medium-sized groups. It doesn’t require a lot of planning, and it’s a great way to get your attendees on their feet after sitting down for a long presentation. The general idea is that you ask everyone to line up in a row based on certain personal characteristics or their feelings about a topic.
For example, you could ask your group to line up in order of their birth date, which requires them to interact with each other and learn who shares their birthday or birth month. Then, ask them to line up in order of how excited they are about a new project or policy. Use all four corners of the room if you want to gauge opinion on an X-Y axis and create a true human spectrogram!
2. Host lightning talks
Lighting talks are a good way to break up the monotony of a packed presentation lineup. Lighting talks are short, typically no more than five or 10 minutes. You can invite attendees to give a talk on a subject of their choice for a change of pace from the main event programming.
3. Have a silent disco
A silent disco is a unique breakout session idea that can give your attendees an energy boost — without requiring a live band or party venue. Your guests will have wireless headphones and can choose from two or more channels, each with a different type of music. It’s fun to watch everyone dancing to a variety of rhythms all in the same room!
4. Enjoy a silent conference
You can also use silent disco equipment to host multiple speakers in the same room at once. If you’re short on space, your guests can choose which speaker they want to listen to, without the hassle of having to change rooms or struggle to follow along in a noisy environment.
5. Try speed networking
Speed networking is just like speed dating but with the goal of forging professional connections. Set up your venue so that your guests can easily sit down in groups of two or three. Give each group three to five minutes to get to know each other before moving on to the next “date.” You can give out discussion topics or just leave the conversation open-ended.
6. Have a meditation session
Having some downtime is key to making sure your attendees are in the right headspace for the duration of your event. Host a brief meditation session between talks, or set aside a quiet room that introverted attendees can retreat to if they feel overwhelmed or over-stimulated. Choose a Peerspace venue with multiple breakout rooms or quiet outdoor spaces.
7. Take a live poll
Use a smartphone app such as Poll Everywhere to get live responses from the audience. See if your speakers know their audience well enough to predict their responses. This is among one of the simplest yet advantageous breakout session ideas.
8. Play an escape game
Hire a company like Puzzle Break to host a portable escape game or a scavenger hunt without having to leave the venue. With puzzles like “The Grimm Escape” and “A Hollywoodland Mystery,” you get all the benefits of an escape room — the team-building, the mystery — in a format that’s suitable for a breakout session.
9. Host a walking tour
If your event is in a unique part of the city or your attendees are visiting from out of town, plan a short walking tour during lunch or between presentations to get some exercise and learn more about the area. Hire a local tour guide for a fun and informative breakout session.
10. Set up a photo booth
Photo booths make for a fun breakout session idea that can add a bit of creativity to your event. Add a twist to make it more interactive, such as setting up a costume closet in your photo area. Hire a professional photographer and rent lighting gear along with your Peerspace booking.
11. Run an Offers and Needs Market
Chances are your event’s attendees have range of different skill sets and experiences that may not be obvious at first sight. Give your guests Post-It notes to write down a task they need help with or can offer help with. It can be anything from setting up a Twitter account to translating a birthday card into another language for a grandparent. This is a great way to encourage your attendees to share “soft skills” that aren’t ordinarily part of their job description.
12. Paint a collaborative portrait
Provide each breakout group with a poster or canvas and ask them to illustrate the main points or ideas they took away from the previous presentation. This is one of the breakout session ideas that’s great for creatives and those who communicate best through visuals.
13. Have a “snowball” fight
Ask each attendee to write something down on a piece of paper that they don’t feel comfortable sharing out loud. Once everyone’s done, have them crumple up the paper and throw it around the room. Then, everyone takes a turn picking up a “snowball” and reading what’s written on it.
14. Play with LEGO® blocks
Use the LEGO® Serious Play technique to focus your breakout session. Purchase the starter kit or hire an official facilitator to lead your group through creative exercises designed to boost teamwork and communication in a playful (but serious!) way.
Deciding on the right breakout session activities is as important as finding the right speakers for your event. We think these 14 unique breakout session ideas are a great place to start. For even more ideas, browse Peerspace to find a conference or retreat venue with the perfect breakout space for your group. Remember, you can always ask your local host or contact Peerspace’s Concierge team for help customizing your booking!