To end my little trilogy of blog posts about participant involvement in conferences and events (see We don’t want no song and dance shows! and Well, hello…ahem…I’m an introvert for the first two), this time I will give you some examples of active involvement that doesn’t overstep the boundaries of anyone.
First of all, it is very easy to make some sort of polling during your event. It doesn’t take much effort for the participant and no one has to be put on the spot. However, if you poll ’the old fashioned way’ with the show of hands or colored paper/cards etc., beware that some people might not want to answer as they feel they might be held accountable. Today, there are lots of different tools for polling, from apps to websites to entire polling systems that you rent for your event. It is all a matter of mood (or money).
Secondly, there is a small excercise called ’The Buzz’. It is very straight forward as you ask the delegates to talk in pairs or threes about what they just heard in the presentation, what their expectations are for the day, or any other question you might think of. Remember to plan this with your speaker as he/she should be prepared for adding these little interruptions to their presentation if it exceeds more than 30 minutes. The form should be adjusted to the room setup (it is not easy to speak in threes if you are seated in theatre style…which I rarely recommend at all, but that is a whole other story).
If you want a more involving break, you could opt for the team excercise where you ask people seated at the same table (suitable for rounds or rectangles setup) to solve a problem, answer some questions, or do something creative (building things in LEGOs or draw a picture of the future…or something completely different – it depends on the purpose of your event). However, it is important to let the groups know if you want them to present their work afterwards so that they can plan for somebody to present – there is usually an extrovert in the group who would like to do so. Nobody should be forced to present in front of the entire room! Should you not wish to have a formal presentation after the excercise (it takes a lot of time), you could ask all participants to walk around the room afterwards and talk to participants from other tables about their answer to the task. This gives everybody an opportunity to network as well.
Don’t forget to present the task as well as the purpose for it thoroughly before letting the participants start – it is always easier to immerse yourself in an assignment if you know why you do it.
And remember that you do not involve the participants for your own sake (even if you gain from the team excercise/presentation etc.). It is always for the sake of the individual delegate!
Do you have any interesting ideas for involving your participants?