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Conference MC Nigel Collin Downtime in your event

4 ways to create delegate engagement using downtime at your next meeting or event.

I don’t know about you but it seems to me that too often there simply isn’t time to think or ponder, or have those all-important candid conversations about things.

As human beings we need time and space to digest ideas and mull over discussions and simply let things sink in. It’s the downtime that allows us to effectively learn and more importantly process information.

Think about your own experiences and you’ll find it’s often during this free time that the best ideas present themselves or the penny drops about a topic or conversation we’ve just been part of.

So why is it then that in the world of meetings and events too often we are presented with agendas that are crammed so full that no one has time to breathe let alone think?

To effectively get people to engage with the content, take on board what is being discussed and more importantly act on it, downtime is paramount.

When designing a conference program or a meeting schedule we need to consider the downtime and free space as being just as important as the busy bits. If not more so. Especially when it comes to engaging your conference audience.

So here are four ways to design effective downtime.

Make sure you have time buffers between sessions.

Having a presentation finish at 10.30am and the next starting at 10.31am is ludicrous, (and yes it does happen). Not only do sessions run over but you need time for the audience to digest what has just been said, perhaps chat about it for a bit and then reset for what is coming next. Have at least 5 minutes between sessions

Allocate participation time

Just before everyone heads out to a break have a good portion of time for your facilitator or MC to get people revisiting the sessions they have just experienced. Get them to talk about what one thing really stood out for them or how they can apply the information to their own workplace.

Design time for serendipity

Let’s face it, some of the best moments, ideas and opportunities happen when you least expect them. It’s during those candid conversations that ideas are triggered, new relationships are built and clarity strikes. You can’t force serendipity but you can help it along by providing the right stimulus and the right environment. Which also means you need to allow plenty of free time for it to occur.

Delete and Space.

Finally and most importantly, look over your program and make sure there is at least 5-10 minutes of free time for every hour. Cut down the length of sessions if you have to. Be brave and delete 15 minutes either end of the day and then space the remaining sessions out. Your delegates will love you for it because they’ll have enough time to engage and connect with your content, your message and find ways to act on it.

A related article is ‘5 ways to destroy your meeting or event’ and ‘Could this be the best facilitation tool ever‘.


Find out how Nigel can help facilitate or MC  your next conference or event. 

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