It might seem like a content-rich, action-packed agenda would help increase event registration. But a study of brain science tells us: If you want to attract attendees remember many potential attendees may already feel busy in their daily lives. So, design downtime to help them reenergize and take in the meaning and purpose of all sessions. Taking purposeful breaks (from 5–60 minutes) to refresh the brain and body boosts energy, productivity and ability to focus. Immersive experiences must include “rest stops” in the event attendee journey.
Having empathy for your attendees means you’re plugged into their motivations and requirements. Anticipating and planning for the physical, mental and even spiritual needs of participants creates a well-rounded experience. Designing enriching, personalized “recess” moments give attendees the stamina they need to stay engaged throughout the event.
Developing personas as part of the event attendee journey can help you plan breaks that align with audiences’ expectations and desires. Offering a variety of options as part of the pre-event attendee communication can help you gather helpful planning data—and build excitement for what’s to come.
Here are five ways to help attendees clear their minds and feed their needs (sometimes literally!):
1. Themed food fun
Say goodbye to the standard granola bar. Snack and meal breaks are crowd-pleasing opportunities to put a pause on presentation mode and foster connection. Tie to a theme or create a new tradition. Try a “schoolhouse-inspired” morning break complete with nostalgia-inducing favorites like Nutella and peanut butter sandwiches, paired with virtual trivia shared through the mobile app. Or kick off the afternoon with a tailgate. Team swag, a menu of mini corndogs, a nacho bar, and games like bags and ladder golf are sure to get everyone cheering.
2. Brain teasers and buzzer-beaters
Satisfy your audience’s competitive spirit. Quick and simple interactive games (think Minute-to-Win-It) add excitement and generate laughter. Keep in mind that introverts and extroverts recharge in different ways. What’s invigorating for some could totally drain the rest of the room. (One woman’s icebreaker is another woman’s deal-breaker, after all!) Tabletop puzzles present an interesting alternative to tuning out and scrolling phone screens.
3. Good to gather
Not all breaks need to be programmed. Adding a comfortable meditation room can create space for participants to pray or reflect in community, with some degree of privacy. And designing inviting gathering spots like a well-stocked café area or personalized gift zone can attract attendees who want to sip or shop on their own or with a pal. A creativity corner could offer art supplies or notecards with encouraging messages that could be sent to a nonprofit partner to also nourish the spirit during downtime.
4. Stretch or sweat
Exercise is fantastic for brain health as well as body fitness. Attendees who get in a workout might boast increased energy, focus, attention and decreased social anxiety as a result of their sweat session. Low-impact opportunities like chair yoga or tai chi can easily fit in breaks between speakers. A fleet of blender bikes for making smoothies transforms a 15-minute gap into an invitation to get moving and try something new. Schedule more rigorous options like a group spinning class or scenic run at a time attendees can take a longer break with a shower.
Related: Wellness experiences are an expectation for Millennials and Gen Z participants. Weave in wellness trends to energize and inspire.
5. Get outdoors
Whether your event is in a National Park or office park, there are likely some natural elements nearby. A guided group walk or hike around the property can help participants meet their daily step goals and get to know each other. Even just providing simple maps with outdoor benches or pavilions noted can awaken attendees’ sense of adventure. Gamify it by creating a scavenger hunt with some of the plants and natural elements they can find on the grounds and encourage them to explore on their own or in teams.
Anticipating needs throughout the event
While event breaks are good between sessions, don’t be afraid to weave energizers and mini-breaks into presentations, too. Break up a long keynote with audience participation moments, like stretches or prompts to share with a neighbor. Let attendees know when and how their needs are being met by mentioning meal breaks as part of the script. If you don’t need technology to offer the presentation, consider moving a small workshop to a shaded outdoor area. By anticipating attendee needs at each moment in the event attendee journey, you can show you care about how they feel and not just about sharing the content you have planned.
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