20 Interactive Event Formats

How do you make sure your event attendees are left wanting more, not the door? By making sure your conference or event is fun, imaginative and interactive. With that in mind, here are a 20 creative event formats to consider:

1. Campfire

Want an informal way to present and discuss topics with attendees? Then a campfire session could be perfect. Imagine people huddled around a campfire listening to someone telling a story and you get the idea. Simply arrange a few chairs or couches in a casual cluster to create a relaxed seating arrangement and you’re good to go. The speaker starts the conversation and then facilitates discussion and group chat. There’s no real need for formal slides. Suits 15-20 people.

2. Talent Show

Think Dragon’s Den and you get the idea behind the Talent Show format. About 6 or 7 participants are given a few minutes to pitch their ideas or concepts to an audience which is then asked to pick a winner.

3. The Solution Room

The Solution Room is a great way to arrive at… a solution! The idea is to use the participants’ knowledge and insights to help individuals solve a particular challenge. Attendees are divided into small groups and each person takes it in turn to share their problem and the group then brainstorms ideas in 5-minute cycles. This can last for as long as needed and can potentially accommodate hundreds of participants.

4. Birds of a Feather

You don’t need a pre-planned agenda with a Birds of a Feather gathering. All that’s required is a group of like-minded individuals who want to come together to discuss a certain topic – perhaps during a conference lunchbreak or a coffee break. It’s a great way for smaller groups to meet, chat and network.

5. Human Spectrogram

We’re all used to raising our hands to vote, well with a Human Spectogram, you use your feet. The organiser (or presenter) asks a small group three or four questions and the participants move to a certain area of the room to reflect their opinion. It’s an energetic and fun way to break the ice within a group and a great way to kick-off (or end) a meeting or training session.

6. Lightning Talks

Lightening Talks, as the name suggests, are designed to speed up presentations. Participants are given a short amount of time (usually no more than 10-minutes) to deliver their talk. If slides are involved, they’re usually moved forward automatically to ensure there’s no over-run. It’s a simple but powerful way to keep an audience engaged.

7. Ignite Session

Ignite Sessions are another type of Lightening Talk. Speakers are given 5 minutes and 20 slides that auto-advance for a fast, fun and speedy presentation.

8. Silent Disco Talks

Participants at a Silent Disco Talk wear wireless headphones which they can use to tune in to hear different speakers in the same room. It’s a simple way to ensure attendees are always listening to what interests them.

9. World Café

The World Café format allows a large number of participants to explore topics from a wide range of perspectives. The process begins with a question. Groups then discuss at several small tables (like a café). After a set period of time (let’s say 10 minutes), the members of the group move to different tables – often leaving one person behind who provides an overview of the conversation to the next group. Once participants have sat at each table, the key points from each table are presented to everyone involved and this can inform a final discussion.

10. PechaKucha 20×20

This also falls within the Lightening Talk category. A Pecha Kucha presentation comprises of 20 images for 20 seconds (hence the name PechaKucha 20x20). The slides change automatically and the speakers narrates each image. The entire presentation lasts for precisely 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

11. Jigsaw Session

A Jigsaw Session is a cooperative learning strategy that enables each participant of a ‘home’ group to specialise in one aspect of a topic (for example, one group studies prenatal care, another group studies postpartum recovery). Participants meet with members from other groups who are assigned the same aspect, and after mastering the material, return to the ‘home’ group and teach the material to their group members until, working together as a whole, they create the complete jigsaw puzzle.

12. Braindates

Braindates are just like one-on-one romantic dates except the purpose is to match people who have requested knowledge on particular interests or topics. The pairing can be done via an app or through a host. Matched individuals can then meet up to network and learn from each other.

13. Soapbox

Want to create a buzz at your event? Include a soapbox. Ask participants to share their thoughts, research or a project (the more challenging, the better). If their ideas are picked, they get a short time on stage – or on an actual soapbox – to present to the audience.

14. Every Voice Brainstorm

Brainstorming sessions with 10 – 15 participants are a great way to generate ideas. However, they can be hijacked by the most confident characters in the room who don’t always have the best ideas. One way to make sure every voice is heard – even those who are introvert – is to kick off the session by asking everyone to write down their thoughts and solutions on separate cards. These cards are then pinned-up and the merits of every single idea are discussed.

15. Speakers’ Quiz

Rather than simply asking an audience a series of questions and then sharing the results in a poll, Speakers Quiz is a way to inject some fun into proceedings. Speakers are invited on stage where they have to guess the results of the poll before they’re revealed, just like a gameshow.

16. Storytelling

Everyone loves a good story. It’s a compelling way to share ideas. Just like a traditional story, a Storytelling Session should include a start, beginning and an end with authentic characters to illustrate the experience of an individual, team, or a community. The story should be around 15 minutes long with Q&As afterwards.

17. Hyde Park Corner Debate

A Hyde Park Corner Debate kicks off by asking the audience their opinion on a given topic. Two speakers then debate, for and against. Afterwards, the audience is polled again and the winner of the debate is the speaker who influenced the most attendees to change their votes.

18. Personal Introspective

A Personal Introspective session requires all attendees to privately write down answers to five questions. They can then share those answers with the group… but they are not obliged to. It’s a way for attendees to reflect on their day’s experience.

19. Fishbowls

A Fishbowl is a way to organise a medium to large-group discussion (around 50 people). Participants are divided into an inner and outer circle. The inner circle is the ‘Fishbowl’ and this is where a handful of people (3 or 4) discuss a given topic. The rest of the participants listen and take notes. After a set time, the ‘fishbowl’ is replaced with other members of the outside circle. This is rotated until everyone has spent time sharing their thoughts in the Fishbowl. This format is often facilitated by a moderator.

20. Samoan Circle

Similar to the Fishbowl, a Samoan Circle includes participants inside and outside the circle with the main difference being that a listener who wishes to talk can step into the inner circle. However, speakers must retire if prompted.