Once you have defined the purpose of an event and written goals and objectives, the next step is to develop session formats that will suit your attendees. The data gathered from attendee research will help you plan the program content. Today participants want to take an active role in their own learning.

1. Interactive session formats:

  • Audience reaction team = four to five participants query the main speaker from the stage with questions from the audience
  • Buzz session = the audience is divided into discussion groups; each group reports the findings during a follow up plenary session
  • Colloquium = informal meeting for discussion, usually of academic or research nature, in order to ascertain areas of mutual interest through exchange of ideas; done when deem convenient and with little regularity
  • Debate = two teams composed of two or three members each are arguing the opposite sides of an issue
  • Fishbowl = an interchange between an inner circle debating an issue and an outer circle of observers
  • Interview = the presenter is questioned by a moderator on behalf of the audience
  • Seminar = a lecture or a dialogue, with a small group of participants 10-50, let by a specialist who meet to share observations or experiences on a particular subject
  • Workshop = an intense, often hands-on session in which a limited number of attendees participate directly in learning a new skill or tacking an issue
  • Symposium = a meeting of experts in a particular field, at which papers are presented and discussed by specialists on particular subjects with a view to making recommendations concerning problems under discussion
As a best practice, ensure that at least 25 % of the event is interactive (or 25% of the time dedicated to each session is interactive.)

Build as many types of audience participation as possible.

2. Why people attend events?
A variety of reasons including:
  • To learn: information that will help them today and tomorrow
  • To network: to share experiences or “war stories”
  • For recreation: for fun (e.g. golf), for team-building or for the social events
 Learning refers to the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes through study, observation or emulation. Most learning theorists suggest that learning is a life long process of self development through self-activity.
  • People learn best in pleasant surroundings; they repeat pleasant activities
  • People tend to learn better by doing than listening
  • You learn when you are ready. People feel tired after a heavy-meal, before-after a holiday people might not feel like learning.
Ensure there is enough time for networking at the event and if possible include fun activities or social events.


A successful event incorporates learning, networking and social events.

3. Selecting Speakers
 Because you had already determined the needs of the audience, you know the goals and objectives of the event, you established the dates, times and budget, the stage is set and now you can reach out and invite speakers to the event.
  • Identify the type of the speaker needed: celebrity, industry insider, a best-selling author, a sports personality or a professional speaker.
  • You can also identify speakers through a Call for Presentations or Abstracts (more about it in a future post) especially for academic conferences
  • Professional speakers are booked sometimes up to a year in advance, and they are usually represented by an agency like Speakers’ Spotlight for example.
  • If the speaker is not a professional speaker, provide them with as many resources as possible to ensure they are well prepared.
  • Reach out to speakers by phone and/or email. The email should include the name of even, date, session times, and a tentative session name and description of the session. Once they accept your invitation ask them to provide you with a session name and description based on their expertise (or they can revise and adjust your suggested points) They should also provide you with a short biography or introduction of themselves and any other materials that could be used in the promotion of the session.
  • For more information on how to prepare speakers for your event check out Tedx Speaker Guide

Hire the best speakers for each session. Help speakers by giving them as much information about the event, the goals and objectives, the identified learning needs as possible. 

Spark Conferences: We are a conference production company specialized in the management of conferences for the health care sector. Connect with us. We love to talk. 416-844-1615. info@sparkconferences.com