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What Is a Breakout Session? [+ How To Plan Your Own]

April 07, 2021

By (Flori Needle)

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Having gone to many meetings, I can definitely say that I sometimes get overwhelmed. While I enjoy the content being discussed, I can feel tired and wish for a break to decompress before throwing my mind back into absorbing the information.

I’m sure I’m not alone in these feelings, that many of us want to absorb all we can while still having the opportunity to temporarily disconnect and let our minds wander.

What we’re looking for is a breakout session, where meeting hosts understand and accommodate for the need to take a break and specifically carve out time for them. This post will explain what a breakout session is, explain how to plan for a successful one, and present ideas that you can incorporate into your next meeting.

These sessions are less structured than general meeting sessions, and typically allow attendees to participate instead of simply sitting in the audience and listening. While these sessions can be related to the overall meeting content, they can also focus on unrelated topics.

Breakout sessions can happen during both in-person and virtual meetings. The former typically send attendees to different areas of a conference venue, and the latter use breakout room functions native to virtual conferencing tools. These sessions are especially important during virtual meetings, where there is already an element of built-in disconnection as attendees are in their own respective locations.

Below we’ll go over some ideas that you can use to incorporate engaging breakout sessions into your upcoming meetings.

Breakout Session Ideas

There are various breakout sessions you can plan for, like those directly related to meeting content and others that are entertainment-focused and involve attendees playing games with each other.

Lightning Talks

Lightning talks are a great way to break up meeting sessions. They’re short so people can attend more than one, and a facilitator takes a set amount of time to give brief talks on a subject of their choice related to overall meeting content.

However, lightning talks can also be adapted to allow facilitators to present on any topic they’re passionate about, helping attendees get to know more about each other and let their minds drift elsewhere before re-focusing on meetings.

Speed Networking

Speed networking breakout sessions allow attendees to meet each other and establish professional connections. You can divide people up, set expectations, and instruct participants to spend a set amount of time talking to one person and moving on to another once the time is up.


Games can help participants let loose and de-stress, especially when they’re interactive and encourage engagement with others. These sessions are different from the other ideas on this list as they can be less related to meeting content than others.

During in-person sessions, you can organize bingo games, team people up to solve puzzles, or even play charades. Virtual games are possible as well.

Goal-setting Sessions

Goal-setting sessions are great as they can encourage participants to think in-depth about meeting content in a relaxed setting where they …read more

Source:: HubSpot Blog