Getting a Jump on Resolutions: Update the General Session

As we approach the end of 2017, we're already in a contemplative mood for the year ahead. While the event world has been changed by the use of social media, accessibility of video technology, and (for the government market) the constant uncertainty of budgets, the one thing that seems to have remained static is the general session/keynote. Most events still open with a keynote speaker or even a panel. Some work in a video of some sort, but for the most part, general sessions are still one-way, lecture-type presentations.[Tweet "Getting a Jump on Resolutions: Update the General Session. #GovEventsBlog"]

While there is comfort in the familiarity of this routine, we'd like to challenge event planners to be more innovative in the new year. We've gathered some thoughts on how to change up theĀ general session routine, ensuring attendees walk away not only with more information but also with more energy.

  • Start before you start - Plan a vision for what people will see as they walk into the general session room. Perhaps instead of a power point slide with the event logo, could you have a dynamic photo (or stream of photos) that conveys the theme of your event? Will music be playing? Pick a song or playlist that is upbeat and speaks to the theme of your event.[Tweet "Ensure attendees walk away with more information and more energy. #GovEventsBlog"]
  • Break the ice - Instead of everyone coming in and grabbing a seat to stare at their phone, create an ice breaker where people have to interact with one another to find their seat. Give attendees an "instruction" when they come in - "sit in the first row," "sit next to someone wearing orange," "sit next to someone who shares your birth month." Not everyone will play along (and that's ok), but for those willing to engage, they'll get an extra boost of networking and energy.
  • Augment the reality - Think about adding virtual or augmented reality to your sessions. While this can get very high tech, thinking in a VR or AR mindset can help you add some low(er) tech enhancements, such as a remote speaker or group of speakers. Have the on-stage speaker interact with them on the stage screen. Shoot a 360 video, and have that be the backdrop on the screens as opposed to static slides.
  • Real-time event, real-time feedback - Consider building polling or a feedback mechanism into the event app. Speakers can use this to better gauge the interest of the room, and it creates a more interactive session than a lecture-style keynote. You can even use the technology to poll people about the event outside of the general session to make on-the-fly changes.
  • Walk and talk -Invest in wireless microphones so speakers can move around with ease. If using a stage, add stairs to the front to encourage the speaker to move into the audience during their presentation. Doing so makes even the biggest ballroom seem more intimate and allows for more ad-hoc interaction with the audience. It also keeps people focused on what is being presented if they know the presenter could be standing beside them at any moment.[Tweet "Break the ice. Walk and talk. Role play. Just a few tips to update the general session. #GovEventsBlog"]
  • Role play - Some of the most animated and engaging discussions we see at government events tend to be around "how'd you make that happen in your agency?" When discussing how they implemented a new technology and/or approach, speakers often walk the audience through all the steps (and mis-steps) it took to get them there. Look around the room, and you'll see heads nodding as barriers are discussed. What if that discussion could take a more theatrical approach with other presenters or even audience members acting in the different roles involved in deploying a new program?

Even if you can't implement these ideas fully, hopefully they have you thinking in a new way to approach the standard conference session. We'd love to hear about some of the more engaging general sessions you've seen recently. Share your experience in the comments.

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