How to Build a Conference Agenda That’ll Keep Attendees Engaged

The concept of a conference is pretty straightforward: your attendees will attend various sessions on various topics, and typically come together at certain points of the day for keynote speakers and other large-group sessions.

The most successful conferences, however, infuse more excitement into the agenda — without running attendees ragged. Here are five tips for how to strike that balance:

1. Give attendees a variety of options...but not too many.

Try to incorporate a few different styles of sessions into any given time slot. This will look different depending on the nature of your conference, but a few examples could be sessions where speakers are just talking to an audience, classroom-style with someone walking around to help, roundtable discussions…you get the idea.

That said, keep a close eye on your attendee numbers. You don’t want to offer so many options that you risk diluting the number of people in each room.

2. Build activities into breaks.

You should absolutely have breaks between sessions, but this is a chance to energize attendees a little bit. What are some things you could do?

  • Offer snacks or do a candy bar
  • Put together fun photo ops
  • Open up the expo hall and let your sponsors activate some fun
  • Have live musicians playing in the halls
  • Create mini-events (a champagne toast, a cocktail half-hour, etc.)
  • Do a scavenger hunt in your agenda or through your conference app

3. Give attendees a space to decompress.

We did say it’s all about striking a balance. Be sure to dedicate a room to letting attendees relax and recharge. In this space, you’ll want to, at a minimum, make it quiet, include comfortable seating, and have plenty of places to charge devices.

Go above and beyond (if your budget allows) by offering tea, coffee, water, snacks, etc. You might even consider having some extra earbuds and chargers on hand, just in case!

4. Schedule in some FUN.

Conferences don’t need to be straight-laced the whole time! Sure, attendees will network, but they’ll need to let off some steam after a long day of sessions, too. Here are some suggestions:

  • Invite a cover band in to play some timeless tunes
  • Encourage some karaoke
  • Make dinner reservations for different groups
  • Plan an attendee bar crawl
  • Work out a discount at nearby attractions (museums, zoos, etc.)
  • Bring in a comedian or a magician

5. Offer something active.

Similarly, you’ll want to give attendees a chance to stretch their legs — literally! Some popular activities are morning jogs and yoga sessions. On your registration form, give people the option to indicate whether or not they’d be interested in some kind of group fitness activity. That’ll help you determine if you should plan something, and what that something is.

Looking for more attendee engagement tips? Oh, good — we wrote a whole guide about it! Get your free download:

ePly How to Engage Your Event Attendees