When reviewing your conference agenda, you might notice that a large chunk of your conference program consists of back-to-back educational sessions. For your attendees, these large chunks of time will only mean one thing: the fear that all of these educational sessions will blur together and be forgotten!

Trends change all the time when it comes to planning an effective conference and it’s known that audiences get more out of interaction in educational sessions, not observation. To help you (and your potential attendees) out, we’ve outlined four presentation formats that we believe will best impress and educate your future attendees.

1. Storytelling Sessions
While one of the trickiest presentation formats, using a storytelling format can knock it out of the park if your speaker is as compelling as the information they’re sharing.  Ideally, these sessions will last about 30 minutes, with your speaker presenting for about 20 minutes and providing 10 minutes of question and answer for your audience.

Alternatively, you could also have two speakers co-present similar themes to provide a traditional 1 hour format if you’re looking for longer (and maybe more dynamic) content. When advertising for storytelling presenters, make sure you clearly outline the themes you’re looking for in these sessions and see if they can provide any video examples of past public speaking.  

2. Lightning Talks (AKA Data Blitz)
This format provides your attendees the ability to quickly obtain useful industry information without listening to some of the unnecessary fluff that can sometimes accompany a full hour session. These talks are designed to last between five to ten minutes and often take place in a presentation hall with other lightning talks occurring at the same time or back-to-back on a main stage.

One of the coolest aspects of these sessions is the ability for your speakers to quickly present your attendees with a full range of topics without causing them to move locations. In addition, you’ll often attract first time speakers who have a lot of great information to share with your industry. This can be a win-win for you in terms of cost and being innovative with new content. Sweet and simple, this presentation style is one we highly recommend.

3. Panel Sessions
While more traditional, panel sessions remain appealing to most event organizers as it allows your audience to observe and question multiple experts about one subject. Panel sessions will typically consist of three to five people of different educational backgrounds from your industry. The power behind these sessions is that they provide your audience the full spectrum of thought about one topic as opposed to a singular view from one presenter.

That being said, panel sessions can have their cons. You need to make sure that whoever you choose for your panel is able to constructively take criticism, as these sessions sometimes can stray into some light debate between panel speakers. While typically this interaction isn’t an issue, you don’t want your conference to be remembered because of an ugly dispute you could of avoided.

4. World Café Talk
The most unconventional of the batch, the mission behind the World Café Talks is simple: “The World Café is built on the assumption that people already have within them the wisdom and creativity to confront even the most difficult challenges; that the answers we need are available to us; and that we are wiser together than we are alone.” This presentation style begins by placing several tables around the room, leaving enough room for four to six participants per table.

Each table will discuss one “big question” topic for approximately fifteen minutes and then have each participant move to a new table. In addition, each table will have one host who will remain at the same table throughout the session and briefly explain the table’s previous discussion. The World Café style encourages participants to become more involved in the learning process as opposed to only acting as an observer. Ultimately, this process does a great job of allowing each attendee to be a presenter as well as offering ample networking opportunities.

While there is nothing wrong with using a traditional lecture format, we urge you to try and get out of your comfort zone and see what other presentation styles could fit at your upcoming conference. An effective conference planner will try to provide the most value for their attendees, so don’t hesitate to try and mix it up a little!

Planning an event, especially a big one, can seem like a daunting task. There are a million things to do and, if you’re like most organizations, very few people to help. But don’t worry! We’ve broken down the event planning process into nine simple steps for overall success. Check out our free guide 9 Steps to Event Planning below!