If your average conference attendee were a cup (stay with me) then they will no doubt “runneth over” with the information you have on your conference programme. That is unless you give them some space.
The three spaces in online conference content
There are three types of space you can have in your conference programme. Everyone is familiar with one of them – the break – and event planners will be splicing that into the programme but rarely will we see the other two types of space Light Space and White Space.
In this short meeting design post I want to look at White Space and the vital role it has in improving the learning of your attendees. But very briefly let’s cover the “space” we all currently have in our programmes.
Why your breaks aren’t really breaks
Certain things happen in the so called breaks. We are instructed to network and more than likely to visit the stands or attend 1.2.1 meetings. Also we need to grab a coffee and refresh. All this in normally 15mins to 30mins. So we aren’t in fact having a break we are simply doing other things outside of the conference room.
All of this is of course interesting and necessary but none of this particularly helps our attendees learn. All this extra information keeps filling that cup of knowledge and the vital information from the sessions is quickly displaced.
These traditional breaks are of course vital: having everyone sat in the meeting room all day would be a disaster as well as a sure fire way for the information to disappear: forced out by the boredom! However the point I want to make is that these “breaks” don’t really set up your attendees to re-enter the meeting room truly refreshed. The break isn’t really “space”.
So we have to be conscious that even when a programme has a morning, lunch and afternoon break we don’t have the right amount of time for our attendees to really recharge and refocus. And this is where White and Light Space come into play.
Enjoying a break?
Meeting Design White Space
"White space is literally when you programme in NOTHING. No discussions, no informal networking,no reading. Just a space in your programme for your attendees to quietly reflect on what they
And this type of space is vital. Get this, attendees will retain more of what they have heard when they have an opportunity for the information to percolate and it is in this white space when this happens. Now if your attendees want to do something in the white space that is perfectly fine. You have done your job as an educator to offer the space; it’s over to the attendees to decide to use it or not.
Two types of white space in your conference
I don’t want to limit the options for free time on any programme but here’s a suggestion on where White Space works best:
Number one. After each session (or most sessions) you can insert a few minutes white space before the following session.
Number two. At the end of each section of the programme – so traditionally before the first refreshment break, before lunch and before afternoon refreshments – drop in ten minutes White Space.
Now I imagine if you are an #Eventprof you are reading this and thinking this all makes sense. You know the brain is not a tape recorder and that having some space for the ideas to stick makes perfect sense but you are probably also thinking about the obvious hurdle! Selling the idea to your stakeholders.
The main issue with White Space is that you are indeed trying to sell (or market if its a free to attend meeting) nothing. Literally nothing. Attendees may look at the programme and think what’s this “White Space? Couldn’t they get enough speakers?” And I suppose it can look peculiar. We are trying to sell “nothing” as part of our day but that nothing adds so much to the rest of the programme and we have to explain to our attendees that more is very seldom less. It’s a brave planner who drops in White Space during a conference but it makes for better outcomes for your attendees. So be brave.
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