A breakout session is a kind of session format that takes place in a conference. In a breakout session, participants are broken up into smaller groups for the purpose of discussing a specific topic.

This kind of session may also be referred to as a workshop session. It serves as an opportunity for conference delegates to participate more actively, and for several discussions to take place at the same time. A facilitator may take charge of presenting the topic or question to be discussed, and a member of the team notes down the group’s ideas. The information gathered may be reported in front of the larger group later on.

While breakout sessions may seem to be an effective way to break the monotony of a conference, it is not always the best activity to use, depending on what the objectives of the conference are. Output from breakout sessions may be limited due to time constraints. The quality of the group’s output may also be influenced by the effectiveness of the facilitator or the willingness of members to participate. Also, if the objectives of the breakout session are unclear, then the discussion may be aimless and be a waste of time for all people involved.

Breakout sessions which have clear and realistic objectives, as well as those which present interesting and well-formulated questions can prove to be very useful, though. Members may feel more comfortable with sharing their ideas in smaller groups. The dynamic exchange of information may also result in a fruitful brainstorming activity. Also, ideas which have not been considered in the past may be brought up during such sessions.