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Attendee Experience, Event Planning & Management
17 January 2024 

Maximize Conference Success: Building Free Time into the Event Schedule

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett
Chaviva Gordon-Bennett
Maximize Conference Success: Building Free Time into the Event Schedule

As an event planner, you know that conferences can be jam-packed with back-to-back sessions, networking events, and other activities. While this may seem like the best way to maximize the value of your event, it can actually lead to attendee burnout and a less enjoyable experience overall.

That’s where incorporating free time at conferences, also known as “white space,” comes in. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of incorporating free time into your event schedule and provide tips on how to do it effectively.

Why Is White Space Important?

By allowing for breaks in between sessions and activities, event organizers give attendees the opportunity to rest, recharge, and process the information they’ve received. This leads to a more engaged and attentive audience and a more productive and enjoyable event overall. 

Let’s explore some additional reasons why white space is vital. 

Schedule Optimization

Optimizing free time into your event schedule is one of the main reasons to incorporate free time. By allowing for breaks in between sessions and activities, you give attendees time to rest, recharge, and process the information they’ve just received.Without breaks, attendees may become overwhelmed and less likely to retain the information presented to them.

Self-care at Events

Conferences can be physically and mentally exhausting for attendees, especially if they travel and attend multiple sessions daily. By incorporating free time into the schedule, you are promoting self-care and allowing attendees to take care of their physical and mental well-being.

This can include taking a walk, grabbing a snack, or simply having some quiet time to themselves. By prioritizing self-care, attendees are more likely to have a positive experience at your event and feel refreshed and energized.

Networking Opportunities

While networking events are often included in conference schedules, they can also overwhelm attendees. By incorporating free time into the schedule, you allow attendees to network in a more relaxed and organic way.

This can include having designated “networking breaks” where attendees can mingle and connect with others, or simply having free time in between sessions for attendees to strike up conversations with those around them.

How to Build an Event Schedule with White Space

Now that we’ve established the importance of incorporating free time into your event schedule, let’s explore some tips on how to do it effectively.

Plan Ahead

When building your event schedule, planning ahead and leaving room for free time is important. This means not overbooking your schedule with too many sessions or activities.

Consider the length of your event and the number of sessions you want to include, and then allocate a reasonable amount of time for breaks in between. This will ensure attendees have enough time to rest and recharge without feeling rushed.

Be Strategic with Session Placement

When scheduling sessions, it’s important to be strategic with their placement. For example, schedule more intense or information-heavy sessions in the morning when attendees are more alert and focused.

In the afternoon, consider scheduling lighter sessions or leaving more free time for attendees to relax and recharge. This will help prevent attendee burnout and keep them engaged throughout the day.

Offer Optional Activities

In addition to scheduled sessions and networking events, consider offering optional activities during free time. This can include yoga or meditation sessions, guided tours of the event location, or even fun team-building activities.

By offering optional activities, you allow attendees to choose how they want to spend their free time and cater to various interests.

Communicate the Importance of Free Time

When promoting your event and communicating with attendees, emphasize the importance of free time and self-care. This will help set expectations and encourage attendees to take advantage of the breaks in the schedule.

You can also provide tips on how to make the most of free time, such as taking a walk outside, finding a quiet spot to relax, or connecting with other attendees.

Real-world Examples of White Space at Events

Not sure where to start when booking in white space at your event? Here are a few great examples to inspire you:

SXSW

Source: SXSW

The annual SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, is known for its jam-packed schedule of sessions, networking events, and parties. However, they also prioritize incorporating free time into their schedule.

In addition to designated breaks between sessions, SXSW offers a wellness expo where attendees can participate in activities such as yoga, meditation, and healthy cooking demonstrations. They also have a quiet room for attendees to relax and recharge during the event.

INBOUND

inbound 2023 white space

Source: INBOUND

INBOUND, a marketing and sales conference, also incorporates free time into their schedule. In addition to designated breaks, they offer optional activities such as a morning run, guided meditation, and a “Braindate” program where attendees can connect with others for one-on-one conversations.

Takeaways

Incorporating free time, or “white space,” into your event schedule is crucial for optimizing the attendee experience and promoting self-care. By planning ahead, being strategic with session placement, and offering optional activities, you can effectively incorporate free time into your event schedule and create a more enjoyable and productive event for attendees.

Remember, a well-rested and engaged audience is more likely to retain information, network, and have a positive experience at your event. So don’t overlook the importance of white space in your event planning process.

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