Thought labs are informal sessions, typically with a presenter, that tend to occur in the middle or after a presentation – and may take the place of a presentation altogether (yes, event planners have a lot of different words for “meeting”). They are longer than breakout sessions, and most noted for putting the presenter and the attendees on equal footing when it comes to discussion. We know that event teams sometimes struggle with the idea of these informal activities: They can feel like a waste of time unless they are used correctly. Here’s how thought labs can be effective:
One of the benefits of this “everyone is equal” approach is that it works great for brainstorming sessions during or after presentations. If you want to separate the audience into teams and have them come up with some great ideas, thought labs are an excellent pick. Even using the name is helpful, because it gives brainstorming a professional, serious edge. However, as with all thought labs, it’s important that you give it a very specific goal. Don’t just let people chatter: Give them a problem to solve.
More Effective Use of Presenters
Thought labs aren’t just useful for brainstorming. They also allow presenters to meet attendees directly, in a more informal setting that allows for real discussions. One of the problems with a presentation is that attendees typically form their own opinions and questions that can never really be addressed. Holding a thought lab afterward allows them to have some direct discussions with the presenter without feeling like they are being led. You can even make this an optional activity after a presentation for those who are interesting in a more informal kind of discussion.
This is related to the previous point but with a bit more focus. Instead of having a conversation, the presenter focuses on answering specific questions. It’s still informal and there’s still an element of equality, but it’s a more professional, structured option that may prove useful. However, to be a true thought lab, the Q&A session should also have a general focus – a way to explore new ideas or has out details.
Skills and Training
Employees often appreciate education, but they don’t like feeling as if they are in school again. Thought labs are an ideal solution to this problem, as they allow discussion-based learning that doesn’t belittle anyone. Use thought labs to help attendees develop skills that can be enhanced by open-ended conversation – “How can I use this new app?” or “What should we do if this happens to a customer?”
Do you want to encourage more networking in your event? Add a thought lab! They are great for encouraging networking and developing future business relationships, even if it is just some informal discussion following a meeting.
If you’re excited about these types of informal discussion but what to be careful about how to use them, we can help! Contact Fourth Wall Events and explore how we can help event planning teams for all kinds of businesses.