I find that end users get much benefits out of hands-on sessions. If you can find the right combinaison of theoretical presentations, birds-of-a-feather round tables and hands-on practical sessions, attendees are likely to say they have not wasted their time.
There are different ways of doing it.
You can fake it with "how-to" sessions where skilled presenters show how to create a project step by step. This is valuable and the least time consuming. In some cases, you can make it fun by throwing requirements live and see the presenter's approach to design and implement such change.
In some shows like Business Rules Rules, real hands-on sessions are offered (fun labs). This is a mini-training session condensed in 2 hours. The benefit for the user is that they can touch the product and get a real feel for usability and out-of-the-box capabilities. The problem is that you only get to scratch the surface in that amount of time. It cannot provide a broad and deep overview of the product.
I would be curious as to what the expectations are for prospective attendees:
- Are you looking for a "product evaluation in a box" session?
- Are hands-on sessions meant to be an illustration of industry best practices?
- Do you want to see how people use a tool or how you would use that tool?
- How valuable is it to see how product handle unexpected changes (as they typically happen in real life)?