Open Space: From Audience to Participants

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Challenge & Solution

Big internal conferences with major keynote speakers are expensive and need to be planned. There are always questions about how the input can be transferred to the individual daily work life. Furthermore as collaborative forms of teaching becoming more and more common, we ask ourselves how could we improve meetings and gatherings internally and externally for our customers.

This was the exact challenge our customer approached us with. Given the experience we made with endless and boring conference days we suggested something more energetic: Open Space

Open Spaces are based on the presumption that at a business conference all knowledge and experiences to solve an issue are already spread among the participants. There are no hour-long presentations and sitting on chairs, it’s standing up and collaborate – sharing insights and wisdom. Participants can propose several individual topics and other participants can join the discussion. The single sessions are often conducted in small break out rooms running in parallel.

 

Our Approach

The 80 participants were used to a normal conference, so we had to make sure, we inform them what was going to happen during the day. Starting with two activation methods, one was an energizer game and the other one a song they had to sing. We made one thing clear: „This is not business as usual, something else and exciting is about to happen “. The audience was turned into participants.

There are some rules to the concept of Open Space which we had to explain first. For example, there are multiple sessions they could choose to attend from. But also, it was important to not confront them with too much alteration, to not lose any attendees.

We provided time boxes and rooms the participants could use. Every room had a mentor, that helped with the moderation and served as a scribe to visualize the results on huge flip charts. These graphs should come in handy at the end.

The hardest part was the empowerment of everyone to create and generate results. Beforehand we talked with the organizers and prepared example sessions to inspire and activate.

As a last step, on the end of a successful day, all participants came together and shared their experiences and also the results of the gatherings.

 

Results

The outcome was stunning. Instead of everyone just heard 4 or 5 big keynotes with short question and answer, the attendees spoke about 21 topics creating insights, results and there was even one think tank formed on this day. The sessions gave the opportunity to share knowledge, but also to generate output in form of first working results. Another big advantage of Open Space sessions is the enhancement in collaboration and communication among colleagues.

The whole day was full of energy, which led to conversations about the different topics in every break. The usual thing, that everyone gathers around the speakers was completely gone. We asked all participants on the scale of 1 to 5 about their happiness with the format and received a stunning 4,7.

We’re more than proud to escort our client through this thrilling day and we’re happy that the output made great impact.

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