Open Space Sessions provide an opportunity for participants to create their own meeting, continue a session that needs more time, or find a group to address an issue that was not presented elsewhere during the Summit. In the Open Space Meeting on Saturday afternoon, Summit participants will gather and collectively design the session topics that will be offered during Saturday afternoon. We ask, however, that all attendees bring to the meeting those topics that they feel will be relevant and meaningful to themselves and the group.

What Is Open Space?

OpenSpace is a simple methodology for self-organizing conference tracks. It relies on participation by people who have a passion for the topics to be discussed. There is no preplanned list of topics, only time slots and a space where interested participants propose topics and pick time slots.

Prepare to be surprised by the depth and breadth of topics that are discussed in OpenSpace. Each OpenSpace experience is unique in some way. Quite often topics are raised in OpenSpace that are off the radar of the original programming — this spontaneity is part of the benefit.

It doesn’t matter if you contribute a little or a lot. You’ll likely be surprised that you know something that others don’t. Everyone has something to share — even if it’s the “beginner’s mind” that asks the right questions!

One of the greatest things about an OpenSpace is that it’s spontaneous. It’s not about traditional “eyes-forward” presentations, so if you go to the trouble of creating such a thing, it’s likely it won’t get used.

How OpenSpace Works

OpenSpace is a small set of rules that allow groups of people to interact in a simple, productive, organized way to create valuable dialogs that address the participants’ most important issues.

The Fundamental “Rules” of the sessions that happen during OpenSpace conferences are:

  • Whoever shows up is the right group
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
  • Whenever it starts is the right time
  • When it’s over, it’s over.

To lead an OpenSpace Talk:

  • Come up with an interesting topic and title for your discussion.
  • You don’t need to develop these before the conference – most of the ideas will come to you during the event – but it doesn’t hurt to start thinking of ideas now!
  • Fill out a schedule Post-It for your topic.
  • Place the topic on the schedule.
  • If you see topics that have something in common, consider combining them into a single time slot.
  • If a significant number of people want to attend your discussion and another discussion in the same time slot, try to trade into another time slot to ensure maximum dialog and participation.

To attend an OpenSpace Talk:

  • Check the schedule and sign up for a talk.
  • Use the ‘Law of two feet.’ If you feel that you are not contributing or benefiting from a presentation, please feel free to move on to something else.
  • Allow the discussion convener to steer his or her topic. If you have an opposing opinion that needs a full time slot you should feel free to add your own OpenSpace slot to discuss the topic.

General things to remember:

  • This is a discussion, and you learn more in an OpenSpace from listening than by talking.
  • If you’re used to lecturing, pretend you’re in the audience.
  • Let go and let it happen. It will.
  • Try not to control the conversation (if you’ve convened the session, “steering” is OK).
  • When you do talk, know your audience and don’t talk down to them. If people need clarification, they will ask for it.
  • If you find yourself writing notes or flipcharts beforehand, step back and take a breath. You’re probably preparing a lecture.
  • If you absolutely must give an introduction, make it no longer than 5 minutes, and note it on the session announcement so that people can choose not to come until the discussion starts. If it’s longer than 5 minutes, this probably isn’t the right forum.
  • If you’re in a session and a lecturer needs help stopping, raise your hand and say, “I’d like to hear what everyone else has to say about this.”

Some information provided by: mindviewinc.com/Conferences/OpenSpaces.html