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Open Space – for an open exchange of ideas

Meike Twiehaus, project manager of the Management Conference of the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC), introduces the Open Space method. She talks about her experiences with it when organising meetings, and what needs to be borne in mind.

Open Space – for an open exchange of ideas

For the EVVC, the Open Space method was the beginning of a restructuring of its further education seminars. The annual Management Conference required more interactive formats, and the decision was taken to adopt a gentle approach with the participants using Open Space. This is a group-organised meeting technique that is suitable for an exceptionally wide range of participant numbers. In it, the participants themselves decide at the venue what topics will be discussed – whether it's five or ten topics – and how long the individual discussion sessions will go on for. There are important principles that need to be taken into consideration in an Open Space meeting:

The people that are there are the right people

even if only a fraction of the anticipated number attend, every participant is important and motivated.

It begins when the time is ripe

strict start times aren't useful for individual discussions.

Over is over – Not over is not over

discussion ends when the energy goes out of it.

 

The two feet rule

participants stay in a group for as long as they consider it meaningful, as long as they can still learn or contribute something.

A facilitator or moderator is necessary to collect the questions and structure the harvest.

This is how it works: participants raise issues and questions in front of the whole group which are then collected. This all happens freely and simply emerges from the situation. The issues are not known to the event organiser beforehand. The participants form a group to discuss what is for them the most interesting question. The proponent of the topic introduces the proposal. When the discussion ends because the energy runs out, the main results are presented in a plenary session (harvest).

Open Space and other new interactive methods

The European Association of Event Centres has now done an Open Space meeting three times at the EVVC Management Conference. While in the first year the participants were still reserved and somewhat sceptical, in subsequent years the method generated enormous energy and was seen by some as the highlight of the conference. But as we sense this energy is decreasing, we will employ other new interactive methods in future and organise an Open Space meeting not every year but perhaps every two or three years.

 

(evvc – mt)
Photos: Anja Koehler

"Open Space is the perfect format for so heterogeneous a group as the EVVC. Here everybody can bring up what interests them and discuss it with like-minded people on the same level, so that everyone gets what they're looking for."

Joachim König
former president of the EVVC

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Find out more about this meeting at Bregenz Festival House.
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