Open space experiment at MPI conference

I am always curious as to how organizers implement ideas like the BarCamp, Open Space, Fishbowl or other interactive conference formats in the framework of “classic” conferences. Basically, I do not believe that those “un-conferences” will eventually entirely replace our traditional formats, however, I do think there is a lot of power in this notion of getting attendees involved on a higher level. Check out the movie from a recent conference in Dusseldorf/Germany where this was done.

================= Deutsche Version ======================

Ich bin immer neugierig wie Veranstalter Ideen wie BarCamps, Open Space, Fishbowl oder andere interaktive Konferenz-Formate im Rahmen von eher “klassischen” Konferenzen umsetzen. Ich glaube zwar nicht, dass diese “Un-Konferenzen” irgendwann mal unsere traditionellen Formate komplett ersetzen werden, aber das Potenzial einer besseren Integration der Teilnehmer ist sehr groß. Schaut Euch dieses Video von einer Konferenz an, die vor kurzem in Düsseldorf stattgefunden hat.

4 thoughts on “Open space experiment at MPI conference

  1. Michael, thanks for sharing this tantalizingly brief video. I am seeing participant-driven events, slowly but surely, becoming increasingly common. Meeting professionals in the U.S., for example, have been holding a series of innovative, low-cost, volunteer-run events, Event Camps around the country.

    In my experience, the vast majority of people who experience these designs (when run well) find it hard to go back to the traditional sit-and-listen-to-expert format once they discover a) that the collective expertise & experience in the room is normally far greater than the contribution of a single presenter, and b) that attendees can create the event they want, rather than settle for the predetermined ideas of a well-meaning, but ultimately limited, program committee.


    1. I agree, although I do believe that a clever combination is really the way to go. There is an innovative new media conference in Hamburg which combines best of both worlds (Scoopcamp). For the events at the World Association of Newspapers, I want to head in that direction, too.


      1. Much depends on the size and length of the event. It’s perfectly possible to design wonderful small (<100 attendees), short (~1½ day) conferences that are completely peer-created—I've been facilitating successful events like this for twenty years.

        For longer or larger conferences, I agree that a mixture is appropriate (though participants nearly always give higher evaluations to the peer sessions than the predetermined ones.) A good example of this is a recent I helped design.


  2. Specifically regarding Open Space: I’ve seen it used for up to 2,000 and it’s been tremendously successful if it’s true Open Space and not a “fake” and if it has a facilitator who knows how to set it up.
    And tho’ I generally agree with Adrian, I think that this is still not the norm and that it’s still not as acceptable to most organizations. Why? Because no one explains it well – because facilities (at least in the US) are uncomfortable with and unwilling to allot the amount of space needed for OS to be done well, and because many people still want to come and listen v. participate in any way other than some hallway conversations.
    I wish we could do more in schools and universities to begin to accustom people to different ways to learn and I wish that meetings could incorporate different models w/in one meeting so we could all find something that fits each of us.


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