I’m proud to have written three books (the latest was published this week) and over six hundred blog posts in the last ten years. After writing each book I was sure it would be the last one I wrote. Actually, I still am. Perhaps I’ll be wrong again about that…
To my amazement, this website has had over forty-nine million page views. That’s quite a jump from twenty-four thousand in the first year. These days, this site gets about six million page views per year, making it, as far as I know, the most popular website in the world on meeting design.
Buy Event Crowdsourcing (ebook or paperback or both) at the lowest possible price here!
What’s the book about?
The book explains both program and session crowdsourcing: how to routinely create conference programs that reliably include the right sessions and the session content attendees actually want and need. There is some overlap between this book and my earlier book, The Power of Participation. But Event Crowdsourcing includes new techniques, plus significantly more critical details and enhancements. (The enhancements to my core technique The Three Questions, alone, justify getting this book.) If you want to create events that are far more responsive to participant wants and needs than the dominant unconference paradigm — Open Space — this is the book for you!
Do your conference programs include pre-scheduled sessions you belatedly discover were of little interest or value to most attendees? If so, you’re wasting significant stakeholder and attendee time and money — your conference is simply not as good as it could be.
Now imagine you could learn how to routinely create conference programs that reliably include the sessions attendees actually want and need? If you could create amazing conference programs that don’t waste attendee time? How much value would that add to your event; for your attendees, your sponsors, and your bottom line?
The talented graphic facilitator Kristine Nygaard of Kiss the frog, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at FRESH 2013, has created a delightful one-minute video introducing The Solution Room, a plenary session I facilitate for 20 – 300 people that engages and connects participants, and provides just-in-time peer support and answers to their most pressing professional problems. Thanks Kristine!
My session Designing Participation Into Your Meetings will, unsurprisingly, include a fair number of interactive exercises: human spectrograms, pair share, The Three Questions, a mild experience of chaos, and others. My goal is to motivate participants to incorporate participant-driven and participation-rich design elements into their meetings.
There’s been a lot of interest in The Solution Room, a session that I co-facilitated last July at Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress in Orlando, Florida. It is one of the most popular sessions I’ve facilitated at conferences this year. So here’s some information about the session…oh, and don’t miss the two-minute video of participant testimonials at the end of this post!
A facilitator trained in running The Solution Room.
Enough round tables seating 6-8 people for every participant to have a seat.
Flip chart paper that completely covers the tables, a plenty of colored markers at each table
Sufficient clear space in the room to hold a one-dimensional human spectrogram for all participants
The Solution Room is a powerful conference session, which not only engages and connects attendees, but also provides peer-supported advice on their most pressing problems. It typically lasts between 90-120 minutes, and can handle hundreds of participants. A session of 20 or more people starts with a short introduction followed by a human spectrogram that demonstrates the amount of experience available in the room. Participants are then given some time to think of a challenge for which they would like to receive peer advice. A second human spectrogram then maps participants’ comfort level.
Next, the facilitator divides participants into small groups of 6-8 people. Each group shares a round table covered with flip chart paper and plenty of colored markers. The group members individually mindmap their problem on the paper in front of them. Each participant then gets a fixed time to explain their challenge to their table peers and receive advice and support.
Finally there’s a public group evaluation. Two human spectrograms map the shift in comfort level of all the participants and the likelihood that participants will try to change what they’ve just shared.
A two-minute video of testimonials from my Solution Room session at the 2011 Meeting Professionals International World Education Conference in Orlando, Florida
Technique: Setting ground rules ‡* Brief description: Setting ground rules before other activities commence clarifies and unifies participants’ expectations. When to use: Start of session, workshop, or conference. Helpful for: Setting the stage for collaboration and participation, by giving people permission and support for sharing with and learning from each other. Increases participants’ safety and intimacy. Resources needed: Paper or online list of ground rules.
Technique: Human spectrogram Brief description: People stand along a line (one dimension) or in a room space (two dimensions) to answer session questions (factual or opinions). When to use: Usually at the start of a session. Also use as an icebreaker before or during the three questions. Helpful for: Allowing participants and the group to discover commonalities. Also use to pick homogeneous or heterogeneous groups/teams. Also use to hear a spectrum of comments on an issue and then view any resulting shifts in opinion. Gets people out of their chairs! Resources needed: A clear corridor space between walls (one-dimension), or a clear room (two dimensions).
Technique: The three questions * Brief description: Three questions answered in turn by every participant to the entire group within a given time limit, typically 1½ – 3 minutes. – How did I get here? – What do I want to have happen? – What experience do I have that others may find useful? When to use: Normally, right after ground rules have been set. Helpful for: Learning about each participant, exposing topics and questions of interest to the group, uncovering formerly unknown useful expertise for the group to share. Resources needed: Question cards and pens, circle of chairs. Do not replace cards with the three questions posted on a wall or screen.
Technique: Fishbowl * Brief description: An effective technique for focused discussion. Works by limiting and making clear who can speak at any moment. When to use: During any conference content or topic oriented session. Also use for conference closing discussion. Helpful for: Keeping group discussions focused. A plus is that contributors need to move to and from discussion chairs, maintaining alertness and engagement. Resources needed: Chairs, either set in two concentric circles or in a U-shape with discussant chairs at the mouth.
Technique: Personal introspective * Brief description: A session where attendees privately reflect on their answers to five questions. All attendees then have an opportunity but not an obligation to share their answers with the group. When to use: Towards the end of the event, usually just before the final group session for a short event. At multi-day events, sometimes held as the first session on the last day. Helpful for: Reinforcing learning and concretizing changes participants may wish to make in their lives as a consequence of their experiences during the event. Resources needed: Chairs, either set in small circles or one large circle, personal introspective question cards and pens.
Technique: Affinity grouping †* Brief description: A technique to discover and share ideas that arise during the conference and group them into categories, so they can be organized and then discussed. When to use: Can be used at any session to elicit and gain group responses to ideas. Also useful as a closing process if action outcomes are desired. Helpful for: Future planning, and uncovering group or sub-group energy around topics and actions. Can be used to guide decision-making by the group. Resources needed: Cards and/or large sticky notes, pens, pins or tape if cards used, walls for posting.
Technique: Plus/delta * Brief description: A simple review tool for participants to quickly identify what went well and potential improvements. When to use: Normally during a closing session. Helpful for: Quickly uncovering, with a minimum of judgment, positive comments on and possible improvements to a conference or other experience. Resources needed: Flipcharts and, optionally, ropes or straps.