Picture this. An important conference/meeting. An endless bullet point presentation of obvious things you already know. Boring minutes waisted, but you have to stay there. Maybe your boss forced you to, or maybe you’re there because you are waiting for the big name, which has been wisely scheduled at the end of the day. Or simply you thought that maybe that subject might have been of interest, but after all it turned to be a boring experience.
On the other hand, think about coffee breaks and the great networking you’ve been able to do. Think about when you were able to discuss cool subjects with a person that shared your same interests.
Harrison Owen should be acclaimed as the Linus Torvalds of events. He insists in his great book (a must read for every event manager out there) that he was amazed to see how the most popular part of his (and our) events were coffee breaks, the true moment when people were left to themselves and thus able to interact.
He started Open Space Technology (OST). OST is what turns a boring conference in an endless coffee break which actually produces something.
I think that the greatest innovation of OST is that it has only one law. The Law of the Two Feet:
Briefly stated, this law says that every individual has two feet, and must be prepared to use them. Responsibility for a successful outcome in any Open Space Event resides with exactly one person — each participant. Individuals can make a difference and must make a difference. If that is not true in a given situation, they, and they alone, must take responsibility to use their two feet, and move to a new place where they can make a difference. This departure need not be made in anger or hostility, but only after honoring the people involved and the space they occupy. By word or gesture, indicate that you have nothing further to contribute, wish them well, and go and do something useful.
– Harrison Owen from https://www.openspaceworld.com/users_guide.htm
Can you think of developments of such statement.
The great thing about this law is that it gives boundaries, should you want to apply the Open Source approach to events. When you are very open to share there will always be someone who will try to take advantage of the situation. The Law of the Two Feet tells you that you are free, should you not like what you are listening to, to walk away. That is a right and a duty. If you feel you are not collaborating, you might want to go somewhere else where your contribution is needed.
Regular conference attendees might feel lost because they do not know what collaboration is in a meeting context.
OST aims to produce something and no session is previously scheduled. Several people gather and decide what to discuss and then produce a report or a project. The Law of the two Feet is what keeps everything together.
I invite everyone of you reading this post to start introducing these concepts in small doses in your next event. I am convinced that allowing participants to collaborate and to use their feet will raise satisfaction of participants AND sponsors to the roof (and now is talking the marketer in me).
If you want to discuss how to introduce OST to your next event, comment on this post or simply email me I’ll do my best to help you out.