Do not worry if you have no idea what Open Space means; neither did I the first time I attended one. When I was told there would be no agenda, I was confused: We were to spend about 8 hours with 15 people, and there was no agenda at all?

It all worked out in the end, and the glory of Open Space quickly became apparent to me.

Open Space is a self-organizing conference format that centers around you and what you want to discuss. The session schedule is a table, with rows representing time slots and columns representing predetermined positions in the venue where group discussions can occur.

At the heart of Open Space are the discussions, but to facilitate these and make them as great as possible, we need to gather everyone and collectively decide what to talk about. We do this at the Marketplace, where we center around a board and write topics on sticky notes. A facilitator helps with note placement and arrangement; typically, you place your note on the next available slot and give a brief explanation to the group. If all slots fill up, we add notes to a “parking space” and might vote on topics to get an idea of how to prioritize them.

Marketplace takes place before and between each slot. In the first one, we make sure everyone knows what we’re doing and try to brainstorm as many topics as possible. By experience, we fill most slots during the first Marketplace. Still, you are always free to add new topics to the board anytime – just make sure everyone knows about your new topic during the next Marketplace!

Once the topics of a time slot are decided, the groups self-assemble and move to each position to discuss their topic. We then discuss freely for the allotted time before regathering at the Marketplace.

Apart from the code of conduct, Open Space at myConf only has two rules:

  1. Whatever conversation occurs is the one that was supposed to, regardless of the original topic.
  2. If you find yourself in a discussion where you are neither learning nor contributing, you are always free to move to another group (also known as the law of two feet).

Last year at myConf in Karlskrona, we had half-day sessions in the morning before the conference started and in the afternoon after it ended. While we had a lovely afternoon last time, it was not much of an Open Space session – we mostly sat down, talked, and ate ice cream. Of course, you are still welcome to find a nice place after the conference and enjoy an ice cream with any new friends!

/Raniz, Facilitator of Open Space at myConf 2024 and Consultant at factor10