We talked with the facilitator of the VizConf Open Spaces sessions, Michelle Walker, about what people can expect from the day.
Michelle, please share a few words about yourself.
I’ve been facilitating for 20 years, and one of the great things about doing the facilitation role is helping participants and groups make connections, share their knowledge and establish collaborations. And what's possible is so much greater than the sum of the individuals!
Through my company, Curious Minds Co. I have been specialising in visual facilitation, graphic recording, animated explainer videos, and providing training in these specialty areas.
So I’ve experienced firsthand the power of working visually, and have been an active member of the International Forum for Visual Practitioners—our global professional community—since 2011.
What is the Open Space Technology method?
Open Space Technology (OST) is an approach to conferences and gatherings where the people attending set the agenda. So it’s very liberating (and maybe a little daunting for some). The power of this format is that it leverages the energy in the room and what people who are present have a passion to discuss.
At the start of the day, as facilitator, I will call for people from the audience to come up to the front and name a topic that they want to host. It might be something they know something about and want to share, or maybe they have a question and want to get the wisdom and input from the group. You don't have to know all the answers to be a host!
Whatever the topic, you will announce it to the group and we will put it on the agenda for the day. In this way, we build the marketplace for the audience. When all the sessions have been declared, (and we can leave space for sessions that emerge throughout the day), the audience will then peruse the marketplace of sessions and decide which ones they wish to attend.
I remember the first 3-day event that I attended about 14 yrs ago in Hobart that was entirely Open Space, and it was exhilarating as a participant. All of the newness—actively contributing to ideas, relationships, and connections—really had an impact.
I ran my first large-scale (120+ people, 5 days) Open Space conference about 10 years ago, and the feedback from participants was so positive. Most had never experienced Open Space before, and they found it really gave them room to do the creative thinking and have the formative conversations that they needed to have in their community. After that, I was completely hooked!
Why is Open Space a good fit for this conference?
I love Open Space Technology for conferences and am so excited to be using it for VizConf in October. It really is so well suited for exploring creative topics like visual thinking.
One of the great things about what we have planned for the day is the combination of outstanding keynotes, from Sunni Brown and Jessamy Gee, with the Open Space sessions.
Why should people come to VizConf?
Come because you want to learn. Come because listening to Sunni Brown and Jessamy Gee will change your practice and the way you see your work. Come because you’ve got something to contribute—you want to share what you’ve learnt for the benefit of others. Come because you want to be a sponge and just soak up the people, ideas and juju of this tribe. Come because you want to be part of an emerging and growing field in this country.
Just come, and you’ll be delighted and surprised by what unfolds.