Open Space Flexibility

Robert Chaffe Robert.Chaffe at
Tue Jul 27 16:32:45 PDT 1999

Thank you for sharing your response.  From the Virtual Forum I ran in March
this year I offer the following comments:

Although there are many people using the internet the skills required to
use it for conversations are limited especially with those over 30 years of

Keeping the space open is critical.  The virtual forum is a place where
people can become aware of each other and begin to grow their ideas that
they will bring to the face to face event.

The virtual forum is like a new community that is forming, the cocktail
party that helps us find people and to test ideas and opinions.

The pre conference virtual space is an area where enthusiasm can grow and
start inspiring people to be truly present at the face to face event.

When the people arrive at the face to face event they have had an
opportunity to get past the small talk and get down to some serious

Be prepared to be surprised.  I was at the relatively low level of
participation on the virtual forum but a very dynamic conversation
developed on another "list" as a result of the Virtual Forum.  Those who
had visited the Virtual Space seemed to be better prepared for the face to
face event.

We ran the Virtual forum after the event to allow conversations to
continue.  The effectiveness of this is directly related to the convergence
at the end of the face to face time.  Birgitt has some great ideas about
convergence and I suggest that follow this up with her.

The electronic connection is just another level of community and
conversation.  We need to use it to find out how it best works for each
group or business we work with.  We must be aware of the networks that are
used within the groups we work with and how people use these networks.  As
with any other form of communication the three rules are preparation,
preparation and preparation.  Just as the electronic connection can be a
very positive force it also  is vulnerable to Space Invaders and
potentially destructive forces.  In my preparation I must decide how I am
going to deal with these forces, especially if  "all contributions are

Finally it is very hard to read the body language on the internet therefore
to facilitate such an event does require a higher level of facilitation
skills.  My advice is to have more than one person involved in managing the
space.  Remember if the electronic space is open anyone can join the
conversation at any time.  In my case I chose to open the forum to anyone
(no prior registration or subscriptions required) and it worked . We only
had one problem when someone attacked our server, and it was fixed within a
few hours.  The site is still there and you can see the product for
yourself at "" under the National PMP Forum section.

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