[OSList] OS for 1200+

Lisa Heft - via OSList oslist at lists.openspacetech.org
Sat Oct 1 12:54:37 PDT 2016

Dear Ian - 

My own learnings, using Open Space with groups of 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 and 3,500 people:

The process is the same. The sense of discovery and (surprisingly) intimacy in each conversation circle is the same.
Only the space planning is different, but only slightly.

Imagine the huge room - perhaps it is a convention center or an exhibit hall.

To me, it is a safety and a time issue, the way I set up the room at the start. Too dangerous / difficult / huge to make an actual circle (or concentric rings) for an Opening Circle. So instead, I invite participants to come in and sit anywhere to start, and they are sitting in pre-set circles-of-chairs all across the room. And then everything I do is -implying- a circle, still - because that is what so many of us have learned in our sharing about rooms and set-ups. Always, circle.

Therefore, just like for a small room, I divide the expected number of participants by (an example) 12 (circles of 12 chairs - I make smaller circles for smaller groups but find that more than 12 chairs makes it hard to hear in a group / in a room where everyone is talking at once.)

I see if that number of circles (plus a few more) can fit into this super-large room. With more space in between the discussion circles than (example) a banquet table seating. Because banquet spacing is too close together with everyone talking at once. Nobody would be able to hear.

As sound and focus (microphone) is difficult in a huge room, I ask for a (example) 6x6 foot / 2x2 meter (does not have to be exact) platform just a few steps up, to raise the facilitator a bit higher. I also dress in a bright color (different than my usual black which is for less focus) so I can be seen.

I align the circles in straight rows. This is essential to me: It is both for safety and for navigation. I put up “arena” signs. Like “A - K” and “L - P” and so on - on the wall, at the end of each row. So a participant can navigate easily without a map, just like in a sports stadium.

I put a letter and materials (a stack of participant sign in sheets, a stack of white paper, several pens, a stack of notes-taker form cover sheets) in the center / on the floor of each discussion circle.

For topic signs - as participants cannot reach too high up, even those with full mobility, and as there are a lot of people for participants to see over when they look at the agenda wall - I imagine a) a bit larger is useful for sight, and b) people can only place let us say two topic signs tall on the wall. So while I often use A4/letter-sized paper for topic signs, in this case I use larger (in the US it is 11 inches by 17 inches) paper (I think for you it might be A3?). I also have them printed with “Topic” and “Convenor” - which I do not usually do. However in a super-large event I find it is so useful for documentation purposes to ensure people posting topics are reminded to add their names. Because this is a super-huge crowd, I might have more than the usual six feet (2-or-so meters) of furniture-free space all along the Agenda Wall. Because it is a super-huge crowd, maybe the Agenda Wall covers one, two, three or even four of the walls. 

I still use posters for the guidelines (I find that something like PowerPoint is gone from peoples’ minds the minute the next image happens) - I just place more of them - like a set spread across each wall. 

If you were a butterfly on the ceiling of my room, you would look down and see a platform in the center. And though you would see the rows of separated discussion circles-of-chairs all nicely aligned - with some space in between each circle in those rows - you would also see a larger aisle in sort of a cross (+) formation. I am in the center on my platform. If I hold out one arm towards the Agenda Wall, that is a larger aisle. If I then hold my arm out to show the other three elements of that cross shape, those are the other larger aisles. 

In the three aisles that are -not- pointing toward the Agenda Wall, I place several long rectangle tables together to form a long long sign-making station in each aisle. Because this is not a circle / because it’s a way for people to ‘come to the center’ and make their topic sign. 

So when I have explained the process and then invite people to come up to create their topic signs, participants come to the nearest sign-making table, where there are already blank topic signs and assorted markers spread out across those stations. There is a microphone on a stand at the end of each station. I usually put a post-it on each sign with the time and discussion area on it - pre-affix those, in a super-large event. And mix / sort them out across each station. Helps things flow a bit faster, though I would not do that in a smaller event. 

I invite the first participant ready to then come up to their microphone, name their topic, and go post it on the Agenda Wall. (The Agenda Wall can have a huge arena-style “10:00-11:00” etcetera in each location). I have a few helpers just stand at the wall with a marker in hand in case they see someone has forgotten to put their name on their topic sign.

I continue “in a circle” by indicating the next, next and next convenor to name their topic at the mic. I turn / pivot in a circle, continuing this circle feeling. 

Then we’re off and running (strolling, ambling, wheeling) through the day, as usual. Participants go up to the Agenda Wall (because the signs are bigger and not too many tall, they tend to spread out and also can see better over each other) and then look over at the arena signs and then go where they need to go. 

If I have helpers (very useful) they simply take (example) a quadrant of the room to keep neat and safe across the day. 

Documentation design always (to me) depends on how the relationships and ideas generated will be used post-event, how long is the event, what is the capacity for your team to collect and transcribe post-event - whatever is the full picture of what, why, for whom, within what time - which then informs the “how” of documentation - and therefore its physical collection process (as in “leave your documentation originals in these boxes” or “bring your documentation to the Newsroom to transcribe it” or whatever.  Just as it would be in a small OS event. 

Closing Circle is me / the facilitator welcoming people back (wherever they are sitting, in the discussion areas across the room, that is fine - and inviting a sampling of individuals to walk up to the microphones (which are still on a stand at the end of each sign-making station) to share reflections, and (again) I welcome each next speaker as I pivot / turn in a circle. 

If the event is across the day, one thing the sign-making stations are useful for is that they can turn into box-lunch stations mid-day. If lunch is included I perhaps have the large event space create a few more food stations in the corners of the room along which traffic can flow on both sides of those tables, as well. Whatever the site team recommends for most efficient traffic, food distribution and trash / recycling processes. 

I have had clients who have tried the addition of technology such as posting agendas on various screens and such - but participants still seem to look at a physical agenda wall, look at arena signs, and go where they need to go. 

I have tried making 15 minutes in between each session for movement across the room but I have seen participants simply stay longer or whatever - just like in a smaller event - they stay or go. So I continue to do back-to-back session times.

And just as for any other OS event, all of this depends on what else happens before and after this section. That is if this is not the entire process of an entire event. Because for example it takes hours and hours for a site staff to set up a room. Is this room free for set-up before the OS? Free for hours after if there is another part of the overall event that must have a furniture re-set afterwards? And so on. 

Everything in context. Everything interrelated. 

And I am sure my colleagues have had other and different experiences, which I look forward to hearing about…

Looking forward also to hearing the story of how it all goes for you, Ian,

Lisa Heft
Consultant, Facilitator, Educator
Opening Space


> On Oct 1, 2016, at 5:53 AM, Ian Andersen via OSList <oslist at lists.openspacetech.org> wrote:
> Dear friends,
> I am in talks about hosting an OS for 1200+ pax. I have read Sharon Berlin Chao's report on 1000 under 4 hours. I was wondering if anyone else has tips or caveats to share? I am grateful for any help I can get! :-)
> Warm regards,
> Ian Andersen
> Brussels

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