The two main reasons people go to conferences and events are to meet new people with common interests and to learn from fresh perspectives. Meeting Magic was recently invited to open the Association of Business Psychologists (ABP) conference with a World Café session.
Opening a conference with a World Café session plays beautifully to both of the reasons people go to conferences. World Cafe provides a framework for networking that enables people to connect in a meaningful discussion AND a way of understanding many of the different views that will be represented in the conference. By participating in this session you quickly get a sense of all you can learn in the conference from the wisdom of the crowd, as well as from the keynote speakers. It also avoids that dreadful type of networking event, where you have to just ‘mingle’ – I have a personal loathing of this type of networking!
The World Café movement started in the USA. At the start of the session we share the story of its conception. It is a group process that allows for a depth of dialogue, sharing a breadth of perspective, in a large group. It is based on a set of design principles, which allows the group to work in an organic way moving through different small-group conversations. It is all done in an organised and facilitated manner with questions formatted ahead of time guiding conversations. The movement of people in this format, allows the group to synthesise their views allowing new meaning around the conference topic to be created. It allows for both thoughtfulness and energetic pace, all in one session! It is a perfect way to focus conference participants on key topics and to network with peers.
We use a number of visual techniques in World Cafe sessions, also known as graphic facilitation. This way of visual working has enormous benefits with groups:
It brings clarity of purpose to conversations, which in turn brings focus
It supports keynote speakers and small session leaders by introducing their topics for reflection
It engages and stimulates thinking more than ‘minlging’ or casual networking
It helps motivate actions thinking and commitments to engage the conference more deeply
It is also a creative and fun way of meeting and working creatively with people
To find out more about the visual techniques we use, take a look at www.scribingmagic.co.uk.
You can only really understand how World Café works by experiencing it, so we aim to give you a rich learning experience in these introductory sessions. At the end of the session we hope you will have met new people, formed some new ideas and also clarified your questions for the rest of the conference. To close this session we lift the lid on the way we have run the session, to bring insights into how we worked as a group.