Preparing For Open Space Events

The preparation for an event is a critical component. Some key planning elements need to be addressed from my experience. Many are important to any good planning for a strategic event, but some have a special importance in planning for Open Space Technology.

      Context, Assumptions & Timing: Where does this event fit in the flow of activity of the organization or community? What events and assumptions shape the overall context for this initiative? What are the “drivers” for having the event?


      Intent/Outcomes Sought: What does the sponsor want to have happen by the end of the event or process?


      Theme/Question: What succinct statement captures the vision for this event? What will be the theme question for Open Space? Finding a powerful positive question gives focus to the conversation and engages the energy participants. It allows for possibilities to be explore.


      Participants: What groups of people/stakeholders need to be present to hold the conversation and achieve the results? How many will be invited?


      Invitation: What needs to be included in the invitation letter to ensure people are truly “invited” and prepared for the kind of meeting we will be having? People are invited into Open Space.


      Information Needed: What information, if any, do participants need to engage in the conversations and achieve the outcomes? How will they get that information before the space is opened?


      Boundaries/Givens: What are those things that will not be on the table for discussion at the event -- that will be taken as given? Are there some “a priori” realities that bound this particular space that need to be called to people’s attention?


      Freedom for Action: Will the groups that emerge at the event be empowered to move forward on the proposals they develop? What will constrain their proposals or actions other than the givens?


      Action Commitments: What commitment is the sponsor willing to make with regard to what happens after the event?


      Convergence: What is the appropriate form of convergence for the individuals or groups to clarify priorities and next steps? Will this happen during the event?


      Follow-up: What ongoing follow-up strategy will be pursued? Individual initiative and Project Support?


      Reporting: What form of reports will be generated during and after the event? How will they be distributed?


      Timing and Agenda: How much time is possible? What will be the best use of the time in the event? What flow of content will work best?


      Logistical Preparation: The following section is an example of the required logistical preparation for an Open Space event from my experience.


                 Meeting Spaces:

    Main Room:

  The main room works best if it is approximately square (or round) and has a theatre seating capacity double that of the invited group.

  Chairs set in a circle or concentric circles. No tables in center or pillars.

  One clear wall for the “market place”, for posting agenda items and reports. Other walls for putting up signs.

  Hand Held Portable mike for groups of 50 or more.

    Break Out Rooms

  7 break out spaces of varying size for each 100 people

  Set chairs in circles, with markers & flip chart paper if appropriate.

        Signs: large enough to be seen:


  Principles of Open Space

  Law of Two Feet (Motion)

  Maps to the Breakout rooms (or include in handouts)

  Market Place



      The Grid: Start Times And Room Assignments

  The Open Space grid allows participants to choose when and where they will have their discussions

  Suggested start times are to be determined by facilitator in consultation with sponsors.

  A 3x5 post-it note will be put on each grid location, with the start time and room number written on each (Clear 2x4 Avery type labels/hand)

  All the post-its for one time in the same colour.













Room A


Room B


Room C






Room A


Room B



























                 Computer Room And Report

    Computer Room (100 Person Event)

  7 Computers & 1 dedicated fast printer.

  Common or compatible software for report writing.

    Report Form

  Basic Report Form prepared in advance, with hard copies available.

  If large group, use initiator's responsibility sheet

  Report Form put as document or template on computers and/or disks

    Report Preparation

  All reports will be posted as soon as they are printed

  A document (book) that includes all reports will be available 3-12 hours after the closing of Open Space, depending on copying facilities.

  For groups over 100, a support staff person (s), with computer skills, can assist the computer room operation and reporting process.

  It is possible to send reports to a LAN, WAN or the Internet.

                 Basic Supplies (100 People)

  11 x 17 paper for posting topics (50) , Masking Tape (2 rolls), Markers (30), Flip-Charts (2 for main room, one in each break out space)

  Hard copies of Report Form and Cover (40), Two 3.5 inch floppy disks for each computer, 200 sheets of 81/2 x 11 paper


  Best when served buffet style during Open Space.

  Coffee Breaks are continuous.

                    Converging: Priorities for Energy & Follow-Up

  Converging Process determined in design.

  Full 1/2 day converging for 100 requires meeting and breakout rooms, 5 computers, voting software, Computer projector and flip chart paper.

  Follow-up meeting with facilitator to maximize learning and outcomes.