Open Space Technology: Sessions, where the sharing happens


Last time we learned about the Opening Circle, this time we are going to focus on what happens for most of the day, the actual open space session itself.

Other Post in this series:

  1. Open Space Technology: Introduction
  2. Open Space Technology: Opening Circle
  3. Open Space Technology: Sessions, where the sharing happens 


The Open Space Session

You may remember from the post about The Opening Circle that someone has to stand up and propose a topic or idea to be discussed in a session and by doing so has agreed to be at the chosen place and time to discuss and share on that topic. This however does not mean that anyone will show up.

Devlin and I placed a topic on the board at devLink 2009 this fall to discuss the usage of the Wii Remote in .NET Applications. We had 2 people show up. This was still a successful session; we discussed with them what we had learned. The 2 people that did show up weren’t even aware that you could use a Wii remote with a .net application. So we shared with them what we knew, and in the discussion we got some great ideas from them about other ways to use it. The success of a session is not determined by numbers but by learning or sharing.

What do you do when people show up?

So, you have your session on the agenda, your time slot is about to start, what do you do? Simple, you wait to see if anyone else joins you, when the time hits you re-iterate what your topic is, ask someone to take notes start the discussion.

There is usually a flip chart available for capturing topics of interest. The group is then in charge of where the conversation goes and how long the discussion last. A session is usually allotted 45 minutes, especially if this is running along side other conference sessions. This will allow people to go to an open space and attend regular sessions. But remember, just because the time is up on an open space discussion doesn’t mean that the discussion should stop.  If your time is up and you have not exhausted the subject, move the discussion to another location and continue.  This will allow the next discussion to get started at the scheduled time instead of having to wait.

What do you do when people don’t show up?

If no one shows up, don’t let the opportunity pass you by.  Think of it this way, you have the complete timeslot to use to explore the subject on your own. As long as you are learning it is a success.  Remember who shows up is the right people or person to show up, in this case you are the right person so go for it.


I know this post is a little short when compared to the others, but but believe me sessions are anything but short on content.  This is where the real magic of the self organized event takes place.  This is where solutions are crafted, discussions are heated, and relationships are forged.  This is what the event is all about, you and what you are passionate about.  I love the organic feel of an open space session, leaving breathing, flowing like a Zen master.

In the next post we will look at the Closing Circle activities.  What do you do when it’s over?  I will also discuss what you can do with all those notes that got taken during the sessions.

Open Space Technology on Wikipedia
Open Space World:

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