First Tuesday Forums are better than many of the other conferences I've visited. One obvious reason why the attendees don't fall asleep is that the quality of content and speakers is high. Another reason is the format of the Forum.
Participants don't just sit and listen but actively participate in the Forum. This is not an easy thing to do right. In order to provide a framework that both guides the participants and allows enough input from all participants the Forum was set up as follows:
1. A strong facilitator explained the structure and rules of the event.
2. Keynote speeches set the tone.
3. Discussions in small groups about one question.
4. Discussion between the keynote speakers with (live) feedback from the participants.
5. More discussions in small groups.
6. The thought leader of each discussion group presented the outcome.
7. Wrap-up and promise that everything will be captured, consolidated and distributed.
Ad. 1. The event should be loose enough to bring out good feedback from the participants but strict enough to avoid chaos. A strong facilitator gives the participants confidence in the process so they can focus on the content.
Ad. 2. There were two keynote speeches that served as thought starters.
Ad. 3. Every group of 7 participants and 1 thought leader discussed the same question. The question was a question that was sufficiently open to allow a healthy discussion but closed enough to avoid wandering off-topic too much.
Ad. 4. The keynote speakers came on stage for a 'grill' session: a moderator asked tough questions. 'Live' feedback from the participants was included. Feedback from the room came through a chat application running on laptops placed on each table. The moderator picked (filtered) some of the feedback and gave it to the speakers.
I think the role of the moderator was good. It kept things flowing well. Giving the speakers the raw comment feed would not have worked.
As a participant we could see all feedback from all other participants.
Ad. 5. Discussion with a different group because we were shuffled around.
Ad. 6. -
Ad. 7. Looking forward to receive the paper that will be written about this Forum.
Ad. 8. Good.
- The participants were all placed around tables in the same hall. It was good that everything took place in the same room so things stayed focussed. One disadvantage: the team discussions were very hard to conduct because the noise level was so high that even people at the same table were hard to hear.
- Halfway through the program everybody was randomly moved to another table to encourage networking with different people.