What I learnt from running pitching at #OneTeamGovGlobal

Today I helped run an open space (A.K.A. unconference) event for around 500 people. This is double the 250 maximum I’ve run before.

Normally at open space events, people queue up and pitch the thing they want to discuss to the whole audience. But I and fellow One Team Gov event organisers were worried this would be too complicated with 500 people.

So with the help of David Heath we came up with an alternative; a combination of Impromptu Networking and 25/10 Crowd Sourcing. Check out the Liberating Structures website for full details of each.

Basically it goes something like this:

  1. get strangers to pair up and talk about why they’re at the event today
  2. pair up with someone new and repeat
  3. repeat once more
  4. get everyone to write down what they want to discuss on a card
  5. shuffle the cards around the room so everyone is holding a new card
  6. pair up and discuss each card
  7. turn the cards over and score each from 1 (bad) to 5 (good)
  8. repeat steps 5 to 7 until each card has a total of 5 scores
  9. add the scores up to give a total from 5 (min) to 25 (max)
  10. Collect all the high scoring cards (25 to 20) and create a session grid

Here’s what the finalised grid looked like at #OneTeamGovGlobal:

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#OneTeamGovGlobal session grid, via @Mildredpierce66

There were some problems. At least 3 different people came up to me whilst I was running this because they didn’t fully understand.

After the event I looked at all the cards. It was obvious that some people had got confused. Here are some examples of incorrectly completed cards:

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Cards that weren’t completed correctly

I realised later why this was; I didn't show an example card.

When I’d been practising this technique around the country at #CivilServiceLive, I’d always held up an extra card to show what we were aiming for. Something like this:

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An example 25/10 crowd sourcing card

This example’s good because:

  • it’s very, very unlikely to be a pitch someone was considering
  • it shows exactly what a good card looks like

So my learning is this; show the thing.

Rather than rely on trying to explain the thing, show it. A few months later I ran this exercise again at #DeliverCon18. This time showing a video whilst I was explaining it:

When I looked at the cards afterwards, there were no mistakes. Every single card was perfectly formed :-)

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