Meeting Design Light Space
Last week I looked at two of the three different types of space that you can have in your conference programme: good old fashioned breaks and the less known ‘White Space’. In this post I want to look at the final option for adding that much needed space: so we will look at Meeting Design Light Space.
Why there is a need for Light Space
Most conference programmes are packed with content. Information literally overflows from the stage. Attendees move from one complicated topic to the next. From one complicated idea to the equally confusing opposing belief. All the while the poor attendee’s brain tries to keep up: just picture a dog chasing its tail!
Unfortunately the brain is not a tape recorder so a lot of this information is almost instantly lost; spending no one more than moments in the brain before it’s released back into the wild. But still the complicated information comes. Unless the Meeting Designer has added a bit of white space.
My definition of Meeting Design Light Space
“During Light Space on a conference programme your attendees are doing something that helps them process the information they have already heard: it does not add any more complicated detail or information.”
You can see the practical argument for some space in a conference programme and this is why we have always had breaks in learning: to simply stop your attendees brains exploding. But the reason for adding light space is powerful. But before we look at those reasons let’s look at a few examples of the good use of light space.
1. At the end of each session have five minutes conversation between attendees.
This is a great way to introduce light space. Two things generally happen and no matter which option your attendees go for, you as the Meeting Designer, should be happy.
Option 1. The attendees listen to the instructions and simply “have a chat about the content discussed” If this happens it is likely to lead to some practical and first thought conversations taking place; you know that sort of “Wow, I had no idea so many venues WiFi were crashing” or “Can you believe so many of our colleagues work 10 hours more than they should, do you?”
Option 2. The attendees use the time to introduce themselves or just network or talk about anything! I know you want them all working away on the task set but it is their conference so you have to go with the flow. In terms of supporting their learning this is just as useful for your attendees as option 1.
It is unlikely that attendees are going to get into the real heart of the topic in five to ten minutes, any longer and you will have moved out of the light space and will be back into the primary source learning.
I doubt there’s much controversy here and Meeting Designers would feel pretty comfortable suggesting these options to clients. But what about some slightly more creative light space?
2. Do something creative / abstract / unrelated AS PART OF THE conference programme.
As an example after the three 45min sessions looking at “The impact of new regulation on different types of futures pricing” have a short 20min session looking at recent banks head offices that have been built. Or anything that you think will interest your attendees. Or how about asking the attendees on the table to complete a short group puzzle, or a quiz? Let me explain the picture example above, taken during our Meeting Design Conference WhoStoleMyAudience?. After a few detailed meeting design sessions we asked our attendees to make up a mood board for their next conference. These are some real life examples of light space.
Before we deal with the controversy around these types of sessions I want to make it clear that the quiz wouldn’t be on “futures pricing” or have anything to do with the content learned earlier in the day – unless at a very low level (like the mood board example). Remember light space is not primary learning, they “are doing something that helps them process the information they have already heard”
Tackling the controversy
To some extent when running conferences we all have to be risk averse. We have seen the headlines when conferences “do things they shouldn’t”. You know the type of things I mean but I’ve made these ones up. (I am particularly happy with the second one):
“Doctor’s “busy” building lego houses instead of learning at medical conference”
“Police Officers off beat as conference attendees bang drums”
These headlines normally surface when public sector employees are at a conference. Sometimes it is with a particular industry that the media have a bone to pick. When these types of headlines could surface you can understand that the more creative sessions may not pass the conference committee but this is where we Meeting Designers must stay strong. Placing these types of sessions in the conference programme will make Doctors, Police Officers, Estate Agents better at their job. A well designed conference programme which includes light and or white space adds value.