Paper Exchange and Discussions

Dee Hennessey reflects on the way in which she developed and facilitated a unique and interactive way for the authors to present their conference papers

My conference session was designed to focus on the academic papers that had been submitted, generate the drivers of the afternoon discussions, create opportunities for cross-cut interactions, make everyone feel involved and energized, and have some knowledge exchange fun.

The papers were profiled with each author sharing their perspectives with an almost entirely self-selecting-sixth of the conference participants. Using a reflection and focusing tool with three iterative sections, participants (including the authors) were encouraged to capture their emerging experience. This capture took place at strategic points throughout the process – at every interchange between author or conversation – and with facilitator prompts, invited responses to what was surfacing for them, what the session was bringing into focus for them, and finally, on side-2 of the board, as the accumulation of that reflection, what each participant felt the next stage of the conference should focus upon.

With a participant group of more than eighty (and less time than would have been ideal) it was then a real challenge to distribute, review and cluster the final-stage focus cards across the floor, to arrive at a consensus of the twelve topic areas that would generate the afternoon’s discussions.

The session was an important segue from one phase of the conference to the next, and as such, it aimed at a different tone and pace to the sessions that preceded and followed it. Just as well.