Open Space Discussions: Learn more about MCN 2023’s “Network” track

by Don Youngberg

How many times have you attended a conference and realized some of the most insightful and mind-blowing moments were during coffee breaks, at lunch, in the hotel lounge, or even (gasp) in the lines for the restrooms? It is often that serendipitous moment, that could never be planned, when you found the exact right person (or people) to speak with about a topic that has been burning in your brain.

These unplanned moments are the inspiration for MCN 2023’s Open Space Discussions (OSD). OSD (based on Open Space Technology) is akin to the “unconference” sessions that pop up from time to time. However, OSD has been around for over 30 years and has proven to be an effective conference- and solution-making format.

What kinds of topics are right for Open Space Discussions?

Anything and everything! Whatever is on your mind. It could be a challenge you are having with a software product. It could be a question you have about work/life balance. It could be musings about the next generation of interactive exhibits. If you wanted to discuss a topic that didn’t make it to the MCN 2023 program, OSD is a great place for that. If you proposed a session that didn’t make it to the MCN 2023 program (and there were so many amazing ones), OSD is for you.

Also, while we will collect many topics during the initial Opening Circle, other topics can be added at any time during the course of the conference. So, if you attend a breakout session or conference session that inspires you to continue the discussion, propose an OSD and it will be added to the conference program. If you feel a breakout session skipped over something important to you, propose another OSD session. If you are presenting a session and feel like your Q&A needs a bit more time, propose an OSD session. If you think of something new, go for it. The possibilities are endless.

How do we keep the conversation going?

At the end of the conference, we will convene an OSD Closing Circle, where people can share their experiences with OSD, talk about “next steps” toward a solution they discovered for a problem, or reflect on an unexpected insight. For many people, OSDs are key parts of their conference experience.

Jennifer Holmes, Assistant Vice President, Strategic Development Services at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, reflected on her OSD experience at a recent  conference,  “Open Space Discussions beautifully elevate things the MCN community says it values: community-building, making new connections, active information-sharing, inclusivity, and addressing needs specific to what’s going on right now. For my team, Open Space Discussions are always a crowd favorite. In fact, many people believe they are the single best thing about the conference.”
Still not quite sure what this is all about? No worries—just come with an open mind and a passion to learn, and you will be in great company. One of the tenets of Open Space Discussions is, “be prepared to be surprised.”