Open Space

The beating heart of the conference, where YOU create the content!

My 1st open space experience, brilliant format, very insightful discussions!
Value depends on yourself. I met useful a lot of new contacts.

Participant experiences from a MyData Open Space.

What is ‘Open Space’?

Open Space is where the magic happens! It is about harnessing the power of the attendees, people with various expertise, diverse interests & skills and creates space for peer-to-peer learning, collaboration and creativity.

During the  Open Space, participants, with the help of a facilitator create their own agenda of parallel working sessions around a central theme of strategic importance. 

And yes, it’s possible to do it in the Virtual Venue! Read further to find out how. 

Why Open Space?

Open Space creates the room for the discussions on the topics not included in the conference programme or those that the participants would like to discuss further and/or deeper. Open Space is a place for working on the topic that has been nurturing you for months or something that came to your mind only recently. 

Open Space is an opportunity for ANYONE to set a topic, gather a group, and work on it!

How will Open Space work?

Open Space is simple. Even in the virtual environment. 

  1. It starts with the Agenda Setting – a plenary session where everyone has the opportunity to name the topic they want to discuss, the question they would like answers to, idea they want to organize around. 
  2. After the agenda is set, everyone goes to the so-called Agenda Wall and decide which discussion they want to join.
  3. There are several discussions happening at the same time and everyone can choose the one they want to join. 
  4. People can switch the sessions.
  5. The input is collected and presented at the concluding plenary.


Open Space has several core principles that make it work:

  • Whoever comes are the right people. This means that everyone is welcome to join any session and participate in the discussion. 
  • Whenever it starts, is the right time. The session might be delayed because of some informal or off-topic discussions. That’s OK. 
  • When it’s over, it’s over. If the discussion is over, there is no need to force it to end “on time”. If there is nothing to talk about further, the session ends and the participants can join the other session. 
  • Whatever happens, is the only thing that could have. This means that the session can take an unexpected turn and develop into something different than you expected. That’s also OK. 
  • The law of motion and responsibility. If you are not learning or contributing, you can leave the session and join the other one. 


The Virtual Venue of MyData Online 2020 allows participants to switch the meeting rooms smoothly. You will also know what topic is discussed in which room and who is participating. 


Learn more about the Open Space and how to prepare for it from

You do not need to do preparation in order to convene a session. If you get an idea on the day of the event, call a session during the Agenda Setting. 

There is no ‘right way’ to lead a session. Choose a format for your session will help you achieve your vision.

Following are a few ideas about different session types to get you thinking about possibilities.

Types of sessions…
  • The longer formal presentation – This is tricky, because it’s difficult to make a formal presentation interactive. But if you have a big, well-developed idea you can pull it off.
  • A short presentation to get things started – 5-15 minutes of prepared material/comments by the session leader followed by an interactive discussion
  • Group discussion- Someone identifies a topic they are interested in, others come to join the conversation and an interesting discussion happens
  • My Big (or Little) Question – You have a question you want to know the answer to, and you think others in the group could help you answer it. This format could also just be the seed of a conversation.
  • Show and tell – You have a cool project, a demo, or just something to show and let people play with that is the springboard for all the conversation in the session. Alternatively, you can invite others to bring their own items to show and tell (perhaps with a theme), and everyone takes a turn sharing.
  • Learn how to do X – If you’re inclined to teach, this can be simple and effective. Bring the equipment that you need, and have a plan that will let you teach five, ten, or 15 people how to do something all at the same time.

Take the notes of different elements of your session so you can share them with others. 

Advice about leading a session…
  • If you convene a session, it is your responsibility to “hold the space” for your session. You hold the space by leading a discussion, by posting a “first question,” or by sharing information about your program. Be the shepherd – stay visible, be as involved as necessary, be a beacon of sanity that guides the group.
  • Ask for help holding the space if you need it. You might, for example, put a session on the board and know that you are so passionate about the topic that it would be better if someone else, someone more objective, facilitates the discussion. Choose someone from your team, or another participant who is interested in the topic.
  • Don’t assume people in the room know more, or less, than you do. You never know who is going to be interested in your session. You might want to start by asking people to hold up their hands if they’ve been involved with the topic for more than five years, for one to five years, or for one year or less.
  • Don’t be upset if only two people show up to your session. Those two people are the ones who share your interest.
  • Don’t feel that you have to “fill” up an hour of time. If what you have to say only takes 15 min and the group has finished interacting–then the session can end. At the start of the conference, we will discuss guidelines for how this can happen.
  • Don’t feel pressure to have everything take “only” an hour. If you start with a short presentation, and then a group conversation gets going, and your discussion needs to continue past an hour – find a way to make this happen. You might be able to keep talking for awhile in the room you are in, or move to another part of the conference area, or post “Part 2” on the agenda  At the start of the conference, we will discuss guidelines for how this can happen.
  • Be Brave! Others are interested in making your session work!
  • Do think about the ideas that you want to cover in your session, and how you want to cover them. But don’t feel as though you need to prepare a great deal. (If you’re over-prepared, your session might lose energy.)
  • Experiment with the kind of sessions you lead. There is no such thing as “failure” at an unconference.