Whenever I attend conferences outside my country, I pay close attention to new ideas and tools that can better increase the effectiveness of meetings. I must say that rarely have I seen more innovation in communication than at the 2007 Lausanne Bienniel Leadership Meeting in Budapest. Outstanding! Or, “smashing,” as the Brits would put it! Below are two innovations I took back to France and implemented during our January 2009 Evangelist Forum in Vevey, Switzerland.
The World Café
The concept: As a conversational process, the World Café is an innovative yet simple methodology for hosting conversations about questions that matter. These conversations link and build upon each other as people move between groups, cross-pollinate ideas, and discover new insights into the questions or issues that are most important in their life, work, or community. As a process, the World Café can evoke and make visible the collective intelligence of any group, thus increasing people’s capacity for effective action in pursuit of common aims.
In Budapest: Young leaders from across the globe hosted conversations during three days to help the body of participants to brainstorm about the planning of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization: Cape Town 2010. In each room, tables were set for six, and people moved from one table to another in sessions of twenty minutes each, talking and wrestling with key planning questions. Two hundred people were involved in two hundred conversations as a result.
In Vevey: We used World Café to help us brainstorm on the ministry of the evangelist in the local church. Two questions were asked at each table: (1) What must be done to better recognize the ministry of the evangelist in churches? and (2) What does the evangelist need in order to fulfill his or her ministry? Conversations ran for two hours. Coffee and cakes fueled the energy in the room. Young evangelists from France, Belgium, and Switzerland hosted the conversations, stimulating participants’ input, and synthesizing the thinking into workable solutions.
The result was great participation and interaction. Over 160 people took part in the conversations, and all of them felt their opinions mattered and could make a difference.
Dispatches: Live 60-minute Television Magazine
The concept: As far as I know, this was a first, pioneered by the planners of the Budapest Lausanne gathering.
In Budapest: Nick Page and Dave Adams produced, from scratch, a live 60-minute television news magazine at the end of the event, summarizing many conversations and ideas that ran throughout the week. Nick hosted the show and Dave was the producer/editor. The program featured several segments: headline news, analysis from “professor” Peter Brierley, interviews with Lausanne leaders, etc.
In Vevey: We “copy-pasted” the structure of the Budapest dispatches. Alain Stamp, evangelist and radio-broadcaster for the past twenty years, hosted the show, and I produced it. In sixty minutes, we covered a lot of content: input gathered from the World Café, discussions among experts about the ministry of evangelism and its implication in church planting, interviews with emerging evangelists as well as older leaders, news about next year’s program, etc.
The result was amazing. Everyone agreed that it was a productive yet interactive way to bring together the results of strategic thinking and experiences gathered throughout the conference. It was a phenomenal way to bring the conference to a close, while still pointing us toward the future.
If you want to add some spice to your meetings, why not try World Café or dispatches? They are entertaining, yet effective. They are another way to look at productivity from the world of arts and creativity.