Modified World Café format at a conference

I designed this technique, based on traditional World Cafe, for a conference session format called a cracker-barrel, when the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) added this format to their 2012 slate: we were in a large room with round tables, each table for a different cracker-barrel that lasted 15 minutes. There were chairs for 11 people. At the 15-minute mark, a bell rang and you moved to another cracker-barrel and you did this three times.

The cracker-barrel that my colleague and I led had 3 different groups of people arrive. We had the questions or sub-topics printed on small “mini-flipchart” paper, with about 8 different flips ready. We explained the format, then distributed all of the flips around the table, encouraging people to pick one, chat to someone sitting next to them, write down what they said, then take another flip and do the same. We went back and forth between this style and whole table discussion (all very briefly given our 15-minute time-frame!). This could work well in a 1-hour roundtable conference format too. It is important to encourage people to discuss, not just take each flip and start silently writing.

When the next group came to the table, we asked them to take a look at some of the things that were contributed by the first group, then continue (following the same rules as with traditional World Café, except there is no one who stayed to summarize). Ditto for the third group who came to the table, though this time, because now there was even more already noted on the flipcharts, we asked them to pick one item, see if they agreed, add something else, and so on. In the whole table debriefing, we asked if they thought anything contributed by others was their own experience, and so on.

Like above, offer to type up everything that was contributed to share.


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