How to Plan and Run a Powerful World Café
Let's admit it: making people interact or discuss important subjects during your event can be challenging. Apart from an engaging environment and a stimulating narrative, you also have to provide the interaction parameters to 'break the ice' and stimulate people to work together. You can save yourself the headache by choosing the right format.
If your intention is to make your attendees talk to each other and find solutions to important problems - such as the environment, education, politics, technology, or even economic situations - the World Café dynamic is your best option!
According to Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, "The World Café reintroduces us to a world we have forgotten. This is a world where people naturally congregate because we want to be together. A world where we enjoy the age-old process of good conversation, where we're not afraid to talk about things that matter most to us."
Integrate the World Café method into your event or plan a stand-alone World Café session and encourage people to share their knowledge, thoughts, and ideas about things that matter the most.
According to the World Café Method official portal, "World Café can be modified to meet a wide variety of needs. Specifics of context, numbers, purpose, location, and other circumstances are factored into each event’s unique invitation, design, and question choice."
When planning a World Café session, set up five (or less) round (café-style) tables. Assure that each table has a paper tablecloth or a notepad for people to write down their ideas. Schedule at least three rounds of conversation.
Before the first round begins, present a main issue or problem for the participants to ponder. Preface the round with a question relating to that issue for participants to discuss and answer. After completing the first round, ask one person to remain seated at the table (the 'table host' or the 'information keeper') and have everyone else at the table get up and move to different tables.
After all three rounds are completed, have everyone return to their original table and synthesize all the ideas they gathered while 'traveling' to other tables. After a few minutes, ask each table to share their main findings or solutions.
To design and run a powerful World Café dynamic, you have to take into account the following tips:
Tip 1. Find a good moderator who understands how this dynamic works
The host of the event is the one who has the absolute control over the dynamic. Thus, choose him or her wisely. Select someone with a thorough understanding of the World Café dynamic. Also, he or she has to be well-versed on the topic at hand to be able to answer any content questions attendees may have.
Tip 2. Provide a friendly environment
As mentioned by the World Café Method official portal, it is essential to "create a 'special' environment, similar to a café setting (i.e., small, round tables covered with a checkered or white linen tablecloth, butcher block paper, colored pens, a vase of flowers, and optional 'talking stick' item)." This atmosphere can generate a relaxed mindset and encourage people to freely express their thoughts and ideas in a comfortable setting.
Tip 3. Set up a strict schedule and a way of breaking the rounds
Avoid making the rounds too long. Each round should last no longer than 20 minutes. Subsequently, break each session with a specific sound. It can be the moderator announcing a table change or another sound effect.
Tip 4. Choose good background music
The ambient music will help your guests relax and unleash their creative potential. Just make sure to keep the sound low so it won't drown out the participants or be too distracting.
Tip 5. Design a meaningful wrap-up session
As mentioned in the official platform of the World Café method, after completing all the rounds, "individuals are invited to share insights or other results from their conversations with the rest of the large group." A good wrap-up session should help your attendees combine their ideas and agree upon the main resolutions or answers regarding the discussed issue(s).
World Café sessions are simple, yet they enable people to find surprising solutions to different problems. It's a powerful intellectual exercise, but also a very efficient method (especially for corporations or institutions) to improve certain issues. Explore the potential of your attendees and encourage them to generate new ideas or solutions while interacting, discussing, and working together in a pleasant 'café-style' environment.