Meaningful meetings: how can meetings be made better? Geoff Mulgan, Nesta, October 13 
From the paper's Introduction:
- "Many of us spend much of our time in meetings and at conferences. But too often these feel like a waste of time, or fail to make the most of the knowledge and experience of the people present.
- Meetings have changed - with much more use of online tools, and a growing range of different meeting formats. But our sense is that meetings could be much better run and achieve better results.
- This paper tries to help. It summarises some of what's known about how meetings work well or badly; makes recommendations about how to make meetings better; and showcases some interesting recent innovations. It forms part of a larger research programme at Nesta on collective intelligence which is investigating how groups and organisations can make the most of their brains, and of the technologies they use.
- We hope the paper will be helpful to anyone designing or running meetings of any kind, and that readers will contribute good examples, ideas and evidence which can be added into future versions."
A summary of the paper's recommendations
- The ends and means of meetings need to be visible - and preparation pays off
- Meetings need active facilitation and orchestration
- The best meetings are often multi-platform, and use visualisations as well as talk and paper
- Good meetings make the most of their participants - and rein in the extroverts, and the most opinionated or powerful
- Good meetings benefit from a conducive physical environment that heightens attention
- Good meetings begin and end with a deliberate division of labour
- Good meetings apply 'Meeting Maths': balancing time, scale, knowledge and breadth
- Good meetings are cumulative - part of a longer process
- Some of the best meetings don't happen (or why you shouldn't hold unnecessary meetings)
BarCamp is an international network of user-generated conferences primarily focused around technology and the web. They are open, participatory workshop-events, the content of which is provided by participants. The first BarCamps focused on early-stage web applications, and were related to open source technologies, social software, and open data formats.
The format has also been used for a variety of other topics, including public transit, health care, education, and political organizing. W
Open Space Technology (OST) is an approach which includes a way for hosting meetings, conferences, symposiums, and community summit events, focused on a specific and important purpose or task — but beginning without any formal agenda, beyond the overall purpose or theme.
"Open Space is the only process that focuses on expanding time and space for the force of self-organisation to do its thing. Although one can't predict specific outcomes, its always highly productive for whatever issue people want to attend to. Some of the inspiring side effects that are regularly noted are laughter, hard work which feels like play, surprising results and fascinating new questions." W
An unconference, also called OpenSpace conference is a participant-driven meeting. The term "unconference" has been applied, or self-applied, to a wide range of gatherings that try to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as fees, sponsored presentations, and top-down organization. For example, in 2006, CNNMoney applied the term to diverse events including Foo Camp, BarCamp, Bloggercon, Mashup Camp, and Podcamp City Online. W
The "World Café" is a structured conversational process intended to facilitate open and intimate discussion, and link ideas within a larger group to access the "collective intelligence" or collective wisdom in the room. Participants move between a series of tables where they continue the discussion in response to a set of questions, which are predetermined and focused on the specific goals of each World Café. A café ambience is created in order to facilitate conversation and represent a third place. In some versions a "talking stick" may be used to make sure that all participants get a chance to speak. As well as speaking and listening, individuals are encouraged to write or doodle on a paper tablecloth so that when people change tables they can see what previous members have expressed in their own words and images. The first World Café event was organized in 1995 and since then the number of people who have participated in events is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. W