How to run a break out

FortuneCookieComputer.jpgBreak outs are discussions between a group of people who share an interest.

Schedule and topics

The break out topics schedule will be made available in a Google spreadsheet. We will use this spreadsheet on the day of the workshop to organise the break out sessions. 

How does it work?

We present a list of the break out topics and everyone votes for the topic that they want to discuss. Based on the vote, we split into groups, and move to one of the break out rooms for the discussion.

Each break-out session lasts an hour. That's not enough time to discuss the subject in depth, but we find it's about the right amount of time to determine the main points.

What to do

In the first five minutes, you should choose a Chair and a Scribe. The Chair makes sure that everyone's voice is heard, and keeps everyone on topic. The Scribe notes down the pertinent points from the discussion.

A good way to start is to ask people what they want from the discussion. Are people looking to solve a problem, wanting to promote a solution, or do they simply want to know more about the topic? If you can get a handle on what people want from the discussion, it's much easier to keep everyone on topic.

Focus on what can be changed! It's easy with some topics to focus on a discussion of the problems and overlook the process of finding a solution.

In the last ten minutes, you should decide who will report back the conclusions of the group (typically, the Chair or the Scribe but it can be anyone), and the scribe should begin to distil the discussion and answer the questions in the reporting back template, namely:

Add the title of the discussion to the subject line of the email.

Name of Chair:

Name of Scribe:

What are the five most important things learnt during this discussion:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

What are the problems, and are there solutions?

What further work could be done, and who should do it?

Are there any useful resources that people should know about?

Email the notes

Notes about the break-out discussion will be recorded by the Scribe in an email. To make it easy to find the notes, the email's subject line should be the same as the name of the break-out topic. At the end of the session the Scribe should send the notes to the mailing list.

Reporting back

The reporting back session allows each of the break-out groups to report on their discussions. Anyone from the break out group can report back, but it's often easiest if either the Chair or Scribe presents. Each reporting back presentation should last about eight minutes: four minutes of presentation and four minutes of questions.

Rather than using Powerpoint, the emailed notes from the break-out group will be projected on a screen and used during the reporting back session.

The final product

It's important that the conclusions from the workshop are made available to people who could not attend the workshop, so we will make all notes available on the Software Sustainability Institute's website.