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Facilitating world cafe


 I have  been asked  by a client to facilitate a very large world cafe gathering at an international conference of  senior people in the performing arts world . Would any members have some suggestions to make this kind of event really successful? Also I understand  having a narrative artist on had to be drawing the  event as it unfolds is very powerful and  I wondered if anyone  knew someone who did this or used  someone with this skill?

Many thanks  if you can help.


9 Responses

  1. World cafe


    I’d recommend Vanessa Randle from if you want an artist who has worked in this field. For other ideas and resources  on world cafe I always go to David Gurteen’s fabulous site –

    Have you facilitated World Cafe events before? If not, I’d suggest you pair up with an old hand – such as David – as success rests in the nuances and that which on the surface looks easy. This is one area where style is as important as substance in terms of how it is run.

    Best of luck


  2. What is world cafe


    World cafe, or Knowledge Cafe, is in essence a very simple technique involving people having lightly structured conversations at small tables, in a cafe-like fashion. The sophistication comes in the precise structuring, the facilitation and the generation of worthwhile outputs.

    One of the better, short descriptions can be found at: which in turn has a link to a useful 6 page guide at:

    Whether you work in the knowledge management field, use large group interventions, need a networking tool, want to create and share good practices, need to tap into collective expertise for innovation, or need a process to collectively develop learning through interesting discussions, it is worth a look.

    I quite like David Gurteen’s approach as it retains the creativity and spirit of a genuine learning community but is grounded enough for serious business folk. But I guess, like any event, a skilled facilitator would shape it to fit the context and audience.

    Hope that helps


  3. World Cafe

     Hi Karyn

    There is a whole web community on World Cafe methods and there is a UK group on there that I co-ordinate. One of our UK members Tom Russell is a graphic facilitator so this maybe the resource you are looking for. This link should take you to his profile but I can also put you in contact if this doesn’t work.

    I ran an event for 140 people in Italy and some tips were:

    Put the questions on the Powerpoint so that people were clear what they were addressing

    Have lots of helpers around to help when people move tables so that no more than 5 people sit at one table but you don’t have a table with just one person on it

    Develop some kind of mechanism to record key learning points at the end, we used super large Post It notes and asked everyone to put down one key learning point.

    Provide marker pens so participants can draw effectively on the tablecloth

    Let people make their own rules and trust in the process it does work

    Hope you find it as enjoyable as I have using the Cafe process



  4. Thanks

    I can immediately identify where this would be a useful intervention to support a project I have next year – many thanks.

  5. World cafe

    I looked in to this a few years ago but haven’t actually done anything with it.

    There is a free information booklet available from (below). If it’s not there any more I have a copy I could e mail you.




    © 2008 The World Café. Free to copy and distribute with acknowledgement & a link to:

  6. World cafe

    I too had not heard of this use of conversations, thanks Graham for the information I will look at this more closely and can  definately

    see a use for the method with the people I work with.

  7. Keep it simple…

    I’ve designed and run a similar concepts, and would reiterate and add to what’s already been said with…

    Get the creative juices flowing. Use a creative narrative to illustrate the topics you wish to explore, provoke thought in your group – I have done this with HR professionals and used actors to portray a number of scenarios to achieve this.

    Clarity, orientation and signposting. Everyone must know what is expected of them in terms of activity and outputs. It seems obvious but the most cleverly designed session can fall down if there is doubt in the group.

    Appreciate and share all of the outputs. If you have some budget then the use of IML type handsets with text typing facility which can be collated, shown on screen and picked out and explored in more detail by the facilitator. This allows all pax in a large group to see their own response, responses from others and the of the course the response being focused upon. This feedback loop improves response quality, encourages open learnings and involves everyone.



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