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Inspire project
Inspire project

Fresh Conversations recipe

There are 12 steps to putting together the perfect Fresh Conversation, which can be followed whether your event is face-to-face or digital.

1. Why?
Bringing people together from different areas within the world of health and care to connect and discuss important topics.

2. Who?
People from a diverse range of backgrounds, who otherwise wouldn’t meet in their day-to-day work, is key. We make all our lunches open to anyone to sign-up, advertising through twitter and word of mouth.

3. How many?
We think 12-15 people is ideal. Too few means not enough voices, and too many not enough time for all of them to be heard!

4. When?
We like Friday lunchtimes – it helps give a more relaxed feel and people are more likely to be free. We run them from 12.30-2pm.

5. How long?
We’re strict about them being 90 minutes! We know time is at a premium, but even with this amount of time you will find people leave wanting more.

6. Where?
Nothing fancy, what you need is a room and a table big enough for everyone, with extra space for breakaway discussions in pairs. Somewhere quiet is important for the whole-table bit. We look for spaces that are ventilated and allow people to distance. If you can, find somewhere people haven’t been before (we’ve been to magic shops, theatres, museums, and more).

7. What about?
You need a topic that is going to resonate with a diverse group and doesn’t require expert knowledge to take part in. We publish a blog on the topic in advance but we want people to feel able to learn and ask questions about subjects they do not know lots about.

8. Any rules for discussion?
Fresh Conversations work on the basis of creating a safe space where people can talk freely. As such, we use the Chatham House rule (ie. you can’t attribute who said what afterwards), and make clear that the purpose of the session is to hear different perspectives not to show how intelligent we all are…

9. What happens in advance?
For each Fresh Conversation, we ask someone to kick-off the conversation on the chosen topic, and to write a 500 word blog to get people thinking. We circulate this by email the week before, and ask all attendees to introduce themselves by email. We think this helps start to build connections before we’ve even met!

10. And on the day?
We follow a set format for each one. This may seem restrictive, but 90 minutes isn’t long, and we never want to drag on more than a minute or two after the finish (seriously – there’s nothing worse than people starting to slope off).

We have the same format for Fresh Conversations whether the event is face to face or digital.  The 90 minutes are divided into sections, so the pace and feel is always the same:

0-15 minutes: Attendees arrive, are greeted and encouraged to grab lunch and sit down next to someone they don’t know.
15-30 minutes: Intros – the chair welcomes everyone, followed by individual introductions (who they are, where from, why here today), then 5 minutes (and 5 minutes only) intro to the topic from the person starting the conversation.
30-45 minutes: As soon as the topic intro is over (don’t allow Q&A!) ask everyone to stand up, find someone they haven’t spoken to, and have 4-5 minutes discussing what resonated with them from the intro. Then repeat (find someone else you haven’t spoken to, continue the conversations…)
45-80 minutes: Everyone brought together, and a facilitated whole-table conversation about what came through from the pairs conversations, and more broadly. The chair has three key roles: keep the conversation going (on the chosen topic!), make sure everyone has a chance to speak, and keep an eye on time.
80-90 minutes: With 10mins to go, bring the discussion to a close, and give everyone 30 seconds in strictest silence to think about a single closing reflection. This could be what most struck them from the debate, or what they might do differently as a result, or something similarly pithy. Go round to collect all reflections, ending with the person who introduced the topic. Thank everyone, and you’re done!

11. What about afterwards?
Evaluation and evolution are critical. We use Google forms to create a feedback survey so we can make things better next time. We like to add a personal touch by emailing everyone individually to say thank you for coming and asking them to fill in the survey.

12. Anything else?
Probably. This is the recipe that we have found works, but please do experiment and let us know how to improve.


Inspire project

A little something else? If you found this of interest, then we’d suggest taking a look at some related items. And when you’re ready to chat, you can get in touch.