Wikipedia defines a symposium as “a drinking party (from Greek sympotein, ‘to drink together’)”, so I’d like to start by stating that, while I’m a big fan of drinking together, this is not what I’m referring to! What I’m referring to is the format, often taken in the academic world, of meeting to discuss and share ideas around a particular theme.
So, what does this have to do with user experience?
I work in a large FTSE 100 organisation, but regardless of size, as a UX person in an organisation one of the biggest headaches is sharing your work with everyone that feels they have a say in what you are doing (and that’s generally a long list). Sharing work is definitely not a bad thing – getting a broad spectrum of people giving you feedback gives you interesting and different perspectives.
However, were you to individually sit down with everyone that asked to see/feedback on what you are working on, you would spend 99.7% of your time taking people through the work you’ve been done, and the remaining 0.3% of your time evolving it and/or moving on to the next thing!
A technique that I’ve used, successfully, is to hold a symposium. We take over a large room for half a day, and stick all of our work on the walls. We then invite as wide an audience as possible to pop in at any stage during the symposium, and have a look at our work.
We present the various streams of work as areas on the wall, where deliverables are shown, and the person/people who worked on them are there to talk people through the posters, answer question and gather feedback. These ‘station’ type areas could be at a page level, or present the results of some research.
I believe that there are a number of advantages to this format: