Steve Fenton

What is a Nanoconference?

A nanoconference is a gathering limited by the current global human population. The smallest size for a nanoconference is one-billionth of the global human population, and the maximum size is ten-times this number. So, for example, based on a population of seven billion the conference can be attended by 7-70 people.

The lower end of this limit is in the zone for a typical jelled team. In the 1600s, the Musketeers would have been towards the upper limit, as based on a population of half a million, a nanoconference could have been performed with 1-5 people (you can’t have half-a-person!). Perhaps René Descartes could have represented the lower end of this limit.

The idea is to have a group small enough to be heroic, yet large enough to stimulate new ideas.

The format is described below:


A nanoconference is arranged around a single theme. This theme provides the focus for what follows. The theme is used to bring together people interested in the subject to share their experiences and discuss the theme.


A representative is selected in advance to introduce the theme to the conference and explain the pertinent details to ensure the theme is framed for all the attendees. This may be similar to a typical conference talk or presentation, but rather than being “the truth”, it is merely the starting point for questions and discussion.


A mechanism is then used to generate questions and discussion points. This may be Lean Coffee, or the points may be collected and curated by other means (text message, ballot box, cards etc). These items are then used to direct the discussion, which should be curated by a host, or facilitator. This stage may be time-boxed.


The discussion points are then summarised by the host, along with any discoveries made during the divergent session.

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