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Idea Markets

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Important Dates

March 4, 2008: Acceptance notifications sent to presenters

March 30, 2008: Conference Proceedings material due from presenters


The Idea Market occurs in a single room with multiple "activators" who simultaneously promote interaction about "burning questions" in usability and user-centered design. Each activator chooses a topic, posts the questions or issues to explore about the topic, and records the ideas that come up during the discussion.


90 minutes total. The first 60 minutes are discussion and interaction, which is followed by a 15-20 minute summary of the discussion by the activators. Finally, each activator presents a two-minute overview of the high points for all attendees.


As an idea market "activator" you will facilitate and lead in-depth discussions with your peers about a Big Question you have. You do not need to be an expert on the topic on which you will lead a discussion. You are not a "presenter". Indeed, you don't present anything except a short description of your Big Question and up to five "starter questions" to spur and direct the discussion. Since your job is to encourage lively discussion, handouts (if any) should be kept until the end. There will be no facility for audio-visual aids such as PowerPoint slides. You will be working with flip-charts.

On the flip-chart, the activator posts the questions or issues to explore about the topic. Then, the activator records the ideas that come up during the discussion. As sheets fill up, the activator and/or the Idea Markets team tapes them to the wall behind the station so attendees can see the points covered.

During the session, activators are in some ways managing a focus group in which the attendees and the group size may be constantly changing. Activators are not necessarily the experts on their topics - in fact, they don't offer their opinions or experience during the session. Rather, activators ask questions and manage the discussion, focusing participants on the issues and eliciting responses.

At the end of the discussion period, activators summarize and "present" a two-minute overview of the high points of the session for all attendees. Activators are also required to prepare a written "after-thoughts" summary of the discussion for posting on the UPA web site. The "after thoughts" may be up to 5 pages long and are due no later than 2 weeks following the conference. This is a mandatory requirement for acceptance of the presenter discount.


Ulf Andersson, the originator of idea markets (and member of UPA), created the session format after attending a conference during which he realized that some of the most interesting and useful discussions happened between sessions. Ulf, a co-founder of INTECOM (the International Society of Technical Communication Societies), developed Idea Markets for INTECOM's first international conference.

Ulf wanted "a way to arrange a conference consisting of an entire, long break," a format in which attendees could easily find the people they were most interested in talking with about the topics they were most interested in discussing. Ulf's solution, idea markets, creates a temporary environment in which people from different backgrounds not only learn from the experience of others but also generate new ideas.

Idea market topics set up opportunities for discussion about burning questions - either practical or philosophical - that you have about:

Sessions are 60 minutes of discussion and interaction, after which you should use 15-20 minutes to summarize your "after thoughts" about the discussion and present the high points of your discussion for the rest of the attendees.

Preparing Your Submission

Example Proposals

Thank you to Lori Anschuetz, David Dayton, and Deborah Sova for permission to use these examples.

How to Submit

Contacts for Idea Markets


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