A provocateur might have little to do with the problem being addressed at the event, but offers the opportunity for participants to draw analogies or to make connections that might stimulate their thinking. Guest speakers can be entertaining and light, or provocative and intense – either way, they pull the participants into a different universe that might help them to come up with new questions or novel ideas. Provocateurs do not have to in any way “prove” a point, or win the audience over to a particular point of view. Simply to present ideas that might intrigue and provoke an active discussion among the participants.

Resources Needed

If the talk will be virtual you will need appropriate technologies between the venue and provocateur.

Ideal Time

Typically, provocateurs are asked to prepare short presentations, about 20 minutes long. Then, there are 10 minutes for questions of clarification from the group. This is usually followed by 20 minutes of small group discussion although you can use various debrief mechanisms. Ideally no more than 2 speakers and presentation on day 1 or, by the latest, day 2 morning.

Set up

  • Give them time and advice on how this is not a typical science lecture.
  • An example of a cutting edge research project or initiative that might be something like the projects one would hope would come out of the existing event. This falls into the “lessons learned” category.
  • The second might be cutting edge information, either new results or data that the room might not know, or a minority viewpoint or theory that is not accepted by the mainstream.
  • Interesting breakthroughs or research taking place in a parallel domain or a domain that has a relationship to the challenge area for the Sand Pit. For example in the domain of mobile health and big data, we had an astronaut come speak about experiments and data that NASA is collecting for a trip to Mars.

Instructions & Watchouts

  • It is often nice if a mentor, organizer, or the director introduces the speaker.
  • Provocateurs should ideally be present in the room unless you are holding a virtual event (see below). Skype and other virtual mechanisms are at the mercy of a good Internet connection and often a speaker can feel the vibe of a room and interact with the audience. If a very strong speaker cannot be present at the event, best to ask her/him to pre-record a presentation, but then to stand by for live Q&A after the video has played. Simply attending a face-to-face event virtually to give a presentation should be considered a last resort.
  • It is less important that participants debating the merits of a stakeholder perspective; what matters more is their response to the presentation and the questions that it brings up for them to consider moving forward.
  • IF Virtual provocation, example via a microlab type event, it is still nice for the speaker to interact as much as possible. This means asking everyone to have their cameras on, if possible on your virtual platform allow the participants to ask the questions for Q&A, ask the speaker to participate in one of the breakouts, etc.