August 1994 // Volume 32 // Number 2 // Tools of the Trade // 2TOT1

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Using Rapid, Interactive, and Iterative Posters (RIIP)

The RIIP approach (rapid, interactive, and iterative posters) provides an effective method for enabling large groups to participate in priority setting and planning. The three stage process consists of (a) the development by small groups of concise and rapid posters on assigned topics, (b) an interactive phase as individuals circulate to comment on the posters developed by other groups, and (c) an iterative phase as the original small groups incorporate the comments received. The RIIP approach generates and maintains a high level of interest and energy and fosters a perspective of shared ownership of ideas rather than one of adversarial criticism.

Larry S. Lev
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
Oregon State University
Internet address:

Large groups often are invited to participate in priority setting and planning efforts. The success achieved generally depends on the degree to which the intellectual capacities and energy of individual participants can be mobilized and focused on the group's task. This paper presents the RIIP approach (rapid, interactive, and iterative posters) as a method for productively meeting these challenges. Frequently, smaller break-out groups are used to subdivide the group's task and encourage greater participation. Valuable techniques for facilitating these small group sessions are documented elsewhere (Doyle & Straus, 1976; VanGundy, 1988). A critical issue that has received less attention is how small group discussions are reported back and then integrated into the large group's broad task (Gamon, 1991). In most instances, small group sessions are followed by a series of oral reports to the large group. Although this approach provides everyone with the opportunity to hear the same information, it suffers from two shortcomings: the series of speakers means that there are many passive listeners, and the time allocated for discussion is generally quite limited. As a result, energy is lost and few new ideas are generated during this report back period.

The RIIP approach provides a three-step alternative to this traditional format. It seeks to increase the intensity of participation, promote interactions, and encourage movement toward consensus on key issues. Step one is the poster phase. Posters have emerged as an alternative and partial replacement for presented papers at professional meetings because they provide excellent opportunities for one-on-one discussion between interested participants. RIIP posters serve a different purpose. Each small group constructs a concise and rapid poster that summarizes the group's initial consideration of their assigned topic. A facilitator who understands the type of output desired may be required for this phase. It is useful to provide a template for the poster format so that others will be able to more easily understand what is presented. Because the small groups have this well-defined initial task, they must distill and efficiently present the essence of their deliberations. The rapid poster format ensures that everyone will treat the ideas as works in progress.

Step two provides increased opportunities for interaction. Each small group divides in two. To begin, one-half of each group circulates to examine and react to the posters developed by other groups. The remaining members stay behind to explain and discuss their own poster with visitors. In contrast to the report back format, this interactive approach encourages dozens of shifting conversations to develop as clusters of two, three, or four people focus on and consider specific points. The "visitors" bring in fresh perspectives and their discussions with the "hosts" inspires more creativity. Visitors are provided sticky note paper to record their questions and comments directly on the displayed posters. At the midpoint in this interaction session, the visitors return to their own posters and replace the previous hosts (who now have the opportunity to circulate). Thus, each participant has served as both visitor and host. Often it is best to end the day with this interaction session so that exchanges can trail off into the evening and even continue at breakfast. Having a night to sleep on the many ideas generated also provides new insights for the reformulated small group meetings the next morning.

Step three, the iterative phase follows. The original small groups reform and discuss the comments attached to their posters and what they saw and heard. Ideas seen on other posters supply a further source of inspiration for modifying their own original posters. The diverse interactions provide a burst of energy to take a new look at the issue(s) before the group, question assumptions, and examine additional alternatives. This phase can provide a refinement, reformatting, and significant improvement to the original set of ideas.

With modification, RIIP also can be used by larger groups that do not subdivide. In this version, posters are developed in the large group and left displayed until a later point when they will be reviewed and modified. In the interim, individuals are instructed to comment on what is displayed. In this format, the posters furnish an anonymous means of permitting individuals to communicate with the larger group, serve as a focal point for "after-hours" discussion, allow ideas to simmer and stew for a period, and provide an outline for further discussion.

The three step RIIP approach has been used in a variety of meetings with objectives ranging from strategic planning to the drafting of action plans. The success of the approach depends upon the clear definition of the task and goals for each step and an understanding of how the information will be refined and used. The RIIP approach fosters a perspective of shared ownership of ideas rather than one of adversarial criticism often associated with more formal discussions of "other people's " work. Properly handled, this approach can generate a high level of interest, energy, and productivity among participants.


Doyle, M., & Straus, D. (1976). How to make meetings work. New York: Jove.

Gamon, J. A. (1991). The charrette--A technique for large groups. Journal of Extension, 29(Fall), 39.

VanGundy, A. B. (1988). Techniques for structured problem solving. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.