Facilitator Tips – Developing your own style

Facilitator Tips – Developing your own style

Developing your own style of facilitation


This article looks more closely at YOU. That’s right! It’s you I’m talking about.

We are going to start thinking about how you develop your own facilitation style. One that you feel comfortable delivering and one where you are confident in being your authentic self.

Being confident makes a significant difference to your success as a facilitator. Not everyone has natural confidence especially when faced with an expectant room of delegates, so here we share with you some practical ways you can help to increase your confidence when it comes to facilitating a group of people.

Confidence is a very precious commodity and it can visit us and leave us without knowing and at the most inopportune moments. So how can we mitigate against those losses of confidence by understanding better what makes us feel ‘in flow’ and ‘on our game’?

Confidence comes from a combination of experience and understanding. It is very hard to stand in front of an established group of people, often subject matter experts themselves, if you don’t have the necessary understanding of your subject.

Any inkling that you are ‘busking’ it or you haven’t done the preparation will undermine your integrity as a facilitator. You may not have the experience of course which is a hurdle to overcome but by ensuring you are well prepared, you are at least halfway to ensuring that you can speak with authority.

You can only gain experience by doing and so making sure you take every opportunity to test out your skills will incrementally improve the experience part of the equation until you are equal with knowledge and experience and are now operating more confidently.


How to build your confidence

As a facilitator you are not expected to be, nor should pretend to be, the subject matter expert.

A level of content and audience understanding though will help to give you some context for what you are doing and why. By asking informed questions, provoking interesting discussion and gently keeping the session on track and on message will allow you to keep the session under control helping you to build rapport more effectively with the audience.

Take time before the session to research and prepare which will build this understanding.


Be Practical

Walk around the space you’ll be working in. Be familiar with it.
Test your voice in the space, do you need a microphone?
Check the technology. Each room is different. Leave time to ensure your laptop works, you have the correct leads and your slides can be seen
If you need sound, make sure you have back up speakers if the on site av lets you down
Make sure all those technical gremlins are tucked away and you have tested the tech, the slides and all support materials.



NEVER turn up on the day and it be the first time you have said the words you have prepared. In your head you sounded great right? And of course, there are those who do think they have the ability to wing it, but we strongly recommend you don’t follow this route.

Practise your key points. Say them out loud. In the office, meeting room, your kitchen! It doesn’t matter where, just put the words out there. You might find it useful to record yourself on your phone. Listen back and really hear yourself. What tone works best? Which words need more impact? This preparation work is crucial to your success and confidence.


Your inner voice

Look out for this little devil. Your own internal monologue can undermine yourself if you let the doubts creep in. You can have done all the prep brilliantly, but then a voice inside your head starts to freak out! Alan advises to remind yourself that nervous symptoms are the same as excited. Telling yourself you are excited can fool yourself into forgetting the nerves, which, by the way, are totally natural to have. If you’re not a little bit nervous then perhaps you might be approaching it all a little too casually.


Reading the room

Last week we advised you not to try and be someone you’re not. Just because you saw a facilitator make loads of jokes, does not mean you should do the same. Equally if you know yourself to be a more serious type, you might like to find some light-hearted moments throughout the day. This is where a very big part of your skill as a facilitator has to come into play. You should always be on the lookout for what is happening in the room. Is your style appropriate for the group that you have?


  • Are people engaged?
  • Do these people need a break?
  • Is somebody being very quiet?
  • Is somebody dominating all the conversation?
  • Does it need another voice in the room?
  • Do you need to change the state or atmosphere within the room?

You will need to keep your eyes and ears open throughout your session to ensure all of the above are being monitored. Keep your radar open at all times and dial up your own levels of EQ. The role of the facilitator is to keep the group focused. Allowing them to voice their opinions without going completely off piste. The focus must be on the group! Not you.

Ensuring that you have prepared well and made sure the content, approach and tone of the session all match will increase your levels of confidence and will go a long way to running a successful session.

And one last piece of advice…give yourself the odd day off. All that nervous energy and ensuring you’re keeping everyone engaged is a long old day. You’ll sleep well if you’ve done a good job.

Good luck!

Do you want some exercises to help in your facilitation efforts? Download exercise instructions here:

Being a facilitator rather than a presenter

Being a facilitator rather than a presenter

Being a facilitator rather than a presenter.

Last week we spoke about the steps needed to be a more effective facilitator. So this week we are going to consider how you can include everyone in your session and ensure that every voice is heard equally and without prejudice.




Whilst it’s easy to talk about inclusivity during conferences, workshops, meetings and so on, it actually takes more deliberate effort than you might think to be able to call any session genuinely inclusive.

To be able to include people in discussion, encourage them to talk and contribute requires more than a happy accident. It requires deliberate and focused intent and a small helping of daring.
We hear so often the phrase ‘death by powerpoint’ but it isn’t ever the technology that’s at fault…it’s always the speaker, and more accurately the intent behind what the speaker is saying. If you wish to genuinely engage people then you have to plan with that intent. You must create time and space for voices other than your own. If the main presentation option seems only to be you talking at the audience, it may be worth considering the following possibilities:

  • The audience talking to you
  • The audience talking to each other
  • Individual members of the audience addressing the rest of the audience, instead of you

You also need to create meaning and a reason to connect. It’s lazy to assume that what you have written as your topic is sufficient on its own to provoke meaningful interaction and discussion. Instead, consider exactly what it is about your talk or presentation that would have real resonance for your audience and would make them want to interject or answer any question that you might pose to them. This also means that you have to know the answer, or at least part of an answer, to this question:

Who is the audience and what is the context in which they are listening to this talk?

Do you know something about their opinions, their attitudes and their historical circumstances? If you don’t, make sure that you take the time to read up and find out. If that’s not available to you, then ask them directly. If you know very little or have no time to find out beforehand then follow these simple golden rules:

  • Be bothered
  • Be interested
  • Be curious
  • Connect

Just the term, ‘speaker’ is dangerous and misleading because it implies that this is all that is necessary to engage and include an audience, but it clearly isn’t. What’s most important is the need to listen and show that you’re listening.

Your eye contact and body language will always show people whether you’re interested and listening to them or whether, I’m afraid, you are just self-absorbed.

So finally a short story, because it wouldn’t be one of our articles without at least one story.

“Yesterday, on the aeroplane, a gentleman was helped to his seat by a member of the cabin crew and was seated next to us as he folded up his white stick. He immediately made contact with Robin and I (Alan) and told us a little about why he was visiting Valencia. It transpired that he was a big fan of Moto GP and was taking a trip to meet some of the riders and teams who had been in Valencia this past weekend as part of the final race of the season. He told us a great deal about his life and the challenges of being at first partially sighted and now, totally blind.

He also announced with some pride that he was a ‘talker’. And he was!

Subsequently we learnt a great deal more about his life in Lancaster as a young boy, his working life with HM Treasury and his eventual retirement. He also shared one of his most profound insights which was when his sister revealed to him that he was a serial complainer and everyone else in his life was beginning to get very tired of it. So he changed his behavior, stopped complaining and tried harder to appreciate the things around him. This initially made him approachable and good company.

However, although he is a good talker, he is I’m afraid a terrible listener and after about 60 minutes, we suggested that we perhaps could halt our conversation for a while and catch up again after a small snooze. He immediately took the hint and proceeded to speak to the gentleman on the other side of the aisle for the rest of the flight.”

Sometimes being inclusive requires you to tell people that enough is enough and it’s time for someone else to take their turn.

This could very well apply to us all in our role as a facilitator, by the way. Those that don’t either feel confident to speak or don’t feel what they have to say has sufficient merit or are just too polite to interrupt anyone else deserve their opportunity to speak too.
In short, leave space, leave time, leave room, try and leave your ego at the door and above all else, be a generous listener which will go a long way to making you a more inclusive facilitator.

Do you want some exercises to help in your facilitation efforts? Download exercise instructions here:

Guiding Conversations – Our facilitation series

Guiding Conversations – Our facilitation series

Top tips for you as a facilitator

Guiding conversations, offering provocative thought and ultimately helping groups of people get to a better result are all key elements of strong facilitation.

At Purple Monster we like to facilitate meetings in a certain way and that takes a lot of experience, a little bit of knowledge and a good dose of self-deprecatory humour, but what are the nuts and bolts of good facilitation?

A few months ago we came upon a concept called Pecha Kucha.

It is a storytelling format, where a presenter shows 20 slides for 20 seconds of commentary each (6 minutes and 40 seconds total).We found it entertaining and informative and respectfully suggest checking out the closest one to where you are as it’s a fun evening.

After seeing it Alan thought it would be good to put our methodology through the Pecha Kucha process and so this article summarises a talk that Alan recently completed and delivered in 6 minutes 40 seconds. (amazing in itself!)

You can listen to the talk here

The job of a facilitator is to run meetings or events and to make them as effective and efficient as possible. 

This isn’t simply about sticking to the agenda or watching the time; it’s about knowing when to allow conversations to carry on and when to stop them, it’s about understanding the dynamics and reacting appropriately to them, it’s about noticing the subtleties in team dynamics or relationships and ensuring they don’t disrupt or take over. This all sounds very complicated and nuanced, and it is.


In Alan’s talk he summarises some key tips to help anyone improve their skill levels as a facilitator. Here are the key points he shares…

1. Confidence

For some people, standing in front of a room of people can be very difficult.  Not for Alan, his background is as a performer but even he has stories of not preparing properly and subsequently losing his confidence.  Proper preparation builds confidence. Make sure you know the agenda, the content and what is expected of you. Even when we are facilitating a seemingly straightforward meeting, clients are often amazed at how much we want to understand about the strategy, the team, the people involved. This is all so that we can be confident in our ability to deliver what is required.

2. Check the space

Make sure you know where you are!  Visit the space you’ll be working in beforehand, or at least get there early to walk around it.  Consider how the space will be set out, is theatre style really going to help you run an interactive session? If no, then change it well ahead of the start. Understand where you will be and how that will help you both see and hear what is going on around the room so you can listen and react effectively.

3. Check the space inside your head

People are going to looking to you for guidance, that is the job of the facilitator so you need to ensure you are in the right headspace. Being prepared and confident will help but also ensure you give yourself time to centre yourself in the room and be present. Simon Sinek says nervous symptoms are the same as excitement.  If you tell yourself that you’re feeling excited then you’re halfway to fooling yourself that you are  excited and not nervous.

4. Participation

This is crucial in facilitation.  It’s not a show!  A good facilitator will encourage the group to participate.  A monologue of opinions or facts is not facilitation. How is your style helping to get stuff out of people rather than pushing stuff into them? Remember, this event is not about you it is about the participants and getting them to a better end result. Constantly ensuring that their voices are in the room is key. 

5. Inclusion

If you want the whole group to be with you, make sure you include everybody.  Don’t be selective.  You must coax the quieter members of the group to contribute but in a safe and friendly way.  Give them means to express themselves and have their voice heard.  That could be asking them to write down their opinions, rather than putting them on the spot to shout them out for all to hear.  

6. Listen

Listen before, during and after.  Don’t miss any of it!  What are people saying before the session starts?  Do they have expectations?  What are they?  During the session, play back what you hear, this encourages inclusivity and will bring the group together as well as help summarise what has been discussed.  Listen afterwards too, feedback is important both for you as a facilitator but also where the group might need further support.

7. Spontaneity

Our style is very spontaneous.  Yours might not be.  However, being flexible is critical.  Taking the conversation where the group wants it to go is very important.  This brings us back to inclusion.  Of course, it’s also your job to know when to bring the conversation back to the point in hand. There is a balance between letting a conversation carry on if it is moving the discussion forward but also knowing when to stop it if it is not helping.

8. Humour

Again this will flex depending on your personality.  At Purple Monster we do enjoy a laugh but use humour wisely. It should never be at the expense of anyone but used as a technique to help people feel relaxed and comfortable so that they are able and willing to contribute and talk openly.

9. Know the audience

Research who you’re talking to and their current context. Understanding job roles and hierarchy is helpful but also what are their reasons for being there? Are they volunteers or has attendance been mandated? Is engagement high or tragically low with this group and why is that the case? What are the relationships like within the group – with the leader for example? All of this information will help you prepare and set the tone appropriately.

Really the secret is being there for the audience. Your job is to facilitate, literally make things easier. If you keep in mind that your sole focus is on ensuring that the meeting is productive, respectful and enjoyable then you have done a good job.

And most importantly don’t try to be something that you’re not. If you are quiet and thoughtful then be aware that quiet and thoughtful might be a nice style, but you may have to practise being direct and provide some direction. If your style is more extroverted then you will similarly have to note when to tone that down and play the quiet card.

Think of your audience, drink plenty of water and don’t let things go longer than a couple of hours before you have a break. And whilst we know that this is not heavy manual lifting and physically challenging work, it’s important to look after yourself because it’s tiring. Wear good shoes, your feet will thank you for it.

Do you want some exercises to help in your facilitation efforts? Download exercise instructions here:

A day in the life of a Monster – Alan Heap

A day in the life of a Monster – Alan Heap

“When I was a young child, one of my favourite cartoon strips was called The Numskulls. The basic premise was that there were departments in your head, that had small characters in charge of them. There was one for the ears, the eyes, the nose and mouth and so on, but the character in charge was ‘Brainy’. Disney Pixar did something a whole lot more sophisticated with Inside Out, portraying the emotions in our head as characters, which we’ve used on a number of occasions to explore behaviour. Why I bother to mention these at all, is that when I considered the task of writing ‘A Day in the Life’, it struck me that the external picture isn’t half as much fun as the internal one.

The ‘Brainy’ character that is running my headspace has an exaggerated sense of humour, a burning curiosity and a belief in creativity and imagination. The external picture is more mundane. Take a look at this typical day:

Cycle to work at PM Office; work on a variety of client and internal challenges; go to Pilates, or not; attend TEDx meeting; home for supper; maybe a little tv or play the piano and bed; Rpt.

So, here instead, is the day inside my head. (prepare yourself – Ed)

From the moment I wake up, ideas are competing for headspace.

There is usually something from the day before that has occupied my thinking and most likely dreaming time. If I’m lucky, I may wake up with the remnants of a dream that helped me think of an idea, but if not, well then the stimulus of the day will step in.

I listen to quite a bit of talk radio as well as looking at social media feeds and there will always be something stimulating thought.

But what I love most are human stories, powerful stories that move people to do good things. Greta Thunberg for example, or Steven Bartlett or Katerina Johnson Thomson or those individuals and companies helping others.

I cycle to work. I recently gave up my car partly prompted by Greta and partly by economics. It really is a very short distance, but even in the 5 minutes it takes me, a lot can happen in my head. Some of it doesn’t matter much and is the stuff of everyday.

“Must tidy the garage at the weekend. I wonder why the pyracantha doesn’t have many berries? The council should rethink the recycling boxes – four is too many. Isn’t it a shame that British Gas don’t have a depot and that their drivers have to park on double yellow lines outside the post office to collect their parts. Must lobby for better cycle lanes in town.”

I’m sure this is the kind of thing that goes on in everyone’s head, isn’t it?

But then what happens in mine, is I begin to use my imagination on one of these challenges. “Cycle lanes? Maybe but what if we had autonomous pods for the main routes and free scooters from the station? What if we had a garden walkway that lifted passengers arriving from the train station above the traffic and what if we promoted Leamington as a car free town centre and what if …?” I think you get the picture.

All this day-dreaming of course is fine, but by the time I’m in work, surely that can all be put to one side? Well, for me, it’s been more of a warm-up for work, because the challenges that we are presented by clients and potential clients every day are quite frankly more challenging than that, because they have to be put into action. As I sit typing this article, the day ahead has the following problems with which to wrestle.

  • Conceptualise an event for 500+ global leaders that will herald a shift in thinking, ways of working and strategic direction and ‘bring to life’ what that will mean for the leadership. Must be experiential and ‘different’ to the usual conference fare.
  • Design three elements for a learning event which will tackle a variety of topics, including the organizations’ D&I agenda. Consider using improvisation to ‘lift the learning off the page’.
  • Answer a brief for a global communication programme to embed a new working philosophy across the widely spread business units. Consider the different channels and media options to reach deep into the organisation. Must be ‘inspiring, fresh and dynamic and shift thinking’.
  • Design a virtual conference for 200 globally dispersed members of a function. Key messages must be landed effectively and must be ‘interactive and engaging’.

What comes next is something I am well known for at monster towers, but thankfully not known for anywhere else. I take a couple of pens and do a bit of drawing.

There’s no set process here, it just helps me swirl the idea around a bit, develop it and explore tangential notions and offshoots. Now this stream of consciousness may lead somewhere or nowhere, but by now the drawings and notes on the whiteboard will be developing nicely and subsequently be causing some hilarity in the office.

We have fellow monsters who are professional artists and really can draw amazing things.

Clearly, I can’t, but I don’t let this stop me trying.

Whatever has come out of this process, still needs to be properly tested and the long-suffering monsters are entirely familiar with the words “Can I just ask you to try something out for me? I want you to imagine that …”

The most powerful thing about imagination and the creative process is that there really isn’t anything to block it, except your own limitations of thought. I’m sure that much of this comes from my background in the performing arts, where things like small practicalities are not impediments to success.

As a young man I played a small part (flying trapeze) in a production at The Royal Opera House, where half of the opera chorus were flown above the stage whilst singing. I promise you, there was just about every possible objection raised to this happening, but it still did, every night. Most things at a conference seem relatively straightforward, and often a little tame after that.

I was once told by improvisation guru (and I don’t think that is too strong a word for Ben Benison) that you should never be fearful of ideas because ‘you’re not responsible for your imagination’.

Now you are responsible for editing and deciding what to share in a public forum, but there is a joy in unlimited thinking, and it is surely the thing that leads to incredible breakthrough ideas. It can also lead to mistakes and unsuccessful experimentation, but whatever the results, you have still learnt something.

As I come to the end of a typical day, proposals will have been created; ideas shared over video conferences; event agendas will have been developed and all of it will have been undertaken with a lot of laughter.

There might well have been some frustration, a few doubts about the validity of the ideas and most likely some ‘lively discussion’ about how they might be brought to life, but all the while, the key character in my head has been following the narrative and is busily crafting the next part of the story for the evening or perhaps the following day.

He’s already poised with a new idea ready to put into the machine. ‘Leadership insights from musical theatre’. Yeah, I know, crazy right?

I hope you have enjoyed just a little glimpse into the day inside my head and if you would like to put this lively imagination to use, then do give us a call.

It’s almost time to head home and, as is also very often the case, a song has popped into my head. It’s one of my favourites from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, sung by Gene Wilder in the film, it’s called Pure Imagination.

I can’t claim to live in a world of pure imagination as he does, but I really like to spend as much time there as possible and help others get a glimpse into theirs too occasionally.

I am involved locally with a plan to develop a ‘Creative Quarter’ in our town, all around the area where our office is based. It’s proving quite difficult, as ironically, no one can quite imagine what it is. I can, but I think this time, I may need someone else to draw it.”




If you want to tap into Alan’s creative and artistic expertise then drop him a note alan@purplemonster.co.uk

While you're here...

Got to organise an epic conference but don’t know where to start?

Engagement Exercises to try #1 – Groups

Engagement Exercises to try #1 – Groups

Exercises to try #1 – Groups

We really enjoy running our exercises with our clients. They bring energy, intrigue and hopefully an element of change.
Over the coming weeks we will be sharing some of our exercises for you to try out at home! (Sorry…you don’t have to try them at home, just try them at work 😊)

You can download a step by step guide to this first exercise here. We’re hoping that they will help you and your team free up your thinking, create some rapport, cement some relationships and who knows, help to build a better working environment.

This exercise encourages you to learn a little bit more about each other in a nice gentle, non-offensive, non-pressurised way.

We call this light-hearted exercise ‘GROUPS’. Most of us love a group in one way or another…either a boy band, a rock group, a tennis club! Even if you consider yourself a loner, you will at some point have been part of a group. (Ok, we know we’re not great at naming our exercises but it does what it says on the tin!)

You can run this exercise with any number of people, it’ll take around 15 minutes to set up and play.



1. Aim of exercise

We’ve mentioned before in our former posts that the whole ‘tell me something about you that nobody else knows’ is an odd question. As Danielle says, ‘if I haven’t told anyone, the chances are I really don’t want them to know’.

So, here is a nice warm exercise that will help you to simply learn things about each other without the fear and shame part thrown in. By the way, even if you think you know your team well, this is still a good exercise. And it works for mixed teams of experience whether new or well established.

2. How to set up the exercise


Everyone should be standing and the facilitator will need to be able to move around from one group to another for each ‘round’ you do.


3. Running the exercise

The leader starts by saying ‘I’m going to give you several categories to choose from and you go and stand in the group/category relevant to you’. ‘When you get there just tell one or two others the story behind why you chose this group’. Ask them to work out the groupings themselves but if the group needs direction, tell them where you want the different groups to stand in the room. But mainly it’s more fun if you just ask the question and say ‘Go!’

Suggested groups:

  • Years worked in company/organisation (less than 1, up to 5, 10, 20 more than 20)
  • Broken bones, stitches, both, neither
  • Certificate, medal, trophy
  • Brothers, sisters, both, neither
  • Homes you’ve lived in (0-4, 4-8, 8-12, 12+)

After each set of groups have formed and people have had the chance to speak to each other the leader can go around pulling out stories from each group. Asking people to share or nominate someone with a good story to share.

Each time, the facilitator should go and ask an individual for a few more details from each group. Encourage people to tell stories, not just a series of facts. For example:


  • Broken bones: where were you? how old were you?
  • Medals, Trophies, Certificates: Who heard a great story?
  • Siblings: Where are you placed – e.g. Youngest etc. Hey yonugests, tell the oldests what it’s like…..
  • Years of service – Do you remember your first day? Who was nice to you then?What are the biggest changes you’ve seen?
  • Homes – Did you choose each move? How did it feel? Did you move far?


Some of our favourite examples here of great storytelling are:

The woman who had a medal as a national netball champion and hadn’t told her colleagues.

The man that had been with the same company for 43 years

The man on his rollerskates who ran over his own fingers after being pulled by his brother on his bike, water skiing style (ok that was actually Robin but it’s true)

This exercise provides a good opportunity for the group to get to know each other, share stories, physically move about and get energized. It is also useful as a way of getting everyone speaking and feeling the session is collaborative and that their voice is valued.

And you know what, it’s just a lovely way to start a session.

Download a pdf workshop sheet of our GROUPS exercise.

While you're here...

Looking for a business exercise about trust you can run at an event or a meeting?  

The Conference Blueprint – Summary

The Conference Blueprint – Summary

Conference Blueprint; Summary of advice for planning a conference.

So here we are at the end of our five-part foray into the mysterious world of conference design and planning. If you’ve downloaded our blueprint then, ‘thank you’ and if not, well now’s your chance, it’s still available here.

In our final article on conference planning, we are going to take you back through the key steps and throw in a few bits of advice and help that we’ve gleaned ourselves and received from others along the way.

When Purple Monster first began 25 years ago, conference design and delivery was in its infancy. Of course people had held conferences for years and people got together to do ‘away days’ and ‘refresher courses’ and there were presumably ‘big’ meetings but in those far off pre-digital days it was much more about a transfer of information rather than a two way communication exercise.
Here is how you would likely do it

  • Set a date
  • Set the agenda
  • Book a venue
  • Book a speaker
  • Send out invites

Over the last five weeks we have been trying to encourage you to think differently about the way you go about planning and imagining a conference. The conference blueprint offers an alternative approach and we think, gives you a greater chance of building a conference that is worthwhile going to and has lasting value.


  1. Determine the super objective
  2. Assign accountabilities. Who is responsible for what?
  3. Consider what you want the audience to think, feel and do
  4. Planning the high level agenda and flow
  5. Determine who you are inviting then search for the right venue.

1. Determine the Super Objective

Be really clear on what it is you are trying to achieve and don’t let anything switch you from that.

We have been lucky enough to work with the brilliant and charming Ben Hunt-Davies a few times over the last few years and he understands the concept of super objective better than anyone else we have ever come across. His oft quoted (and regularly misquoted) work is called ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ and it highlights in the plainest possible sense what you should do to ensure you are sticking to your guns in terms of objectives.

If you need to understand more about Super Objectives either read Chekov (recommended only for theatre purists) or Ben’s captivating story of his experience before and at the Sydney Olympics of 2000.


2. Assign Accountabilities

It’s vitally important that everyone is clear on what role they play in delivering the outcome that you all want. This means noses potentially being put out of joint, former favourites not doing their schtick this year and Gianni from the CFO’s office not doing his normal 73 slide presentation on EBITDA. Sorry Gianni, it’s not part of the plan.

Create a design team and have regular and proper conversations with your sponsors to ensure they are clear on the route down which you are progressing. Have regular conversations and involve all your partners early so that they can all feel part of the success and not in competition.


3. Agree the outcomes; Think, Feel, Do

This seems so natural to us as we have always been thinking about how your audience will react but it seems that this isn’t a default position for all conference planners and designers.

What do you want your audience to THINK, FEEL and DO as a result of your conference. Be plain. Be overt and if necessary tell them again that the reason we are all here is to…..(insert your super objective here)

4. Planning the High Level Agenda


As in all good storytelling, reintroduction is the key here. Reintroduce the overall super objective every time that you bring anything to the table. Does this move the agenda forward? Does this play into the objectives fully? Is it a discreet session that has to be in and if it is, how do you connect it to the theme?

Don’t forget…Powerpoint is brilliant and has been unfairly blamed for poor communication since it became the new executive toy when it was introduced to the Microsoft package in 1994.

It’s not the tool that’s to blame, it’s the users. In the right hands, it is a fantastic visual aid, helping great ideas to jump off the screen and into the hearts and minds of the audience. In the wrong ones, it is a bullet-pointed form of conference torture, allowing its users to inflict wave after wave of meaningless words, until the audience are beaten into submission, or asleep. Tell Gianni ….no!


5. Who is coming and where are you going?


Be prepared to have tough conversations with people who may be more senior than you. People want their direct reports there but are they at the same grade or level as everyone else? Who is going to add value to the discussion or make things happen following the event and so should they be there rather than simply just choosing the top slice?

You will know the machinations of selecting the ‘right’ people and whatever that is in your organisation you have to stand by the decision that was made by the people assigned early on in your design process. When it comes to venues, choose somewhere that works for the audience.

Make it accessible, relevant and different from what everyone might expect. Be creative. Don’t just go for the convenient.

It takes a great amount of time, patience, understanding, relationship building, emotional intelligence and a little bit of luck to truly build a great conference experience for all your delegates but if that all seems a little bit overwhelming then please feel free to give us a call. We will be happy to help you design an engaging and effective conference experience that your delegates won’t forget.

And if you’d love to hold a conference, but there is no way that your people can travel or spare the time for two or three days away, then have you considered a virtual conference? We know a thing or two about those as well and would be happy to share some ideas with you, wherever you are in the world. Call us on ‘Skype, Zoom, Google Hangout, Messenger or perhaps, Microsoft Teams, which seems to be being rolled out as part of the Office package. Mmmm, sounds familiar 😊


Download the full Conference Planning Blueprint here…

If you want to tap into our conference planning expertise, then please do feel free to contact us here.

While you're here...

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