Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0152 | May 11, 2004 | 8,000 Subscribers...

Dear friends,

I'm sure most of us have attended our share of conferences, often leaving them feeling excited but overwhelmed by all we heard and learned. I'd venture to guess as well that like me, you may go away not fully processing, assimilating, and implementing much of what you learned. This week's article, "Conferences: Confusion or Convergence?" summarizes the results of a survey I did on this subject. It looks at how we might influence the way conferences are facilitated, or at least the way we attend them, in order to maximize their value. Please let me know what you think of these ideas and if you have any to add.

Our next Micro-Skills Tele-Seminar happens this Thursday, May 13th at 1:00 PM EDT, co-hosted by an expert in Open Space Technology for large group facilitation, Judi Richardson. We've also included two additional bonuses for registering: 1) An article on the use of OST in the classroom, and 2) A one-hour teleclass recording of an Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry. Please see details after the article.

In this Issue:

Feature Article: Conferences: Confusion or Convergence?

Igniting Self-Expression: Our next one-hour tele-seminar with Judi Richardson happens Thursday, May 13th at 1:00 PM EDT.

Event Planning: The Ultimate Guide to Successful Meetings, Corporate Events, Fundraising Galas, Conferences, Conventions, Incentives and Other Special Events,
by Judy Allen. Pre-recorded Micro-Skills Seminars.

If any of you have any interesting stories or experiences about facilitation, group process, work groups, team building, training, etc. that might interest our readers, please email them to us.

Have a great week!

Steve Davis

Group Process Skill
Conferences: Confusion or Convergence?
Finding ways for the conference arena to benefit from facilitative processes.
The Point

How many conferences have you been to where, like me, you feel inspired but completely overwhelmed with what to do next? My close friend and colleague, Susan Smith, attended a powerful conference recently where one speaker, an environmental ecologist from Oxford, made the most profound statement of all, from a facilitator’s point of view. He said, “Wow, this conference has many great speakers and with so many provocative ideas. We all go away overwhelmed. Perhaps we should have fewer speakers during one day and spend the other two days forming groups, discussing and figuring out together how we can do something about the issues.”

Susan response? "I jumped to my feet and gave him my applause. Of course, everyone else just looked at me and gave him a quiet nod. Everyone there that I talked to, and I attended with 6 friends, had so many ideas and wanted to discuss them with the others in the audience who also probably had great ideas and experiences. Wouldn't it have been a great step forward to spend some time with everyone there, with facilitator support, to hammer out action items that we could all do individually or in groups after leaving the conference."

My discussions with Susan got us thinking that perhaps sending people to “unfacilitated” conferences is as inefficient and ineffective as attending unfacilitated meetings. This inspired a query into my network around this question, "How can we, as facilitators, impact the conference circuit and convince the conference developers of the importance of large and small group facilitation?" A summary of results follows.


General Feedback

It is a waste of money sending people to “un-facilitated” conferences, as it is in attending un-facilitated meetings.
There ARE folks doing this [facilitated conferences] right now.
Recognize and act on this individually as facilitators. When enough of us implement this concept into our own work, the shift will evolve.
Participate in any of these activities formally or informally & always let conference planners & Keynotes know about results of such sessions.
Academic review bodies should require that a certain percentage of academics' time is spent as a co-participant or just participant (i.e. going to conferences where they are not speakers and still getting reimbursed).

What Facilitators can do Right Now to Impact the Conference Circuit

Initiate informal discussion groups; send copies of names and notes to participants and conference organizers. Suggest that these kinds of groups be formalized at conferences. Suggest that others who take part write the organizers to speak to the value of the informal discussion.
Contact the speaker of keynotes/breakouts prior to conferences and ask to partner on the idea of facilitated discussions.
Volunteer to be on conference planning committees, demonstrate how productive and popular the facilitated approach can be.
Have a listserv attached to a conference, post reactions and then even meet up with others who want to discuss important issues further.
Run chat - like room on breaks with group-ware during conferences.
Focus on audience-centered design of conferences, as most meetings by design are speaker-centric. Use groupware, visual dialogue sessions, hexagon modeling, small group interventions, skits, songs, etc. so everyone in the room can get into the conversation.
Ask for time with meeting owner(s): Ask, how will the room be setup? Almost universally they set their keynotes up classroom style. Suggest rounds of 6-8, or 10, and eliminate the classroom seating. When they ask why, discuss the benefits of interactivity and go from there.
Find out which groups are coming to the local (major city) convention center and send those groups an informational piece about using facilitators. Share Examples of conferencing facilitation in practice
Survey meeting planners and ask when/how/if they have used facilitators. Use the survey to open dialogue for pitching facilitators.
Go revenue neutral, no charge to the conference planner if you can use a room free and charge those attending the discussion or networking event.
Utilize (or create) spaces for participation that allow participants to express themselves at any time during the conference. Graphic facilitators are especially good at putting up walls that encourage participation.
Offer training to presenters on creating more interactive sessions. Influence the seating arrangement, suggest alternative to typical rows of chairs facing the podium during large group gatherings
Demonstrate facilitation in the microcosm of your own presentation(s).
Give workshops on the importance of facilitation at conferences.
Provide some kind of formal credit or credits towards a specific accreditation.

Examples of how Conferences Use (or can use) Facilitators

Place 3-5 questions on each table related to the meal's keynote, assign a table facilitator. Collect emails and send summary of key points to those at the table.
Conduct hour-long sessions throughout the conference: Beginning: How to get most from conference, Mid-point: Discuss topics covered thus far, End: How to use/execute on key points learned.
Assign teams that meet regularly throughout the conference to talk about what’s being learned and how to take it home. Put people together from similar occupational fields, and limit the group size to eight. Have volunteer facilitator for each team to keep the discussion going and on track.
Build in facilitated networking sessions. In groups of 15-30, the fewer the better, have each participant make up a flip chart outlining 2 things: Accomplishments that they're proud of and areas they would like help.
Combine the world cafe process with download sessions then use open space to get to action in the final afternoon.
Combine world cafe with a cartoonist (graphic recorder) who can draw a long mural as a story of the learning’s and feedback from the group, the group can see a “record” of their efforts.

Selling Points that Convince Conference Developers to use Facilitation

Speaker: embeds his/her information when using facilitation. Speaker gets chance to act as consultant during facilitated discussions and is able to respond to additional questions as they arise.
Facilitation creates space for reflection, consultation/discussion, collaboration and implementation strategies for the central themes of the conference. Lets the audience become a working group to develop applications for information the speaker shared and increases interactivity.
People are much more inclined to believe their own data, thus provocative questions encourage exploration and to give “space” to develop practical applications in collaboration with others.
People prefer open forums/workshops where they are actively involved in discussions. People learn more through discussion. Survey data shows that group prefers group interaction to talking heads and speakers.
Acknowledge that all of the knowledge in the room did not just come from those on the dais, but that everyone has a piece of the wisdom.
Most conferences have a ton of energy that so often dissipates after a week or so. Information sticks where support system is in place, successful way to digest and solidify the tools and concepts of the workshop.
Facilitation engages attendees in first hand exercises to experience the concepts.
Increased networking opportunities. Addresses primary complaint people have about conferences: too much crammed into a short period of time with too little time available for meaningful networking.
People pay (networking groups, roundtables, mastery groups) for the privilege to talk to each other about leadership, risk, networking...etc.
Hour to an hour and a half speakers generally stay on the surface and are way too short for anything meaningful to develop. More in-depth learning, longer sessions are very rewarding for all.
Participant can have an opinion and explore it with others!
The value of people talking with each other about their shared experiences and working on a shared action plan, rather than just listening to someone tell them what to do, is immeasurable.
Using facilitators improves conferencing offer, missing some revenue streams by thinking of facilitation as an overhead.

Be Prepared to Overcome (Possible) Objections, such as:

Being viewed negatively as a purveyor of “soft skills" or “process driven.”
Inhibiting the “flow of a meeting,” because of some mental model they have developed about the field of facilitation.
Unnecessary add-on who might detract from the message the leader or speaker wants to send.
Creating spaces for people to share views, opinions and healthy debates often seems daunting (easy re-course is to have the standard Conferences).

Examples of Facilitated Conferencing:

Mel Siberman did a wonderful job of this as a keynote presenter at a recent North American Simulation and Gaming Association Conference in Montreal.
Robert Chambers (Institute of Development Studies, Sussex) often known as the 'Guru' of participatory methods, rather than giving a talk--which would have been largely one sided, designed the 5-hour session in a way that allowed participation, group work and large group discussion.


Please implement at least one of the ideas above or share one of your own. Or if you have experience with some of these ideas, please
email us to tell us how it worked for you.

Facilitation Expert Series

Facilitation Micro-Skills Tele-Seminar: "Igniting Self-Expression Through Open Space Technology...," featuring Judi Richardson, speaker, trainer, author, and facilitator.

Attend this one-hour tele-seminar on Thursday, May 13th at 1:00 PM EDT (NY Time) with Judi Richardson and Steve Davis. During this tele-seminar, you'll receive an introduction to Open Space Technology from an expert in the field. Her clients often refer to this approach as working "magic" because the process is invisible to them, and the results seem like magic--major shifts in organizational energies resulting in teams that work together collaboratively, committed to each other’s success, increasing performance and profitability. Some of the points we'll discuss are...

"Just in Time" Learning

Attend this one-hour tele-seminar with Judi Richardson and Steve Davis, Thursday, May 13th at 1:00 PM EDT (NY Time). Some of the points we'll discuss are...

What is Open Space Technology?
How does it work? What are the principles and processes used?
When is it appropriate to use? And when is it not?
What role does "passion" play in this and how do you assess if it's sufficient for OST to work?
How important is the theme and givens?
A story of how it's worked effectively for other groups.
What is the role of the facilitator?
How to you work with those sponsoring the event?
How can OST be used in training/education or for integrating information in conferences?
What training or preparation do you recommend to those wishing to administer this approach?
And, answers to any questions you bring to the teleclass.

Four Free Bonuses!

1. "Who's in Control Here?" An article outlining a simple approach to using OST in the classroom with an example of it's use in a college-level Business Law Class.

2. Collection of Open Space Resources. Site containing Quotes, Examples (short stories), Elevator Speeches (what is open space), Explanations (some finer points), and a collection of Articles.

3. Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry.
A one-hour pre-recorded teleclass with experts Patricia Clason and Bert Stitt explaining the basics of this innovative facilitation model.

4. Introduction to Open Space Technology.
A simple and straightforward introduction to Open Space Technology: What it is, how it works, who's it for, and what you can expect.

5. Cases in Open Space Technology. Four Case Studies summarizing the results of using open space technology in non-profit, private enterprise, military, and government arenas.

6. Open Space Technology Planning Checklist. 50-point checklist that addresses pre-event planning, logistics, and post event tasks.

About Judi. Judith Richardson, B.Ed., M.A., is a facilitator, author, speaker, and trainer. Nominated for International Coach of the Year 2003, Judi works with International Organizational Development across North America, Europe, Jamaica, Denmark, Sweden, Israel and Russia.

Using a variety of processes, she facilitates development within groups and organizations, inviting others to recognize their own inherent qualities and emerge them. "We utilize processes as an objective mirror to help our clients assess the current state, as a catalyst assisting them in defining and creating a compelling view of the future, and the courage to go for it. Open Space Technology is a natural as one of our processes!" Learn more about Judi and her work by visiting her websites at: and

Click here for details about this interview, the bonuses, and registration.


Event Planning : The Ultimate Guide to Successful Meetings, Corporate Events, Fundraising Galas, Conferences, Conventions, Incentives and Other Special Events
by Judy Allen

Having planned many events in the past six years, I already had a great "base" of experience. I was looking for a great guide to cover all the bases. This is it! Each chapter details all aspects of event planning and prompts you to think about how you can apply the suggestions to your own events. I was inspired to think outside the box to make events more unique and memorable. Additionally, budgeting and proposal crafting were discussed to aid the event planner in making a succinct and accurate budget/proposal for a client. This book is a "must-have" for any serious event planner. By, Carao from Defiance, Ohio.

In the Spotlight

Pre-Recorded Expert Tele-Seminars

Each of the expert tele-seminars below were pre-recorded, one-hour teleclasses with experts discussing a key skill area important to group workers. Each recording is available in either real-audio or CD format, comes with class notes, and several relevant bonuses. All but the CD is emailed to you immediately after purchase for download. Click on the links under each topic for full details.

Have an expert in mind? We're always looking for new experts that have something compelling to say of interest to group workers and change agents. Please tell us if you or someone you know might be a good candidate for one of these classes. Send an email to and tell us what you're after.

Discount: Purchase any other product in addition to these below and recieve a 10% discount on the total. Click on discount link displayed at the top of the shopping cart upon purchase, and buy an additional product to receive discount at checkout.

Using Your Inner Wisdom as Facilitator

Featuring Penney Peirce, Author of the "Intuitive Way," and professional "expert intuitive."

Featuring acclaimed author Penney Peirce, author, speaker, and professional intuitive... details here
Real Audio: $17.95 Click Here to Purchase
CD: $24.95 +S&H
Click Here to Purchase

How to Design Winning Workshops and Seminars

"10 Questions Every Facilitator Should Answer Before Designing Their Next Workshop."

Marg Wall, M.Ed.,
Adult Educator, Learning Specialist... details here
Real Audio: $17.95 Click Here to Purchase
CD: $24.95 +S&H
Click Here to Purchase
Present, But Not Accounted For...

Specific Strategies to Build Curiosity, Commitment and Collaboration

Featuring Susan Wilson, Facilitator, Speaker, Author and Founder of Executive Strategies, Inc.. details here
Real Audio: $17.95 Click Here to Purchase
CD: $24.95 +S&H
Click Here to Purchase
The 5 P's of Guided Imagery...

Learn this
multifaceted and powerful tool that you can use not only with your clients, but with yourself

Featuring Ellen Britt, Ed.D., speaker, trainer, and co-founder of Primal Waters..details here
Real Audio: $17.95 Click Here to Purchase
CD: $24.95 +S&H
Click Here to Purchase
The Art of Improv in Facilitation ...

Learn to use humor and improvisational theater techniques as facilitation tools.

Featuring Izzy Gesell, speaker, author, trainer and expert in Improv Theater Techniques... details here
Real Audio: $17.95
Click Here to Purchase


Click Here to Purchase
Igniting Self-Expression Through Open Space Technology...

Learn this process to capture knowledge, experience, and innovation in your organization

Featuring Judi Richardson, Facilitator, Speaker, Author and Trainer...
details here

Click Here to Purchase
Real Audio: $17.95

Click Here to Purchase

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