What is your objective in this conference?
As a facilitator, the principle of what I bring to all events is to try to make the stage energetic, interesting, engaging. We can all relate to conferences that we sat and felt disengaged. I aim to change that, and make it interactive, participative, helping participants make meaning of the content and learn. Another aim is to make it all go smoothly and on time. It has to be a combination of professionalism with a bit of fun and humour.
What briefing did you get?
MPI and the host committee have been working on a story, a background narrative, and a feel for the conference. They shared it with me, which was a great base. What I always try to do is to get clear on the objectives. Once I have those clear, I work on the process, to help people feel involved, inspired as well as interact and learn.
Also, at a more detailed level, they have been working on the show flow, producing an excel which details what will happen moment by moment, which is great to define and time my work.
Can you tell us more about this narrative?
It is held in a short word. One important notion is that as meetings and events professionals, our passion drives us. We create emotional experience, human interaction, we help people learn better. So as a facilitator, I will try to drive these qualities, stir the passion and help people get new ideas and share them.
The audience is essential, I guess. What characteristics of the audience do you take into account?
The notion of community is important here, and MPI even uses the idea of family a lot. And just like in a family with newcomers, I take into account the need to make everyone feel part of the group, and make sure the old-timers who know a lot of people help those who are new, introducing them to other people.
How do you prepare, and how long does it take?
As a rule of thumb, it will take more than the event time to facilitate, so for a 3-day event I will spend more than 3 full days preparing. I work based on the briefing, conceive ideas of formats and activities, and then have a series of calls set up with the speakers to see how to manage each session and make it more engaging.
What principles do you mostly use, as a moderator?
I wrote a book about those, titled ‘Serious Work: How to Facilitate Lego Serious Play Meetings and Workshops’. In a nutshell the principles are that conferences should be Participative (making sure people actively process the content and bring their ideas), Purposeful (remember: nobody wants a meeting, people want outcomes, so you have to be clear about the outcomes); you have to work finely on the Process ; you should take great care of Visibility (making sure everyone gives their full attention to the messages); and it has to be Healthy (taking care of the body and mind, but also being inclusive and tolerant).
A more specific rule that I apply is to make each component of the conference short. If a speaker has a one-hour presentation, I will work with him or her to cut this in two and include something interactive in the middle, to keep people engaged. I think a lot about the energy. If I think of a workshop, they won’t be sitting for an hour, they will move around. Humans are not very good at concentrating. Shorter is better, and it is important to make meaning of what is being said, through reflexion, discussion, rephrasing… You may be listening but not processing, so my job as a facilitator is to give time for people to process.
We all want participation in our meetings but shyness can make it challenging…
One tool I use a lot is grid cards, small cards on which attendees write down a thought and share it with a neighbor or small group. Even if you are introvert, you will present something and share with each other. This is a really great way to stimulate conversation. We will use this tool in Granada, as well as many others.
A final message for MEC attendees?
I went to EMEC last year and learned very useful things which changed the way I work, and also met people I made business with. It was fantastic, so don’t miss it this year!