Briefing note for CongRegation 2021 #cong21

We are almost there for the start of #cong21 on November 27th.

CongRegation is once again a virtual event as covid and huddles are not good bed fellows.  However judging from last year, although its poor relative, we can still have engaging discussions and interactions.

Some of you will be travelling to Cong and I do hope you experience a kind of blended event, even if you are still dialling in from your device.  Most of the normal coffee shops and hotels will be open and they are happy to host you.  Your coffee/teas and lunches will be covered as part of your earned entry.

The following is a long read but should help you prepare for the day

First the Basics:

Date: Saturday 27th Nov

Time start: 10:15am orientation

Huddles: 10:30-11:30am, 12:00-1:00pm, 2:00-3:00pm and 3:30-4:30pm

Breaks: 11:30-12:00, 1:00-2:00, 2:30-3:00

Platform: Zoom and breakout rooms

Evening entertainment: Poetry Open Mic 7pm


CongRegation will be delivered via the Zoom platform this year.  All the registrations are being centralised via zoom.  Plesse contact Eoin for this link.

It is very important that you register.  Once you register (very simple name, organisation, contact details) you will receive a link and connection details for the day.  I also ask if you are coming to Cong so I can connect you with each other in advance so you know who is around especially for having lunch together and meeting up for drinks afterwards.  This link is unique to you so please do not share as two of you will appear on the screen.  I will resend these again the day before but it is advisable to put the link into a calendar entry for the day.  Although you don’t need a zoom account, it’s a better experience if you have one so my strong advice is to set up a Zoom account (its free to set up) especially if you need to download any software.  You can also join from your phone so you don’t have to be tethered to your computer and can participate on the move.


Before Saturday 27th it really helps if you read as many of the submissions as possible.  Rather than homework this just opens your mind on the breath of thinking on the theme of leadership.  The next ask is comment on ones that inspire you and please share as much as you are comfortable with.  This advance sharing is not just self serving (ie letting people know about the event) but more about spreading the discussions and engagement on this important arena.  Please use #cong21 so we can see your thoughts.

Assuming you have submitted your thoughts, have a think about how you would like to present it.  In general people have historically just shared their thoughts verbally but we maybe able to accommodate shared screens if you wish to show something.  It might be helpful to make some notes about what you wish to say focusing particularly on how you wish to close your contribution.  You decide when, when and how you present.

On the day

I am taking a very flexible approach to #cong21.  This means I will be in the virtual lobby all day so if you need to jump on and off I can direct you to a huddle when you rejoin.    I will open CongRegation at 10:15am with a short introduction and orientation.  You will maybe in the waiting room for a few seconds until I admit you.  At the end of this I will spilt the group into a smaller number of huddles.  The max number will be 10 people per huddle but I believe smaller huddles will lead to more intimate conversations.  After all you only need two people to have a conversation.  On screen you will receive a notification telling you which room to go to.  You must click accept.  You will then be brought to the huddle which will essentially be the video feed or icons/photos of the people in your huddle.  Please keep your camera on as much as you can.  Once in the huddle switch to grid view (button at the top of the screen) to see everyone in the room.  If using someone elses account change your name by clicking on the attendee button at the bottom of the screen and change it to your name.  If the group is big or if there is a lot of background noise the chair may ask everyone to mute, especially for the first few huddles.  Even with no background noise some PCs pick up background noise.  If joining with a tablet or phone you may need to press your screen to see the different options available.


Each huddle lasts one hour.  The chair will welcome everyone and start proceedings by asking each person to introduce themselves and share a life hack.  Please limit your personal introduction to one or two sentences rather than your entire biography.  You will be asked to do this at each huddle.  For your life hack pick a life tip, pragmatic piece of advice or something you live your life by.  It can simple, funny or deep and meaningful but frequently this is something people really remember.  A piece of advice you got from an old boss would also be on theme.  They are important as they start the conversation flowing.

The chair will invite three people to present per huddle.  It really helps if we have three people lined up at the start of the huddle and early volunteers really help the establishing of a momentum.  Each person will be given 10-15 minutes to share their thoughts followed by a 5 minute Q&A.  While the person is presenting please keep yourself muted unless they specifically invite people to interject while they are talking.  The chat function is a particularly good function to raise points you would like to discuss or questions you would like to ask.  You can send messages to the entire group or specifically to one person e.g. the chair.  The hands up function is also useful to indicate you have something to add.  During the Q&A its appreciated if you thank the speaker but it also useful if you state your name as is might be obvious who is speaking. Following each contribution the chair will summarise some of the key points before asking for comments or questions.  The chair may kick start the discussion with some questions of his/her own and might also start with comments or questions on chat.  Please step up and share your own thoughts on what you have heard but follow some of the guidance below on the rules of engagement.  The contributions are meant to be catalyst for conversations rather than perfect portrayals of the vast arena of leadership.  The chair will be keeping a close eye on time so please be understanding if they move to the next speaker while the discussion is ongoing.  We want to make sure there is time for everyone to present.  The chair may also give you hand signals or a polite reminder of how much time is remains to keep contributions to the 10 minutes.  The chair will also use their own discretion and experience on the time allowed so some contributions might run over the 10 minutes allocated.  If you wish extra time just alert the chair in advance.  The chair may also call on specific people to encourage them to give their own views.  They may also ask some others to limit their views in the spirit of fairness and letting all voices to float to the top.  As we are online this year you might find it useful to check out the contribution being discussed by reading it on screen.  We won’t know what you are looking at and it might really add to the quality of debate.

A one minute notice of the ending of each huddle will appear on screen, after which you will be brought back to the main group.  Once the huddle is finished there is a 30 minute break but please come back as promptly as possible as I will be splitting the group into new huddles.

The allocation of breakout room is random but If you find yourself in the same collection of people come back to the main area (just leave the breakout room) and I will try allocate you to a new huddle.  You may need to log out and log back in for me to do this.  You can also summon me to the huddle if you wish to check out something.

Each huddle will follow the same structure with the aim of finishing at 4.30pm.  We will all regroup for a group shot – virtual screen grab this year.

Please feel free to tweet or post to your favourite social media platform as the day progresses.  Please ask for group consent before recording anything.  Full agreement of all is needed before recording anything.

To make it feel a little bit more like Cong Village I have designed up some simple virtual backdrops that you can use.

During the breaks I will try to accommodate breakout rooms for people who wish to catch up or continue discussions.

Self Help

Sitting a PC all day can be draining regardless of how stimulating the experience is.

At a start have a good supply of refreshment available – I suggest a flask of coffee but thats my choice of poison.

Evening Time Entertainment: Poetry Open Mic

I am delighted that Paul O’Mahony will once again MC the poetry Open Mic.  Let us know if you wish to be added to the list of poets.  This can be a self penned piece, your favourite poem or a funny limerick.  However poems should be relatively short.  Full guidance will be given in advance.  This session kicks off at 7.30pm but ask all poets to assemble at 6.15pm so Paul can schedule everyone.  We will use the same link.  You can contact Paul via email.

Rules of Engagement

Below is not designed to restrict you but rather a common sense approach to make sure we are all be respectful.

We are all peers and equal respect should be shown to all attendees.

Please do not give or take offense.

Dialogue is good but should be constructive.

This is not a competition but a meeting of minds.

Contributions are a catalyst for conversation rather than things to be challenged.

Aim for one or two areas that really inspired you and build on conversations.

Be succinct. Long rambling points can be very disconcerting especially in an online forum.  Make your point or addition but also practice self restraint.

Huddles can very comfortable and safe environments but do not confused them with therapy sessions.

Please keep unrelated personal stories to offline exchanges.

Stick to the theme of Leadsership. Fascinating as other segues may be, people have given up their Saturday to hear about the topic area.

Help quieter voices – ask other attendees if they have views. This will really help the chairs.

Everyone has given up substantial time composing their contribution and valuable time on a Saturday. Please respect this.

Think about the impact of what you say can have on other people. What you might think is a fair point could be taken as deeply offensive.  Pause and paraphrase.

Offensive, sexist, racist, homophobic, ageist or personally abusive comments will not be tolerated.

Follow the directions of the chair. They have the toughest job of all and give their time to keep proceedings flowing.

Debates can become heated and robust exchanges are expected but please draw a breath, forgive, rephrase and if necessary apologise. We all make mistakes and comments in anger and are rarely the best portrayal of our true selves.

Anyone deliberately disrupting huddles may be asked to leave.

Please step up and share but practice self restraint. Be mindful others may also wish to speak but too shy to interrupt.

We are all adults and are here to progress collective thinking.

Attending in Person

If you are making a weekend of it and travelling to Cong you will experience a kind of blended experience.  For clarity sake I am to reemphasise that you will still be logging in via zoom.  My suggestion is that you should do a huddle in a different venue in Cong.  As of the time of writing the venues that will be open are Puddleducks, McHugh’s (a new venue in the same spot as Butler and Byrne), Ryans Hotel, Danagher’s Hotel and hopefully Lydons.  Rob in Rare and Recent is also willing to accommodate  one of two people in the bookstore.  Each should have ample broadband but you should also test tethering with your phone, just in case. Please use headsets as there will be other patrons in each venue.  We will cover your tea/coffees in venues that sell them and your lunch.  Please tell them you are there for CongRegation and I will settle up with the later.  For those of you who prefer to stay in one location the Crossroads centre opposite the entrance to Ashford Castle is also available.  There will be basic tea/coffee so it might be an idea to get refreshments from the village.  We will all be gathering in Danaghers from 9.00pm for pints and a chat after the Poetry Open Mic.  I also suggest that you have lunch with other attendees but will leave to each of you to decide.  Dinner is available from the different hotels and I hope Pat Cohans but dinner will be on your own tab I am afraid.  I will connect everyone who tells me they are coming in person (on the registration link) via email, so you cam reach out to each other in advance.


Some people will be attending as observers.  This is a bit of a misnomer as you can participate like everyone else but not compelled to present a submission.  If you wish to send in a submission after the event I will gladly post it.


I will be open for submissions until Friday so if you know of someone who might be interested please forward on the invite to them.  Just make sure they register to get the link.#cong21



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