Chairing Briefing for #cong18

Huddle Structure

  • 12 people per huddle (could be less/more)
  • Roundtable style
  • 2-3 Present
  • 10-15 Minute presentation
  • 5-10 Minute discussion
  • 4 rotating huddles
  • Start with simple introduction and life hack

Main Focus

  • Timings
  • Flow of conversation
  • Inclusion of all voices


  • Timer (phone)
  • Note pad


Each huddle will have a chairperson who manages the session flow and ensures time keeping and interaction.  The chairs role is to kick start proceedings, encourage the three/two speakers and more importantly enjoy the session.

The principal behind small huddles and using social venues is that it is supposed to replicate real world conversations rather than artificial presentations from a podium.  We have structured to avoid chaos but your judgement of the group is paramount and there is lots of flexibility built in.  You do not have to an expert on the theme but your view is also important so you can decide to contribute or not.  Some people will be quite nervous and anxious while some will be very confident and naturally monopolise time.  The range of people and topics is very broad so you will have a very diverse group who different backgrounds, interests, occupations and ages profile.

Your role is to make people feel comfortable, relaxed, manage the introductions, time manage the sessions, read the group and over all flow of the session. The real challenge will be to make it inclusive but this is no different to normal conversations in social situations.

I really do appreciate your time and I hope you enjoy.  I have included some guidance below which should help but also reading as many of the posts as possible will really assist you and they are genuinely very varied and interesting.

The chairs for the 8 venues for #cong18 are:

  1. RobbieCanavan | Byrne and Fallon | Two groups here. Lunch served.
  2. Padraig McKeon | Danaghers | One group in the café to the right. Lunch served.
  3. John Leonard | Puddleducks | One group. Table at the window. Lunch served.
  4. Don Delaney | Elizabeth Togher’s | One group. Round table. Lunch in Pat Cohans.
  5. Mags Amond | Pat Cohans | One group. Upstairs. Lunched served here.
  6. Averil Staunton | Rare and Recent | One group. Lunch in Ryans.
  7. Mike O’Rourke | Byrne and Fallon | Two groups. Lunch Served.
  8. Tony O’Kelly | Ryans | One Group | Upstairs area over the bar.Lunch served.

Below are the instructions for the chairs but its also useful for everyone to understand the role/process.

You have been allocated one huddle to chair (as per above)

Some venues will also be open to the public but we will have blocked off areas in all venues

Huddles kick off at 10.30am so check out your location in advance ideally from from 10am.

Briefing for chairs takes place at 10am in Ryans Hotel (registration venue)

There will be max 10-12 people in each huddle but numbers may vary.

There will be four huddles throughout the day according to the lanyard schedule.

Kick off each huddle by introducing yourself.

Explain overall running order – 1hr, introductions, life hack, two/three 10-15 minute talks followed by discussion after each one.

Ask people to introduce themselves and give their ‘Life Hack: as an ice breaker.

In their introductions people should state their name, what they do for a living but most importantly AVOID any sales pitches or overly lengthy life stories. Short and snappy is best and there is plenty of time during the breaks to dig deeper into work life and build connections.  This might be a bit tricky at the start as people are unsure of how much they should say but encourage them too keep short.  It works if you give an example with your own introduction.

A ‘life hack’ is a tip from a productivity tip, social media tool or as broad as a philosophical tip on life.  This is designed to get people talking to each other.

Next up ask which three/two people would like to present.

Agree who goes first.

Explain that each speaker has 10-15 minutes to present and encourage everyone to contribute/ask questions.

Some talks might go on longer/shorter but the key is to measure the atmosphere in the group.

Occasionally the group have been happy to have just one speaker especially if it spawns engaged debate but best to try have a number of speakers at each huddle.

Use judgement – if people are riveted to the speaker then allow more time especially if only 2 speakers.

Ask if anyone is recording or streaming the session – just so everyone knows. Encourage people to tweet or post on social media using the #cong18.

Explain that tea/coffee is available for them to use – let me know if supplies run low.

Details for lunch venues will be on the lanyard.

Start the clock when the person starts presenting.

Remember everyone gets to speak on the day and needs a minimum of 10-15 mins and 5mins Q&A.

Main thing to police is NO SELF PROMOTION – people will want to know more about you based on your insight.

Give the speaker 3 minutes notice of the time with a hand signal.

Thank the speaker and congratulate them.  Some people will be nervous, some very confident.

Encourage questions after the speaker.  In general people contribute willingly.

Synopsise or highlight some element from the talk as possible icebreaker.

Ask a question of your own or add own experience if needed.

If you are short a speaker consider calling out one of the posts from the site or ask if anyone wishes to present again.  I don’t see this being necessary but looking at the blog posts in advance will greatly help you and personally I have enjoyed them.

Politely move conversations on if one person is monopolising and watch for others who would like to ask questions/comment – see video.

We have plenty of time to catch up on over runs during the day.

Wrap up the session after the hour.  If possible stick to the schedule as otherwise groups get bunched together. People have 30 mins to get to the next venue (which will take them 30 seconds) so they have plenty of time to chat.

Ideally orientate yourself to Cong so you can direct people to their next huddle and be aware of the overall timings for the day.   There is a map on the back of the lanyards.

Finally enjoy.  This is not the army, we have structure but only to ensure smooth running of the event – the two key elements you control are timings and flow of the conversations. This is a great bunch of minds so take your own mind for a gallop also.

At registration I will explain how the spreadsheet (which will be on people lanyards) operates.  The spreadsheet is built around 80+ people attending.  This is spread across 8 venues running at the same time, with four sessions through out the day.  If 3 people present at each huddle this means 96 presentations.  Why is this important.  It means you will have 3 presentations at some and 2 at others. If more or less people arrive on the day we will adjust accordingly – ie if 84 people show each huddle has to accommodate 3 speakers so that everyone presents.  As people register we allocate a number to each person.  They then use the spreadsheet to see what venue they are due in.  This is done so that we can mix the groups up so in theory you will end up with an entirely new group of people at each huddle.  I know this seems complicated but in reality it works out fine. Mathematically some huddles may be down some numbers especially if less people show so please bear that in mind. Some of the really enriched conversation took place in very small huddles.

The first huddle is the hardest to get going and no one wants to jump straight in. A tip from Tony O’Kelly was to hover around the registration area to find some people who will be in your first huddle and agree with them in advance who will present.

I will ask you to put up your hand at the briefing to introduce you and ask people to follow you out to the first huddles.

Below is the spreadsheet which will be on people name badges/lanyards.  Just in case you are wondering its upside down so when you till up to read it its aligned the right way up.  The instructions for lunch is being served will be on the lanyard.

Recording Insights

The chair role is a busy one and you are on your mental tops of your toes all the time.  However it is also a great opportunity to collate some of the key insights.  After the session if you could document any of the key points it would be appreciated especially for the eBook report.  I also intend to give away the glass head to the best contributor which will be a combination of most read posts and input from the day.

6 Minute Running a Huddle Insights

Alec Taylor has kindly put together his tips for running a huddle.  Worth watch especially for flow.

Attendee Briefing Note for #cong18

With just under two weeks to go to CongRegation #cong18 (Nov 23rdto 25th) I wanted to give you one centralised run down and briefing to make the event as enjoyable as possible.  In total there are 7 events so this is a long read.  Please take time to read and check the centralised registration link.

Overall Schedule.

Friday 23rdAshford Castle (Booked Out)

19.00-22.00 Night of Ideas Stories.  Reception followed by 5 Presentations in Private Cinema.

22.30-23.00 Semicon(g)ductor Physics Danaghers Hotel.

Saturday 24th Unconference. Cong Village

9.30 : Registration Children’s workshops in the Crossroads Centre

9.30-10.00 : Registration in Ryan’s Hotel

10.00-10.30 : Opening address and move to venues.

10.30-11.30 : Huddle 1

12.00-13:00 : Huddle 2

13.00-14.00 : Lunch

14.00-15.00 : Huddle 3

15.30-16.30 : Huddle 4

16.30 : Photo at Cong Cross

17.00 : Reception in Ryan’s

18.00-20.00 : Dinner in Pat Cohan/Ryans/Danaghers

19.30 : Poetry Reading Danagers

20.00–late :  Ukulele – Zero to Hero Workshop in Danagher’s

Sunday 25th. Foraging Walk, Cong Woods.  Assemble at the John Wayne Statue

11.00-13.00: Guided Foraging walk in Cong Woods (weather permitting)

Ashford Castle Evening

Themed under a ‘Night of Ideas Stories’ our speakers will share stories of growing ideas from small acorns into big movements, how the media processes ideas, perception and ideas and ideas from the inside.  This event is fully booked out with a waiting list on the registration sheet.  The venue can only hold 32 people so please check the sheet to see if your name is included. The full line up is the website.  Also, please note although we may have a reception beforehand, please grab something to eat before you get there as we won’t be serving food.

There is a reception in the castle from 7pm with presentations kicking off at 8pm sharp.  Parking is in the car park located behind ‘Cullens At The Cottage’ (on the right before the bridge entrance) as the hotel is fully booked. There will be a shuttle service from the car park to the castle for attendees who would prefer not to walk but it a 1 minute walk.

After Ashford Castle we will retire to Danaghers where Mags Amond and Richard Millwood will guide us through conducting – electricity that is.

Saturday Unconference Running Order

Registration takes place from 9.30-10.00 in Ryans Hotel with huddles beginning at each of the 8 venues at 10.30 sharp.  On arrival you will be given a number along with lanyard.  Your number and the spread sheet tells you what venue you will be in and at what time.  Each venue has a chairperson who guides proceedings and will be completely briefed. The chairperson will ask 3 people to volunteer to speak at each huddle.  You have 10 minutes to discuss your topic, followed by a 5 minute Q&A. You choose how, where and when you wish to present.  This year we have a card/clock system in operation and you will be given notice of 2 minutes left (green) and 30 seconds to wrap up (red).  Each huddle will kick start with a short introduction of who you are and what you do but please limit this to a few short sentences (plenty of time at the breaks to share more about you).  The ice breaker is a ‘life hack’.  This is tip for helping with personal or business life and could range from a handy online tool you use to philosophical perspective.  This is designed to get everyone contributing from the start and is really helpful to all.  The earlier huddles will start with 3 speakers and the later ones may have two but this all depends on the final number on the day.

The spreadsheet on your lanyard is designed to try to ensure you meet new people at each session.  Each session lasts one hour and you have 30 minutes to move to the next venue and chat with the other attendees.  There are 4 sessions through out the day – two in the morning and two in the afternoon.  We finish at 4.30/5pm with a group photo at the Cross in Cong Village.

We will all congregate in Ryan’s Hotel for a post unconference reception.  Dinner will be centralised in Pat Cohan’s with the over flow in Ryans/Danaghers and Lydons.

Ukulele – Zero to Hero

This year we are pushing the boundaries further with a unique chance to learn to play the Ukulele.  We will have 30 Ukuleles at this fun workshop starting with the basics and finishing with a jamming session under the expert guidance of Sean McGrath.  Many people are bringing their own instruments and we will have 20 for purchase @ €60 each with another 10 on loan.  This session starts at 20.00.  This is a great chance to meet some new people, create a piece of music and collaborate.

Sunday Foraging Tour

To blow off the cobwebs on Sunday morning there is a foraging walk through the beautiful Cong woods.  Sturdy footwear and rainwear is advised.  The gathering point is at the John Wayne Statue.  Starting at 11 this gentle walk will take around 90 minutes.


All venues have wifi but be warned it can be temperamental at best, so treat as a nice to have rather than guaranteed.   Similarly on phone coverage, some sides of the village are better than others.


You will have free tea/coffee in all venues and lunch on Saturday is all covered by the generous support of the sponsors –, Advanced Productivity Skillnet, MKC Communications and Blacknight.  Outside of the four venues (Togher Photo Studio, Rare and Recent book store) lunch will be in the last pre lunch venue.


There is NO ATM in Cong but Ryans Hotel and O’Connor Spar shop do cash back but best to bring some cash with you.  The nearest ATM is Clonbur Village about 5km away.


Pat Cohan’s will act the main conference dinner location with over flows spread between Ryans, Danaghers and Lydons for dinner on Saturday night at 18.00.  This really is a great opportunity to connect with each other and explore some of the areas discussed.  There is a nice range of choices available and individual billing is available.

Children’s Workshops

We are expecting over 30 children for the ‘Smart Fabric’ and Percussion Drumming workshops in the Crossroad Community Centre on the way into Cong Village.  You can check your children in from 9.30 and please collect them after the group photo before 17.00.  You will be asked to sign your children in and out.  Please let us know of any allergies in advance.  We would like to take some photos/video of the workshop in practice.  Let me know if this presents any difficulty.

If you intend to avail of this I do need to know in advance.  Food, drinks and movie at lunch time are all organised with a garda vetted minder overseeing the day so the children will be in good hands and have a blast.

Blog Submission

In preparation for #cong18 I really encourage you to read the other submissions and start the process of connecting with each other by either posting them on social media or commenting on the website.  The range of perspective on Ideas is incredible and reading them in advance prepares you to discuss and find people you wish to meet.  Personally, I have really enjoyed reading them.  For any still to submit please send them to me as soon as you can or let me know how you are getting on.  We are flexible on timing but really need to know that you will be there on the day.


Please use the large car park at the entrance to the village or behind O’Connor’s Spar Shop/Garage (closes at 7pm) and behind Ryans Hotel.  Please do notpark in front of Ryan’s Butchers and narrow points of the road (especially the front of Ryan’s Hotel) as large trucks have difficulty passing.

Getting to Cong

Most people are driving to Cong and the list of those willing to car pool is on the registration sheet.  If you are happy to take someone with you (great chance to get to know people) please let me know and similarly if looking for a lift please consult and connect with people.  You should allow for at least three hours for the car trip from Dublin.  If you are travelling by car for Friday evening in Ashford Castle my strong recommendation is to avoid Galway City and to detour off the Motorway for Claregalway, Corrundula and then back on to the headford road to Cong Village.  This involves 20 mins of national roads but will save you a lot of time getting through Galway traffic chaos.  On Saturday morning this will not be a problem.

Buses to Galway are available every half hour from Citylink, GoBus and Bus Eireann. The nearest train station is Claremorris (30 mins) and Galway (45 mins)


Let’s assume it will be wet and cold so please bring warm clothing and wet gear especially if planning on walks in the woods.


As it’s a tourist venue Cong has a good supply of hotels and B&Bs but most of the immediate rooms are booked out.  If you have yet to book please check out the listings on the site but a quick search will produce more options a short trip away in Clonbur Village.  It is best to phone the hotels as they have block booked rooms for us. Taxi services are available to get back to your accommodation if outside the village.  There are also some nice options on AirBnB.  There are still places available in Ryans and Danaghers but these will vanish pretty fast.

Centralised Registration.

This year I am centralising registration on this sheet to give us rough numbers for each of the 7 events.  This covers all the different events but the really important ones are Ashford Castle (we cannot squeeze any more than the lucky 32 in), the Children’s workshops and the Ukulele session (all can attend but we have only bought so many Ukuleles). Please check out the different tabs and put your names and numbers.

Problem Solving Muse.

In addition, this year we are offering the services of a #cong18 problem solving Muse called Thypia where you can drop in whatever problem you are facing and our creative solution provider will deliver a personalised response to you by email.  We cannot promise it will be the perfect answer but we do guarantee that a creative muse will review, analyse and give an anonymous response.  You can start adding your problems now through this link but we will also have cards on the day that you can fill out.

At this point we are on target for over 80+ attendees, 8 chairs, 30 children and some observers.  Your attendance is really important to the smooth running of the event and if by any chance you cannot make it please let me as soon as possible as we will need to find replacements.  It is also not too late for new people to attend so if you know of anyone please share this email, direct them to me or the website.

In the event of something unforeseen happening could you please add your mobile number to the registration sheet or send to me.

Finally, you are the heart of Congregation and I applaud your wonderful insights.  Expect divergent views and opinions.  I just ask you to be respectful but don’t shy from challenge and the richness of discussion this offers.  This year I am also extending a challenge to the more confident to encourage the quieter voices through inclusive contributions.  Please also take the guidance of the chairs who have a difficult task and only wish to have all voices heard.

This event would not be possible without the generous support of, Advanced Productivity Skillnet, MKC Communications and Blacknight and I would like to show my sincerely appreciation for their leap of faith in enabling this event to take place.

I am really looking forward to seeing you in Cong and I really appreciate the great effort you are making in a taking the trip and producing some inspiring submissions.


Ideas Focused 6th CongRegation Launched #cong18

Ideas Spread Through Mayo

  • 6thYear of ‘MindMesh’ festival of Ideas in Cong
  • 100 speakers, 7 events, 3 days, 8 different venues at #cong18
  • Earned entry call open

(01.11.18) The 6thannual CongRegation‘Mind Mesh’ in Cong Village from November 23rdto 25thwill see over 100 Irish and international speakers debate, discuss and share their expert insights into the world of ‘Ideas’.

Consisting of 7 separate events over the weekend in 10 different venues the conference features an evening of talks in Ashford Castle, Adults Physics Workshop, Full Day Unconference, Children’s Smart, Music and Clay Modelling workshops, a learn the Ukulele bar music workshop and finishing with foraging walk in Cong wood.

The centre piece of the weekend is the unconference which sees coffee shops, book shop, art gallery, restaurants and shops in Cong Village turned into mini conference centres or huddles with attendees debating Ideas from the perspective of artificial intelligence to how to get ideas off the ground.

The price of entry to the 3 days of the conference is a 600 word unique article on the theme of ‘Ideas’ that is posted on the conference website.

“The structure and the different events at CongRegation are designed to not alone share information more effectively but to allow the attendees to get to know each other better in a relaxed and informal peer based environment.  These combined has produced lots of serendipity in previous years” commented organiser Eoin Kennedy.

Speakers at the Ashford Castle evening of ‘Ideas Talk’ include business woman Daphne McKinley on establishing the Sean Edwards Foundation, Valerie Cox on her 21 years experience of ideas as a journalist in RTE, Lee Tunney Ware on what are ideas, David Gluckman, ideas innovator and inventor of Baileys and a poet on how the creativity community approaches ideas. This evening will finish with a Semicon(g)ductor Physics session with Mags Amond and Richard Millwood, where the attendees will literally try their hand at conducting – electricity.

While the adults are enjoying the mind mesh in Cong Village on Saturday 24ththeir children will be enjoying a series of work shops including a smart fabric work shop by Common Ground Design followed by a music (drums) and finishing with a claymodelling workshop in the Crossroad Centre.

After the conference dinner on Saturday attendees will be taught how to play the Ukulele from scratch by Sean McGrath in Danaghers Hotel followed by a music session.

CongRegation will finish with a foraging walk in Cong Woods on Sunday morning.

“We are looking for open minded people with a curious mind, from very different backgrounds and an unique insight on ‘Ideas’ to submit their thoughts via the entry on the website,” added Kennedy.

The event is proudly sponsored by, the Advanced Productivity Skillnet MKC Communications and Blacknight.


Congregation takes place in Cong, which is a small village in Co Mayo and home to The Quiet Man and Ashford Castle.  Throughout the day coffee shops, bars and restaurants will be alive with people sharing stories and insights on this years’ theme of Ideas.  Each session or huddle lasts one hour, with two in the morning and two in the afternoon and is moderated by a chairperson.  A free ticket is delivered to attendees once they produce their submission paper and teas/coffee/lunch will be provided during the day.

As each attendee is also a speaker so everyone who goes is a stakeholder and central to the event.  Special breaks are built into the day to facilitate social interaction along with special semi-conductor, music and foraging workshops planned.  Attendees can also send their children to the specially designed day long workshops.  This the 6thyear of the event.  Full eBooks on previous years are available to download.


Eoin Kennedy,


+353 86 8339540