#cong21 Chairing Instructions


Huddle Structure


•          12 people per huddle (could be less/more)

•          Roundtable style

•          2-3 Present

•          10 Minute presentation

•          5-10 Minute discussion

•          4 rotating 1 hr huddles

•          Start with simple introduction and life hack


Session Breakdown

•          1 hour

•          Welcome/ground rules – 5 mins

•          Introductions/ice breaker – 10 mins (2 mins each) (15 mins elapsed)

•          Speakers selected

•          Presentation 1 – 10 mins (25 minutes elapsed)

•          Q&A – 5 minutes  (30 minutes elapsed)

•          Presentation 2 – 10 minutes (40 minutes elapsed)

•          Q&A – 5 minutes (45 minutes elapsed)

•          Presentation 3 (55 minutes elapsed)

•          Q&A 5 mins (60 minutes elapsed)

•          Thank all speakers/last thoughts/comments


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, manage the introductions, ice breakers, 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 the sessions to avoid chaos but the chairs 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.

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)

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

  • 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 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.  Aim for max of two minutes.
  • The introductions are very important part of people getting to know each other and people will be doing it 4 times during the day.  However this is an area where you can lose a lot of time, making it difficult to catch up later.  You should aim to keep this to 5 minutes max with the first presentation starting not later than 15 minutes after group arrive (you may need to start before everyone is in attendance).  This timing will be very difficult for the first session but easier for the later ones.  Strong time keeping at the beginning will make it easier to rein in conversations later and keep control of the sessions.  This means you will may have to interrupt (perhaps asking for the life hack if introduction is long winded) and constant reminders of the amount of time available.  You should keep your time keeping device (phone, clock, hour glass;) close at hand and don’t be afraid to point at it or look at it to remind people.  Tight time keeping at the start creates a statement of intent for your chairmanship of the session.
  • 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 #cong21.
  • 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 and make sure their submission is discussed.  In general people contribute willingly. Please ask people to be respectful of the speaker and their points of view. Differences of opinion are valuable and should not be avoided. Phrasing is key and probing questions are preferred to abrupt disagreement. As chair you are entitled to intervene, trying not to take side but perhaps rephrasing as a question.
  • 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.
  • Encourage people to use the hands up feature in room if they wish to make a point and do not want to burst in.
  • Do not be afraid to ask people to mute themselves especially when someone is presenting
  • A persistent challenge arises when the conversation is opened to the floor and then either the speaker continues to dominate the conversation, or one or two other people engage in a conversation with the speaker, or themselves, and the rest of the group can feel like onlookers.
  • In order to mitigate against this at the beginning of each huddle remind the group that the aim of the huddle is to include everyone’s contribution and to that end, asks everyone in the group to only respond briefly and once to the speaker’s topic, until it’s clear that everyone who wants to contribute has had the opportunity to do so.  You can encourage this by making eye contact with everyone in the huddle, especially those she/he’s identified as someone needing encouragement. Then once everyone who wants to has contributed, people can come back in with a second response.
  • We have plenty of time to catch up on over runs during the day.
  • 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.
  • Some people may need to present first as they have other commitments.  Please ask if anyone has any restrictions.
  • A few presenters will use video and slides.  They should share screen to do this.  They might also request some extra time, which in general is ok.
  • Wrap up the session after the hour.  Frequently it feels unfair to shut down lively discussions at the end of the hour but it is better that people leave wanting more and they can continue the conversation on the way to the next huddle.

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.

Advance Preparation

Please reread all the instructions and be clear about the timings.

If possible read the submissions – even the synopsis, which will give you a good handle on what people will be talking about.

Do some dry runs at home so you are comfortable with your script (welcomes, introductions, requests for chairs, moving conversations on). Practice gesture (hand and eye) for moving things on and catching people attention. Chairing can be daunting but if you internalise the processes, timings and your script the more confident you will be and much better positioned to deal with any curve balls.


One of the wonderful aspects of CongRegation is that people can be passionate about their topic. The will also have spent considerable time preparing for CongRegation. However this means that any criticism can potentially be taken personally, even if not meant this way. Some people can tend to be very direct. All exchanges should be respectful/constructive and as chair you have a mandate to intervene before things get too hot. There is a fine line between healthy banter and hurtful comments. You can avoid much of this by explaining the ground rule early and taking early action. Rephrasing of positions, asking questions and allowing people to agree to disagree will help and avoid direct confrontations is possible. One attendee explained to me one year that his presentation evoked strong responses – some loved, one hated. He also explained that he embraced both but if it has happened the previous year it would have set him back. In short some people have strong personalities and we cannot know what is going on in some peoples world.

Off Topic

In general the atmosphere of huddles is very collegial and as everyone is a peer it is egalitarian. However this can also lead to some people opening up with very personal comments about their life status that are off topic. This can be jarring to the chair and group. These should be handled sensitively but not encouraged. Thank people for sharing and point out that we have lots of time build in to explore lots of other areas before guiding back to the theme of community. Again advising that the session is focused on the theme of ‘Leadership’ at the start will minimise this and empower you to bring back on topic.

Online Practicalities

When we gather for the orientation we will all in one room.  As per the briefing note I will randomly allocate people to breakout room.  This means you may be in breakout room with another chair.  In this instance agree with the other chair which one of you will leave.  Simply leave the room and I will reallocate to another huddle.  This will be repeated before each huddle.

If someone wishes to be reassigned to another breakout room (possibly because they have been with the same people already), this is not an issue.  They can leave and I will reassign them.

Encourage people to keep their cameras on but to stay muted especially when someone is presenting.

The hands up feature is also a good idea especially for the quieter who do not want to interrupt people or if they have an urgent question.

Some (one two I think) will have slides and video to share.  They can do this via the share screen mode.

I will upload a chairs backdrop to this post, which you are free to use but it is useful to change your name to include the word – chair – at the end.

Closing Remarks

My closing comments is that your role as chair is extremely important and people look to you to guide and manage the flow and to take action when needed.  This means you have a mandate to make decision and politely move things on.  If you manage the small things – starting on time, keeping the introductions tight etc it will be easier to assert your presence later on.

Feedback from past attendees is that they really respect chair who keeps a tight ship on timekeeping and work hard to include all voices and not allow one or two to dominate.

I once again thank you for time and agreeing to chair.  The event could not run smoothly without it.

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. 

6 Minute Running a Huddle Insights

Alec Taylor has kindly put together his tips for running a huddle.  Worth watch especially for flow and managing of timings and getting comfortable with the group but it does refer mainly to face to face huddles.


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