#cong22 Chairing Briefing Instructions

How huddles are chaired at #cong22

Huddle Structure at a glance

  • 10-12 people per huddle (could be less/more)
  • Roundtable coffee conversation style
  • 2-3 Present at each huddle
  • 10 Minute presentation
  • 5-10 Minute discussion
  • 4 rotating 1 hr huddles
  • Start with simple introduction and life hack

Session Breakdown

  • 1 hour per huddle
  • 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
  • Remote attendees


  • Timer (phone)
  • Note pad
  • PC with extension cable (if dialling in remote attendee)


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.

The chairs for the 8 venues for #cong22 are:

  1. Barry Kennedy | Mc Hughes | Two groups here. Lunch served.
  2. Richard Millwood | Danaghers | One group in the café to the right. Lunch served.
  3. Ruairi Kavanagh | Puddleducks | One group. Table at the window. Lunch served.
  4. Don Delaney | Elizabeth Togher’s | One group. Round table. Lunch in Danaghers.
  5. Cormac Kennedy | Lydons | One group. Downstairs. Lunch served here.
  6. Alan Costello | The Irish History Bookstore | One group. Lunch in Ryans.
  7. Mike O’Rourke | McHughes | 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). One of the chairs might run this as registration tends to get busy.
  • 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.  You might have to kick off the life hack with one of your own.
  • 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 to keep it 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 15 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).  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 #cong22.
  • Explain that tea/coffee is available for them to use – let me know if supplies run low especially for Elizabeth Toghers and the Irish History Bookstore (Ryans will supply).
  • Details for lunch venues will be on the lanyard.
  • Start the clock when the person starts presenting.
  • Remember everyone gets the opportunity to speak on the day and needs a minimum of 10-15 mins and 5mins Q&A.
  • Give an indication of hallway mark and 1 minute left so people can wrap up without feeling flustered.
  • Main thing to police is NO SELF PROMOTION – people will want to know more about you based on your insight.
  • Please ask people not to take phone calls at the table (yes it does happen)
  • Thank the speaker and congratulate them.  Some people will be nervous, some very confident.
  • Encourage questions after the speaker.  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.
  • 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.
  • 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 venue.  If possible stick to the schedule as otherwise groups get bunched together.   The weather may also be cold and perhaps wet so best not to leave people waiting outside the venue.  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.


We have experimented with different way to moderate the timing from green to indicate 5 minutes left and red cards to indicate 30 seconds left too wrap up.  We have also tried alarms on phone.  All of these work well.  I will try to get red and green cards in advance

Remote Access

This year we have 5 remote attendees this year from the US, Canada and the Netherlands who will be dialling in.  It makes more sense to have one remote attendee per huddle and I have picked the ones with the best broadband.

If you have a laptop and a zoom account could you please facilitate at the following venues

  • Puddleducks – Ruairi
  • Ryans – Tony
  • The Irish History Book Store – Alan
  • McHughes – Mike/Barry
  • Danaghers – Richard
  • Lydons – Cormac

You will need to ask for the WIFI codes in advance.  Expect the connections to be wobbly in some venues especially as the day goes on and more people login.  Please move the laptop screen in front of speakers when they are presenting but keep at the top of the table if the speaker is delivering theirs.  My recommendation is to ask the remote access attendees to go earlier as it will be quieter, they will be engaged quicker and chances are they might not be able to stay for the full day (especially as it could be 3am local time).

Otherwise please treat them the same as everyone else.  One thing to note is we might need extension cables to keep your laptop charged or just top up during the breaks.


This year we have 4 workshops during the unconference (during and after the huddles).   The first (Wayfinding with Barre Fitzpatrick) will take place in Ryans during lunch with the huddles from Ryans and The Irish History Bookstore attending.  The other three will take place from 4-5pm (note the last huddle will be reduced to 30 minutes).    We will be guiding people from you huddles to the following locations.

  • Danagher’s Hotel: ‘Fake Purpose’ with Andy Green – Huddles move from Danaghers, Puddleducks and McHughes (Mike)
  • Lydon’s Hotel: ‘Inside the Donut’ with Roisin Markham.  Huddles move from Lydons and McHughes (Barry)
  • Ryans Hotel: The Robot Wrote my Report – AI Content creation by Stephen Howell.   Huddles move from Ryan’s The Irish History Book Store, Togher’s

Event Clash

At 2pm on Saturday rugby International James Ryan will be awarded the Hands of Cong.  This will take place opposite the abbey beside Danaghers.  The reason for pointing this out is it might get busy during that time and some attendees might be late getting you to the 2pm huddle.


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.  Please familiarise yourself with the venue during registration so you know where to go and that the room is set up for you.  I will have checked in advance.

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.

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 Purpose. Again advising that the session is focused on the theme of ‘Purpose’ at the start will minimise this and empower you to bring back on topic.

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 decisions 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 keep 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.

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.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

16 MILLION COPIES SOLD ‘A book to read, to cherish, to debate, and one that will ultimately keep the memories of the victims alive’ John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas A prominent Viennese psychiatrist before the war, Viktor Frankl was uniquely able to observe the way that both he and others in Auschwitz coped (or didn’t) with the experience. He noticed that it was the men who comforted others and who gave away their last piece of bread who survived the longest – and who offered proof that everything can be taken away from us except the ability to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances. The sort of person the concentration camp prisoner became was the result of an inner decision and not of camp influences alone. Frankl came to believe man’s deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose. This outstanding work offers us all a way to transcend suffering and find significance in the art of living.


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