Important Briefing Notes for #cong20

We are almost there.  CongRegation will be a different experience in 2020 as a virtual event for reasons we are all familiar with.  However with the right mindset of openness armed with your thoughts it will be stimulating and fascinating day.

I have gathered some notes to help orientate yourself for this year’s CongRegation.

First the Basics

Date: Saturday 21 Nov

Time start: 10:15am orientation

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

Platform: Zoom and breakout rooms

Evening entertainment: Poetry Open Mic 7pm  and StandUp 8-9.30pm


CongRegation will be delivered via the Zoom platform this year.  All the registrations are being centralised via this zoom link.  Once you register (very simple name, organisation, contact details) you will receive a link and connection details for the day.  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.


Before Saturday 21st 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.  The next ask is comment on ones that inspire you and please share as much as your 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.

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 #cong20.  I will open CongRegation at 10:15am with a short introduction and orientation.  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.


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.  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 give 10 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.  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 this vast arena.  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.  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 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.

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.

During the break Declan and Jason from KD Corporate Wellness have kindly agreed to walk us through some simple stretching, mindfulness and nutrition tips to keep our minds and body in tune.


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.


We are planning a stand up session this year with actor and comedian Eric Lalor.  This will be broken into two parts.  First Eric will share hints, tips, insights on what to expect and a chance to have a Q&A with him.  The second part is the stand up session itself which Eric will MC.  You don’t have to do the stand up to attend the mini workshop but it’s a golden opportunity. Its worth doing even if just to equip yourself better for work presentations.

Rules of Engagement

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

  1. We are all peers and equal respect should be shown to all attendees.
  2. Please do not give or take offense.
  3. Dialogue is good but should be constructive.
  4. This is not a competition but a meeting of minds.
  5. Contributions are a catalyst for conversation rather than things to be challenged.
  6. Aim for one or two areas that really inspired you and build on conversations.
  7. Be succinct. Long rambling points can be very disconcerting especially in an online forum.  Make your point or addition but also practice self restraint.
  8. Huddles can very comfortable and safe environments but do not confused them with therapy sessions.
  9. Please keep unrelated personal stories to offline exchanges.
  10. Stick to the theme of Society 3.0. Fascinating as other segues may be, people have given up their Saturday to hear about the topic area.
  11. Help quieter voices – ask other attendees if they have views. This will really help the chairs.
  12. Everyone has given up substantial time composing their contribution and valuable time on a Saturday. Please respect this.
  13. 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.
  14. Offensive, sexist, racist, homophobic, ageist or personally abusive comments will not be tolerated.
  15. Follow the directions of the chair. They have the toughest job of all and give their time to keep proceedings flowing.
  16. 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.
  17. Anyone deliberately disrupting huddles may be asked to leave.
  18. Please step up and share but practice self restraint. Be mindful others may also wish to speak but too shy to interrupt.
  19. We are all adults and are here to progress collective thinking.

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