Note on the venues.

Almost there.  We will be using 5 venues on Saturday.  They are

  • Danagher’s
  • Jenny’s Coffee Shop
  • Lydon’s
  • Rare and Recent Books
  • Ryan’s/Crowe’s Nest

They run in this order on the map below - Cong is one way for traffic and Danaghers is the first Hotel on the left as you enter the town after the Cong Cross.  I have linked to pictures of the venues in the heading so you can visualise.

Cong Huddle Map

Here is a quick synopsis of them and worth reading 


Danagher's is a hotel, bar and has a bright airy room used for breakfasts.  We will be using the latter - on the right as you face the venue.  It is also the location for the launch of a local magazine/annual called Cunga on Saturday evening so is in good shape.  Tea/Coffee will be available throughout the day.  This is a lunch venue so if your session finishes here please stay here.

We will have a projector here but expect broadband to be poor.

Jenny’s Coffee Shop

Jenny’s is offically closed but opening just for Congregation which is great.  We will probably use the sections at the back as its easier to cluster tables but we have our pick of spots.  There will be tea/coffee (instant) here but it will be self service.  However Jenny is leaving lots of pastries, scones and home made bread so please help yourself.

There will be a projector here.   There is no wifi and broadband will be flacky as the wall are pretty thick.  I have tethered on O2 before but found it hard to get 3 on a dongle.

Just opposite Jennys is Cong Abbey and the entrance into Cong Woods.  The weather looks good so try take a wander over the bridge and look out for leaping salmon, during the breaks.

We wont be serving lunch here and if your session finishes in Jenny's at 1pm then head to Danaghers where soup and sandwiches for half the group is being served.


Lydons are also opening early specially for us.  Its very relaxed and we will use the sector in the front near the window and beside the bar.  Tea/coffees will be available - just ask.

There is a screen that we will use to connect to a laptop (again only if needed).  It should be pretty quiet up until 3pm when a group arrive for a months mind - yip.  We can move the last session into the back where there is a pool table etc but should be quiet.

No wifi but phone and tongle coverage is generally better as I believe the mast is over that side of Cong.

We wont be serving lunch here and if your session finishes here at 1pm then half your group will head for Danaghers and half will head for Ryans/Crowe’s Nest.

Rare and Recent Books.

This is just beside Lydons and is run by Robert who is wonderful.  It is split into 2 halves - one half antique book store and the other an art exhibition area - separate by a very large curtain.  We are using the latter area.  The best wifi is here and Robert is happy for us to use.  We will also have a projector in this area.  There are toilet facilities available here, as in all venues, but we will be bringing in tea/coffee in flasks and takeaway cups.

Lunch will not be served here and if your session finishes here at 1pm the head around the corner to Ryan/Crowe’s Nest.

Ryan’s Hotel and Crowe’s Nest

Ryans and Crowe’s Nest are side by side and actually interlinked. Crowe’s Nest is the bar area and Ryans the hotel and restaurant.   We will register everyone in the restaurant area of Ryans in the morning.  The plan at the moment is to use a cosy area of the Crowe’s Nest which also has a projector we can plug into (Brian Greene is kindly bringing along a spare cable). It might get busy as the morning proceeds and it gets too noisy we can move back into the restaurant area.  I was there yesterday and it was busy enough but let the chair know.  Although most  venues will be fairly quiet anticipate they may have people in them and expect some curiosity.  

The wifi here is pretty good but  can sometimes vanish and no one can explain why.  Lunch will be served here as will tea/coffee throughout the day.  if your session finishes here at 1pm then stay there.  I think we will serve in the restaurant area but will confirm on Saturday.

Overall please dont rely on broadband as it varied wildly in different spots and different providers.  

One concern I have is that some of the venues might be a little cold - hardy this side of the country - so please bring jackets - just in case.

All for now.

Huddle Chair-ship

Each huddle will have a chair to help manage the session and ensure time keeping and interaction.  Judging from the online chatter in advance of Cogregation they will have an easy job getting the conversation going. 

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

  1. You will be each allocated one huddle to chair.
  2. This huddle will be in one physical location.
  3. Huddles kick off at 10.30am so check out your location in advance.
  4. You will be allocated a huddle/destination on Friday/Saturday morning.
  5. There will be max 10 people in each huddle.
  6. There will be four huddles throughout the day.  See here
  7. First up introduce yourself.
  8. When people arrive idtentify the speakers.
  9. Agree who speaks first etc and help them get set up.
  10. Explain that each speaker has 10-15 minutes to present and encourage everyone to contribute/ask questions.
  11. Your huddle will have 2 or 3 speakers but this will be indicated on the scheduling spreadsheet (you will get this on Saturday)
  12. Ask if anyone is managing a google+ hangout, podcasting or streaming - just so everyone knows.  Encourage people to tweet or post on social media using the #congregation.
  13. Explain that tea/coffee is available for them to use - let me know if supplies run low.
  14. Kick off each session with name, job or company as a one liner from every.  No self promotion or lengthy introductions.  This should be followed by a social media hack.  This is an ice breaking one liner on something they have found useful in social media - e.g. social is great for monitoring social media activity.  Again short and brief.
  15. Start the clock when the person starts presenting.
  16. Use judgement - if people are riveted to the speaker then allow more time especially  if only 2 speakers.
  17. Remember every gets to speak on the day and needs a minimum of 10 mins and 5mins Q&A.
  18. Main thing to police is NO SELF PROMOTION - people will want to know more about you based on your insight.
  19. Give the speaker 3 minutes notice of the time with a hand signal.
  20. Thank the speaker and congratulate them.
  21. Encourage questions after the speaker.
  22. Synopnise or take some highlight some element from the talk as possible icebreaker.
  23. Ask a question of your own or add own experience if needed.  
  24. If you are short a speaker consider calling out one of the posts from the site.  Blog #5, #14, #24, #28 will not be there on the day so safe to call out.
  25. If there are no speakers ask if someone would deliver theirs at the session - I have aksed people to consider this a real possibility.
  26. Polite move conversations on if one person is monopolising and watch for others who would like to ask questions/comment.
  27. Wrap up the session after the hour.  People have 30 mins to get to the next venue (which will take them 30 seconds) so they have plenty of time to chat.
  28. Ideally orientate yourself to Cong so you can direct people to their next huddle and be aware of the overall timings for the day. 
  29. Finally enjoy.  This is not the army, we have structure but only to ensure smooth running of the event.  This is a great bunch of minds so take your for a gallop also.
  30. I will be on the mobile all day at 0868339540 and will wander around to make sure all is running well.  Don’t be shy about calling if need be.

Many thanks to the current chairs:

Other things to do in Cong:

Some people are bringing their other halves along for this event and Cong really does have enough to keep them occupied for the day.

There is a series of marked trails through Cong woods and there are many other visitor sites with a drive.   I know from experience that the trails through the woods are excellent for cycling and one of the wonderful legacies of the Guinness family - outside of Ashford Castle and its many attractions - is that you can cycle for up to 20km without crossing any roads.  Please make the most of this.  Keep an eye out for the Pigeon Hole and Guinness Tower which are all walking distance.  There is a also a Falconry School where you can walk through the woods while letting a Falcon land on your arm.  I will try to link all these later but here is a good starting point. A quick search will produce everything from the Quiet Man to Ashford Castle.  On that note the town has not changed drmatically since the Quiet Man movie with John Wayne was made - if you get chance its worth watching - just to see the main locations in the flesh.

Clonbur is a lovely little town and a great cycle through the woods.  Ballinrobe is the nearest main town (about 10 miles away) with playground/Supermarkets while Westport and Castlebar are both around 30 km.  For the very brave there is an excellent surfing beach and school outside Louisbourg (about 1.30hr drive) that is open all year round.  I was there today so just ask for Elvis - really  - his van with all the gear is just in the beach.

Kylemore Abbey, Letterfrack and a host of amazing mountains are alll within driving distance.

Over the weekend in Cong itself there is an excellent play running in Lisloughrey Lodge (Fri, Sat and Sunday night) while there are plans for a Christmas market on Sunday in Ryan’s Hotel in the Village.

I have lots of other suggestions including my personal favourite Lough Na Faoithe which is a lake, pristine beach and surrounded by spectacular mountains and less than 20 minutes away. 

Sharing on the day:

We would be delighted if you would share what you hear and think on the day with the lengthy #congregation hashtag.  Please use this for tweets, checkins, Facebook status updates,  audio, video and photo uploads.   Why not use this as chance to try out technology like Vine or Instagram video.  You should also ask for the handles of others in the group so you can tag them in conversation.

We would really like to trend for the day and also make it as easy as possible for people to follow the conversation on whatever medium they are happiest to engage with.

Please feel free to watch hash tag questions or comments come in and add those into the mix.

We are also planning on setting up google hangouts at some of the locations where others may be able to contribute and experience the day remotely.  If you have a serious problem with this please let the chair know in advance and if you are happy to host a hangout please just tag it with the venue location e.g. #rareandrecent and #congregation.  

This may be a little manic and is experimental but we might as well stretch the boundaries.

Broadband and phone access:

Like most small Irish villages broadband access and mobile phone coverage is very mixed - some work well everywhere, some on one side of the village and not on the other and although some venues have excellent access others is patchy.  

With this in mind it is best not to rely on broadband and rather treat it as a plus.  This is supposed to be a real sharing and like real world exchanges ‘you and what you know’ are the most important aspects rather than technology.

I will update this section with a list of the blackspots and providers who have most difficulty.

Teas, coffee and lunch:

As part of your ticket for Congregation we will be supplying teas/coffee and lunch during the day.  Please help  yourself.  Lunch will either be provided in your last huddle or we may ask you to move to another - the chair of that session will let you know.

Lunch will be a selection of sandwiches and soup - we will try to accommodate any special dietary requirements but although we cannot guarantee it please let us know in advance.  

We might also supply takeaway cups to allow for easier wandering.

This is a great time to get to know others in your group and to relax a bit.

Not everyone is staying for dinner so we will leave people to organise on their own preference.  Ryan’s will be serving dinner and Lisloughrey Lodge have a really nice bar menu also.

Registration, scheduling and kick off:

We will be registering every one in Ryan’s Hotel in the restaurant from 9am on the day.  The schedule is pretty much set - see here.   

As people regsiter they will be given a label with their name on - depending on time and resources it may be a bit more fancy.

This is the really important part.  You will also be given a number and this number will correlate to spread sheet showing where you are and when you are an attendee and when you are presenting.  Everyone will have a copy of this and the destination of the huddles.  They are all within 20-30 meters of each other so orientating yourself to the village should not take too long.

We are still hopeful of reaching the 100 figure and won’t know the true number until Wednesday or Thursday.  Remembering your number is key - we might even write it on your badge.  Below is an example of how the scheduling will look but expect some tweaks before Saturday.

There may be some speed bumps on the schedule on the day as some speakers might be delayed or cannot make it.  With this in mind please be willing to facilitate us by jumping in to present at short notice if the prescribed speaker is not available.  We would really appreciate your flexibility on this.

Tea/coffee and some light breakfast will be served in Ryan’s from 9 am so please arrive as soon as you can.  I will give a quick welcome and go through the running order for the day at 10.15am so we can kick off as close to 10.30am as possible.  Each huddle will have a chair who will be able to answer or redirect you on the day.


Congregation is designed to be as relaxed as possible and the venues and modes of presenations will reflect this.  Each of the venues is a social venue and will be used as normal although we will have special areas marked out for us.  

We hope to have overhead projectors in each of the veues but they do not have to be used.  You are free to decide how you wish to present - you could do it from a series of notes, you could share some papers with others or you may decide that you wish to use powerpoint or similar.  We will leave that to you to best decide.

Each huddle will last 1 hour and there will be either 2 or 3 presenations are each one.  You will have 10-15 minutes to share your thoughts and then its over to the group to ask questions or to input into the discussion.  This is a really important element as each person is an attendee and speaker.  Naturally people will be nervous and it is really important that the group supports each other.  The beauty of such small groups is that it is the perfect opportunity to contribute without the fear of a large group.  The chair in each session will help to facilitate this and also to keep the flow/timing of the session.

Naturally as time passes you will revisit your blog paper and have more to add.  This is fine and you can incororpate this into what you talk about on the day.  If you wish we can update your blog post but feel free to add to it on the day - nothing is 'fait accompli'.

There are two elements that we will insist on. 

1. Introductions.  At the begininng of each session each person will say their name and what they do do (organisation) in a one liner - no long explanations necessary.  Each introduction will be followed by a social media hack.  This is a one liner or something you have found useful in your years in social media.  This could be something strategic or as practical as “For resizing images for social profiles I use”.  This is designed to break the ice and to fulfil the remit of everyone being a speaker.  I would suggest you have a few hacks lined up - just in case great minds think alike.

2. No self promotion.  One fundamental tennant of Congregation is that your insights are the most important thing.  People will want to know more about you based upon this and we have built in lots of social time to allow for it.  Please do not spend long periods of time talking about yourself and instead focus on telling your story or perspective.  This is for everyone’s sake including the fact that time periods are short and should be utilised for best effect.  Your knowledge is key and you have plenty of time to connect and make business links outside of the huddles.  This is the one area that the chairs will heavily police.

As a general note please be cordial, interested, friendly and engaged for everyones presentation - you are all presenting at some stage and this works both ways.  If you can read everyone posts in advance - the presenations on the day should be a catalyst to inspire conversation so don’t be shy about giving our own experiences - it will enrich the overall interaction.

Finallly please enjoy sharing your superb knowledge.  I am astounded by the quality of the contribitions and you all have incredible insights to share.  You have already done the heavy lifting by producing wonderful blog posts so on the day remember you have something worthy to say and others will appreciate it.

Car Pooling:

Now we are inching closer to the 30th people are starting to ask me about car pooling.  Outside of being very pragmatic about the ease of getting  to Cong Village it is also a great opportunity to get to know people better.

I could put a table on the site, use a google docs file or use an online service.  

Lets kick it off - if any one is driving and can take someone - let me know where you are coming from, how many people can you take and when you are leaving. 

eoin a congregation dot ie

Hotels are filling up fast.

Lisloiughrey Lodge has a wedding party on Saturday 30th.  They still have places left but will fill up fast.  Following that places in the village will start to go fairly quickly so if you are staying its best to book in now.  Ryans and Danaghers are both in the village and logistically the simplest.  They are also pretty reasonable.

See here for details on the other accommodation (not an exhaustive list and there are other options.) 

Draft Schedule for the Day

We will be tweaking the schedule for the day as we get closer but some people have asked me for provisional time.  We are starting early to help people travelling and also for those who stay up late the night before.  We will have two session in the morning and two in the afternoon.  So far the timings are:

9.00: Breakfast and registration desk open. Ryans Hotel.

10.15:  Welcome and briefing on the running order of day.

10.30-11.30:  First huddles.

11.30-12.00: Break, chat and networking.

12.00-13.00: Second Huddle.

13.00-14.00: Lunch

14.00-15.00: Third Huddle.

15.00-15.30: Break, chat and networking.

15.30-16.30: Fourth and Final Huddle.

17:00 Closing comments and networking.

18.00: Dinner

20.00-Late:  Drinks in Crowes Nest, Pat Cohan's, Danagher’s and Lydon’s

I will be back with final timings closer to the 30th. 


Many thanks to all the outlets who carried the Congregation story.  First up to and their video interview and the Reluctant Speakers Club Podcast.  

The formal press release is here.

Silicon Republic, Business and Leadership, Tech Central, About Mayo, Look West and the Mayo Advertiser all carried the story.

Nice blog post from Roseanne Smith and the Information Literacy Weblog.

CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie