Snapshot of #cong15. Infographic.

Final Briefing for #cong15

With one week to go I wanted to give you some more details on the running order for Congregation that kicks off next Friday through to Sunday.


Congregation this year is made up of three different events.  The Ashford Castle evening on Friday, the full day Unconference on Saturday and the social guided bike ride on Sunday.  The Friday evening in Ashford Castle is full and details have been sent in a separate mail.  


Registration takes place from 9.30-10.15 in Ryans Hotel with huddles beginning at each of the 7 venues at 10.30 sharp.  On arrival you will be given a number along with plastic lanyard as per below.  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 have been completely briefed.  The chairperson will ask 3 people to volunteer to speak at each huddle.  You have 10 minutes to discuss your topic.  You choose how you wish to present.  We hope to have projectors in each venue but you can talk through it, do a show and tell or use a computer.  We have allocated 10 minutes to discuss the topic but in reality it can take a life of its own as conversation does in real life so please be flexible.  My best advise is to treat your blog topic as a catalyst for conversation.  It is a wonderful opportunity to get new views, possible collaborators on projects, expand your network and just take your mind for a gallop on the day.  The one golden rule is NO SELF PROMOTION.  This does not mean no business talk but the key focus of the huddles is to share valuable insights and people will gravitate to you better based on your knowledge and engagement.  Each huddle will kick start with a short introduction of who you are and what you do.  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 will have two but this all depends on the final number on the day.  Currently we are planning around the magic number of 70.  The spreadsheet is also designed to try to ensure you met 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 4.30pm with a group photo at the Cross in Cong Village.

This year we will also have the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift available in the Hungry Monk to test out, some robotics will also be on show and weather depending some Drone activity so plenty of extra delights.


On Sunday we have 20 free places for guided bike rides through the woods surrounding Cong at 11.30am.  All equipment is provided and you will see historical sites, castles, underground caverns and an amazing array of wooded and limestone landscape.  I really encourage any of you staying on to sign up.  To put it into perspective my 5 year old daughter cycles these route on bike with stabalizers.  There is also a Christmas fair taking place in the village on Sunday and the Quiet Cailin are planning singing historical tours which are really quite special.


All venues have wifi which the host will provide the password for 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 –, and MKC Communications.  Outside of the two venues (Rare and Recent Books and Quiet Cailin) 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.


We have booked upstairs in Pat Cohan’s restaurant for dinner on Saturday night at 7pm and this really is a great opportunity to really connect with each other and explore some of the areas discussed.  There will be an a la carte menu available and individual billing is available.  From here we hit the other bars and chats go into the late evening/morning normally ending with games of pool, song and discussion in Danaghers Bar.  I really encourage you to stay on if possible.

Blog Submission

In preparation for #cong15 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 topics is really wide and reading them in advance prepares 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.


There is ample on street parking in Cong with a large overflow car park at the entrance to Cong village and behind O’Connor’s Spar Shop/Garage and Ryans Hotel.

Getting to Cong

Most people are driving to Cong and I have set up a Google sheet for anyone offering and looking for lifts.  If you are happy to take someone with you (great chance to get to know people) please fill out the form 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.

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)


Looking at the forecast it looks like rain is due that weekend so please bring warm clothing and wet gear especially if planning on walks in the woods or the guided bike tour.


As it’s a tourist venue Cong has a good supply of hotels and B&Bs.  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.  Taxi services are available to get back to your accommodation if outside the village.


This year we are organising free puppet making and clay modelling workshops for the children of attendees.  There are a few places left but I do need to know in advance.  Food, drinks and movies are all organised with a garda vetted minder overseeing the day so the children will be in good hands and have a blast.  We do have one child with a nut allergy so please respect this.  The workshops will take place in the new community centre The and open at 10am until 5pm.


This year we have 6 nationalities represented and some have travelled from as far away as Italy and Austria.  There are also 16 counties represented although I might have missed a few.

At this point we are on target for over 70 attendees.  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 direct them to me or the website.

In the event of something unforeseen happening could send me your mobile number so I have them all centalised.

Finally you are the heart of Congregation and 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.

Its hard to put into words the essence of the event without experiencing it but the more you just leap in with an open mind the more you will enjoy and benefit.

This event would not be possible without the generous support of, Blacknight and MKC Communications and I would like to show my sincerely appreciation for their leap of fate enabling this event to take place.  I would also like to thank Power Design for the poster design that you will hopefully see on the way to Cong.

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.


PS This briefing all schedules are also available on the website

Notes for Venues at #cong15

First up many thanks for facilitating once again on Saturday November 28th in Cong Village.

With just over a week to go I just wanted to firm up the arrangements with you and give you an idea of this years event.

Overall Numbers

We are expecting 70 people this year although this number may fluctuate depending on the usual uncontrollable factors.


All attendees will register from 9.30am-10.25am in Ryans Hotel on the 28th.  I will give a short briefing with groups expected to move to arrive at your venue at 10.30am.  The person chairing the venue might arrive a bit earlier so it would be great if you were open from 10am.


This is what we call each of the groups.  The 70 people are broken up into groups of 10 that will go to each of the 7 venues.  Each of these venues will have a chair-person who will control the running order.  It would be greatly appreciated if you could cordon off an area of tables and chairs for this amount of people.  I am aiming to have a projector in each venue that will project on to a blank wall, although from previous experience these are not used too often.  3 people will speak at each venue for 10 minutes followed by a discussion on the topic.  This will last an hour after which the group disperses to another venue.  After 30 minutes of ‘moving time’ you will have a new group of 10 people.  This will be repeated 4 times during the day – twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon.  Schedule is below

9.00am Registration in Ryan’s Hotel

10.00am Opening Address and Orientation by Eoin Kennedy.

10.30am-11.30am Session 1 - Various Venues

11.30am-12.00pm Break

12.00pm-1.00pm Session 2

1.00pm-2pm- Lunch

2.00pm-3.00pm Session 3

3.00pm-3.30pm Break

3.30pm-4.30pm Session 4

4.40pm Final address and group photo at Cong Cross

5.00pm Drinks in Ryan’s Hotel


Lunch venues are the Hungry Monk, Crowes Nest, Pat Cohan’s, Puddleducks and Danagher’s Hotel.  The groups from the Quiet Cailin and Rare and Recent will move to one of the other venues for lunch so you will have 10 or 20 people for lunch.  We are flexible on lunch options but in general we went for soup and sandwiches, as logistically it was easier.  If you cannot do lunch for any reason please let me know.


Could you please provide tea/coffee through out the day for us.  Some venues has pastries also which were appreciated.  I will organise for tea/coffee to be brought to the Quiet Cailin and Rare and Recent.

Other customers.

One of the ideas behind Congregation is that it is supposed to mimic real world conversations so it is expected that other customers will be wandering in and out.  However it might be best to pick a quite corner as we have done in previous years.  


As we all know wifi can be a patchy experience and all attendees have been warned of this.  If possible could you leave the wifi code on the table or let the chairperson know.  The chairperson will remain the same through the day.


I will settle up with you at the end of the day for tea/coffee and lunch so please keep a running tab rather than asking attendees to pay.

Other notes

Each attendee will have a plastic lanyard around their neck so you will know they are part of Congregation or #cong15.

If anyone from the village wishes to pop into some of the groups to just observe, listen and perhaps even contribute this is absolutely fine.

The website contains all the event information and also all the submission many of which are really fascinating.

Some venues might have interesting technology such as virtual reality glasses.  Please try it out as it a fascinating world.

I will have printed signs to put outside each venue so people know where to go.  In general this was outside the door or in the window but please keep an eye out for lost attendees.

Congregation is a free event to talk about Digital Media and Technology and how it impact on personal and business life.  The cost of running the event is funded by, MKC Communications and Blacknight.

If you know anyone from Cong who might be interested in participating I would love to hear from them.  My email is

Finally you help and support have been central to running this event and I would like to express my appreciation for this.  This is the 3rd year and possibly the most important one.

Augmented Reality in Ashford Castle to Kick Start Congregation #cong15

#cong15 Ashford Castle Cinema


Augmented Reality in Ashford Castle to Kick Start Congregation #cong15


·      First ‘Family Friendly’ conference to offer free childcare

·      Call for submissions

·      Written, audio and video submissions accepted

·      Over 90 speakers currently signed up

·      Topics range from Drones, Wearables to Mental Health

·, Blacknight and MKC to sponsor #cong15

(17.11.15) The third annual Congregation Digital Technology Un-conference (, which takes place in Cong on Saturday November 28th, is being sponsored by, Blacknight, MKC and is the first conference to feature childcare.  

The conference has also grown to include an evening of Augmented and Virtual reality demonstrations and talks in Ashford Castle on Friday 27th November and sporting activities in Cong Woods on Sunday 29th.

The event, which began in 2013 has attracted over 100 Irish and international speakers to discuss, debate and share insights into how work and personal life and society is being impacted by digital technology.  The event has also broken the traditional conference format, which sees speakers earning their ticket with a published submission on and presentations taking place in huddles of 10 people in social venues throughout Cong Village.  This year the organisers have pushed the boundaries further by providing childcare for participating speakers to make the event family friendly.

Commenting organiser Eoin Kennedy said “The ethos behind Congregation is to revolutionise the way people communicate, connect and share information at events and also to show that a small West of Ireland village can host an sustainable international technology event in the winter without the need for big infrastructure.  We are delighted that have come on board, which helps us to expand the event and the offering.  We are very conscious that weekends are precious times for families and organizing childcare can be difficult so this year we have supervised workshop activities for families so speakers are free to take their minds for guilt free gallop.  We have also expanded to a weekend of activities including a Friday evening display of innovative technology in Ashford Castle to social events on Sunday.”     

John Magee, Senior Enterprise Officer, LEO added “Congregation can play an important role in positioning Mayo as a place where people come to think discuss and, more importantly, imagine and create Ireland’s digital and social media future. is delighted to be involved with the hugely exciting Congregation ‘un-conference’. Mayo has a vibrant digital footprint and significant potential to carve a meaningful niche with events like Congregation. We look forward to participating and helping the event to grow”

The range of topics to date from over 80 speakers ranges from how wearable technology impacts on health, the potential and issues surrounding drones, the future of content, cybercrime, power of data to how social media can be used for social good.

There is no charge to attend Congregation.  Instead attendees produce a 600 written blog post, a 3 minute video post or 5 minute audio post which is posted in advance on  The submissions are then presented in groups of 10 people called Huddles will gather at each of the 7 venues.  2-3 people speaking at each until everyone has presented their thoughts and ideas.  Groups rotate 4 times during the day to different venues to ensure attendees all connect with each other.

Any interested in participating is encouraged to send in a one liner on their suggested topic area to .  Last date for full submissions is 26th November.

The event will use a variety of venues in the village including coffee shops, exhibition spaces, restaurants and bars.

The eBooks and audiobooks from 2014 are available as a download on


The event is proudly sponsored by Mayo.ieBlacknight and MKC Communications. 


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 into social media.  Each session will last one hour, with two in the morning and two in the afternoon.  A free ticket is delivered to attendees once they produce their blog paper and teas/coffee/lunch will be provided during the day.

As each attendee is also a speaker everyone who goes is a stakeholder and central to the event.  Special breaks are built into the day to facilitate social interaction and social calendar is planned for the Friday and Saturday evening.




Eoin Kennedy,


+353 86 8339540


Chairing at #cong15

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 artifical presentations from a podium.  We have structure 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 in technology 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 have technology in common but backgrounds, interests, occupations etc will all be different.

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 7 venues for #cong15 are:

  1. Barry Kennedy: Pat Cohans Bar
  2. John Leonard: Danaghers
  3. Robert Canavan: Ryans Hotel/Bar
  4. Auveen O’Neill: Hungry Monk Cafe
  5. Averil Staunton: Rare and Recent Book
  6. Alec Taylor: Quiet Cailin. 
  7. Emmet O’Donnell: Puddleducks

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)
  • Each venue will have signage outside and on the table.
  • 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.
  • Briefing for chairs takes place at 10am in Ryans Hotel (registration venue)
  • There will be max 10 people in each huddle but number may vary.
  • There will be four huddles throughout the day according to this schedule.
  • Kick off each huddle by introducing yourself.
  • Explain overall running order - 1hr, introductions, life hack, two/three 10 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.
  • 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 minutes to present and encourage everyone to contribute/ask questions.
  • Some talks might go on longer/shorter but the key is to measure the atmoosphere in the group. 
  • Occasionally the group have been happy to have just one speaker especially if it spawns engaged debate.  
  • Use judgement - if people are riveted to the speaker then allow more time especially  if only 2 speakers.
  • Ask if anyone is managing a google+ hangout, podcasting or streaming the session - just so everyone knows.  Encourage people to tweet or post on social media using the #congregation.
  • 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 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.
  • Synopnise or take some 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 anyome wishes to present again.  I dont 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.
  • This normally transpires with some people who are very anxious to do their talk and see shrinking time.  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.  This is a great bunch of minds so take your for a gallop also.

At registration I will explain how the spreadsheet (which will be on people lanyards) operates.  The spreadsheet is built around 70 people attending.  This is spread across 7 venues running at the same time, with four sessions through out the day.  If 3 people present at each huddle this means 84 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 accomodate 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.

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.

#cong lanyard

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.

Getting Your Congregation Post Written.

Helen Cousins#48

Congregation attendee Helen Cousins gives her advice and insight into the most difficult part of Congregation - producing the blog post.


Eoin tells us, “Eat the Frog Early” and he is right. If you have failed at the early part, at least eat the frog now, before it’s too late. 

The Theme and Dealing with Monkeys

Personally, I’m always a little queasy with a Congregation Post, because most of the attendees are digital natives, with marketing or tech backgrounds. I am an accountant. The blog posts are themed around digital business, so I have to deal with the monkey on my shoulder that tells me I am not knowledgeable enough to write a post on this theme. So, whatever powers your monkey, pick a topic that you know something about and / or have experience of. This year the Irish Self Catering Federation, (ISCF), have asked me to speak at their annual conference about “Pricing and Revenue Generation”, (we have a family business, operating holiday homes), so I tacked on “In the Digital Age” and hey presto, that’s my topic.


If you have written something before that you can reshape into a new post, it will make your life easier. For example, an academic paper could be re-shaped to make it appealing to a broader audience. The directors of ISCF gave me a brief that wouldn’t lend itself to a Congregation post, but at least putting my slidedeck together for that was a warm up exercise for the Cong post. Re-read your old material, it might inspire a new twist for Cong.

Research as Warm Up

Look at some other articles and statistics about your chosen topic to start your own thought process. I ran lots of booking reports and did some graphs for the ISCF slidedeck. I also read though a US conference paper on the same topic that a colleague sent me. That paper was pitched a few levels up from what I needed to do, but at least it got me thinking about the topic. 


Doodle out the points of your post. Some people use mind maps and I’ve seen impressive looking graphics posted online. I just jot some words on a pad, balanced on the arm of my chair, so it never looks great. Here it is.

Some of it never even ends up in the post, as when I start writing, new things occur to me. Everyone will have a different approach that works for them.

It might help to write your paragraph headings first, and fill out the paragraphs. I didn’t do that this time, but have done in the past. 

The Other Bits

Congregation format requests a 100 word summary and 4 take aways from your post. You might find it helpful to write those first and edit them at the end, but I actually wrote those last. 

Perfectionism Kills

You can (and should) edit it once it’s written. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it’s not a peer review. It’s more of a discussion paper. Even if you are wrong on some point, (unlikely), or have a controversial interpretation of something, well that that will only add to the debate at Cong. Being post-imperfect is actually a win for Congregation.  

Getting Started is the Hardest Part

Shame on me but I spent more time messing with Eoin about writing the post than I spent writing it. I finished my ISCF slidedeck during the week, wrote some doodles and the opening paragraph on Friday night and made time to finish it today, (Sunday). Like yer man on “Mastermind”, I operate a “started so I’ll finish” policy, so for me getting started is key. Timing it until 3 days after the deadline doesn’t make it easier. Although I have failed miserably at eating the Cong frog early, I have at least done so with the ISCF frog, (3 weeks early), and killed 2 frogs with a megabyte.  Pick your own topic and just go for it.

CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie