Brisbane team and leadership facilitator Leanne Hughes, shares her ideas on how you can start a meeting or workshop, when you’re still waiting for people to arrive.
Did you know that we’re born with only two innate fears?
The fear of falling
The fear of loud sounds.
We develop fears as we get older because fear protects us.
Does it, though?
I don’t believe phrases like "Face your fears!" or "Feel the fear and do it anyway!" are terribly helpful.
I like simple, practical approaches, like working out ‘If / Then’ statements. “If I do this… Then x will happen.”
🧠 Often, when we let our brain slip into ‘If/then’ thinking mode, we start thinking worst case scenario. When I thought about leaving my job late last year, the immediate fears were: Homelessness, no clients, boredom, social isolation. Irrational? YES! But that’s okay - my brain did that to protect me.
🗒️ However if you start getting these ‘If/then’ statements out on paper (or a Google Sheet) and start documenting all the different scenarios, and workarounds, and chunk it down to actions you can take, these types of moves seems less and less scary.
You get to an inflection point where it makes sense to ‘do the thing’.
Where taking the leap is actually a better option than inaction.
If you'd prefer to listen to my highlights reel of the Clifton Strengths Summit, visit the First Time Facilitator podcast site. Otherwise, keep reading below!
As you'll read in this post, organising a great conference or event isn't rocket science. However, there are some key considerations and things you can't afford to get wrong.
On Episode 44 of the First Time Facilitator podcast, I shared my advice on how to create rewarding workshop experiences using a neuro-leadership model called SCARF. I thought I’d use the SCARF model again to share how this conference was so awesome.
I've recently returned from the Clifton Strengths Summit in Omaha Nebraska and I'd like to share what organisers did really well. If you're reading this, it's probably because you enjoy learning, which may also mean you enjoy attending conferences (or, you may be helping to organise an upcoming event!).
If that's the case, enjoy the read and don't forget to comment at the end and let me know about a great conference experience you've had!
What is SCARF all about?
The word SCARF is an acronym for the five key "domains" that influence our behaviour in social situations: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness.
SCARF centres around the idea that ‘social threats’ are perceived by the brain with the same intensity as actual physical threats. In other words, our brain is sending out the signal that we're in danger. What that means is, if you are feeling a social threat, it triggers the same response your brain would feel if you felt physical pain.
Therefore as workshop and conference organisers, your goal is to reduce the social threat response.
How did the event organisers use SCARF to deliver this event?
Status (S): Our relative importance to others.
There were different coloured name tags allocated to attendees.
If you had a black name card it meant you worked for Gallup
If you had a blue one, it meant you were a Gallup certified Strengths coach
If you had a green one (like me), you were an average joe!
I’m not Gallup certified, yet. I am now gunning for certification and a future blue name card (I have returned from this conference with Gallup/Clifton and the Strengths assessment pumping through my veins)!
Using this colour-coding scheme, you could tell quickly, those who had invested more (or my perception, who had more experience) using the Clifton Strengths tool.
From a marketing perspective, this works.
You may or may not want to use something like this at your conference - status was used here to demonstrate the depths of investment in the tool.
However, if you don't want status signals playing out, maybe keep colours neutral with your collateral, or incorporate the colours as an arbitrary way to split up groups during workshop activities (for example, "Go find someone with a red name tag and have a chat about x").
Certainty (C): Our ability to predict the future
Out of all of the SCARF domains, this is where they owned it - in the Certainty domain.
The conference app was next level. You could download it about six weeks prior to the conference and use it to gather all of the information. I believe they used a company called Glisser to create it.
The gamification feature added fun, interaction and connectivity. You were encouraged to upload your profile photo and biography prior to the conference. If you did this, you were given points.
You were also given points if you posted a photo to the social wall and if you messaged another attendee on the app.
Where did the points go? A leader board was created in the app, so you could track who was participating the most (there was an in-joke that those attendees with Competition and Achiever would be driven to play).
With the app, you could also view the agenda and opt-in to sessions. When breakout session was full, you were notified. Your name tag had a QR code printed on it, when you entered a breakout session, organisers scanned your tag to ensure you had signed up.
This gave you certainty that there was an empty seat waiting for you.
One other key detail in the app? The wi-fi login details #essential.
Transport was another thing - they had buses frequently runinng trips to and from the venue at certain hours during the day, to eliminate that question of, "How do I get to the venue?".
Autonomy (A): Our sense of control over events
Confession: My co-facilitator Adam Mustoe kept saying that one of the conference evening highlights in Omaha was karaoke night. I said, "Yeah yeah" but in the back of my mind, I was thinking, "Naaah". I was already sleep deprived from a big week in NYC and keen for an early night.
However, after being on a high from delivering our breakout session: The 7 Attributes of a Superhero Facilitator, I was definitely in the mood for socialising!
The organisers booked a two-storey bar in town and decked it out with great games (corn-hole, life-size Jenga), as well as a delicious buffet and selection of drinks. I was easily enticed for karaoke! By 11pm I realised it was time to leave... I woke up at 7.30am. The Summit closing ceremony kicked off at 8.30am but a) I needed to eat breakfast and b) I had to pack everything and check out before I went to the conference.
It took me close to 2 hours to do both. I ended up missing a Breakout session as well. I felt terrible.
The good thing was that on the app, you could select an item that said ‘Not attending this session’, which is what I did to free up some space for someone else to attend said session - I felt like I had some control over this situation (autonomy).
When I did arrive midst breakout session, I ended up meeting some wonderful Gallup staff, purchasing some Gallup training cards for upcoming workshops and having a chin-wag with Murray Guest. Murray was a guest (excuse the pun) on Episode 30 of the First Time Facilitator podcast. He lives in Newcastle, only a one hour flight from Brisbane but we met in Omaha! Cool.
This was very different from the Tony Robbins experience I went to which was over 3.5 days where I felt terribly guilty for even missing a minute of the action.
The other great thing about autonomy is that we were given a choice on which breakout session to attend. We were given all the information to make informed choices - the speakers bios, and detail on their topics.
Opting in to a stream during the day meant that you were getting information that you wanted to hear. Sessions were relevant.
And as always, you can’t attend every single breakout session, so it's nice to know you can download all of the presentations (which is what I'll be doing as soon as I hit Publish on this article!).
Relatedness (R): How safe we feel with others
Each name tag had our top five Strengths printed on it, which meant you could walk up to anyone and compare your Strengths all day!
It made conversations so easy.
You’re also drawn to the conference because of your love of the tool, so in terms of commonalities it was very easy to chat with someone and compare experiences - what industry they’re in, how they have used the tool, etc.
The conference has been running for a few years now, so there were a lot of people who use the time as a reunion time, to catch up with people.
In that way, you may have felt as a newbie, an "intruder" and perceived that it was tough to break through. I admit, on the first evening, that was my initial reaction.
But remember that courtesy bus I mentioned earlier? I had missed it by a minute, and so had a few other people. We ended up sharing an Uber to the event on the first night, and that’s when I met Katie Williamson from Fresno, California. We ended up being great conference buddies over the three days.
I was lucky that I was co-facilitating with Adam, who had been to the conference a couple times, and fell into his circle of amazing people. However, I also had fellow Australian's reach out connecting over the app as well.
If you were concerned about meeting others, you could use the app to reach out to others and suggest meeting them prior to the networking event.
The best breakout sessions were the ones which had some type of interactive element in them and you were asked to turn to the person next to you, or get into groups of threes. This helped, again, meet more people vs a lecture style presentation.
Adam and I incorporated quite a bit of this in our presentation, and it lifted the energy in the room, every time.
Fairness (F): How fair we perceive the exchanges between people to be
All of the activities were inclusive, the range of speakers and content covered was diverse and there was even representation between men, women, colour, age, industries, regions and experience.
They gave everyone enough lead up time to register for breakout sessions, so if you missed out, you couldn’t really complain - that was on you.
Sometimes at conferences, things change - which is all part of managing an event, but if it's mis-communicated, or communicated to some people (and not others), it can create confusion; and a sense of unfairness. The app ensured consistency with communication - everyone had the same information, at the same time.
Finally, you could use the app to submit questions for the Q&A at the end of each breakout session - a fair process, given that it's difficult to manage a lot of questions that come through and sometimes if you're sitting at the back of the room, you're missed!
What are your thoughts?
Have you ever had a conference experience which has either rewarded or threatened one of those five social constructs - Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, or Fairness?
About the author
Leanne Hughes is the host of the First Time Facilitator podcast. She loves to shake up expectations and drive influential contagious experiences.
Leanne has facilitated leadership, on-boarding and team-building workshops across Australia, Canada, Indonesia and Mongolia and believes in a Strengths-centred approach to learning and development. She has over 13 years’ of experience across a range of industries including mining, government and tourism sectors.
In 2018, she was a finalist in the Australian Learning Impact awards for Learning Professional of the Year.
You can view more of her work at leannehughes.com.
Many people like the idea of starting a podcast, but when they start to research and give it a go, they’re overwhelmed by all the information out there. They want a simple plan they can follow, a clear step-by-step action plan to start their podcast from scratch.
I knew this experience all too well, as I went through the rigour of researching to start my podcast back in February 2018. I would have LOVED to have attended this type of workshop. So, I decided to put together a one day podcasting workshop in Brisbane, to help people launch their show this year. The target market? Anyone who is curious about starting a podcast, and keen to make as much progress, with as little Googling as possible
Eight incredibly intelligent and fun people from a variety of industries, joined me on a Sunday at Bright HQ in Teneriffe, to learn about the podcasting process. On the Eventbrite page I used to advertise the event, I gave participants the following warning: Don’t attend this workshop if you just want to sit back and absorb information.
The podcast ideas they all brought along were great and I’m looking forward to listening to their shows on health, law, science, mining, expat living, sport and children's stories this year.
As part of the workshop, we covered topics including essential tech equipment, cool apps to automate workflow/project manage, associated costs, how to book guests, how to write show notes and a 'day in the life of a podcast episode'.
Testimonials from the participants
‘I liked that the workshop gave me all the information I needed to start making serious progress in getting my podcast underway. I felt that the group size was perfect and we were all able to get to know each other quite quickly. It was a fun and productive way to spend a Sunday - thanks Leanne!’
‘I enjoyed the size of the group and the format of the information. The most valuable aspect was the life cycle of an episode (and how much more there is to do than simply recording!).’
‘I wanted to thank you for the workshop on Sunday. I walked in that door not having a clue how to start a podcast and left feeling that I could actually do this - and by myself no less without paying someone to do all of the post-production heavy lifting (unless I wanted to of course!). You have saved me uncountable hours doing all of the research on how to get started as well as the stress of knowing whether I was even doing the right thing as I fumbled my way through’
‘I wanted to thank you again for the workshop last weekend. It was incredibly comprehensive and fun and I’m now feeling more confident approaching all the different aspects of podcasting. It’s also great to be part of a new community of enthusiastic first-time podcasters! Really looking forward to following everyone’s journey and eventually subscribing to a bunch of new podcasts as everyone launches!’
If you’re interested in attending the next podcast workshop, enter your details below.
I know it’s cliche setting new year’s resolutions. However, I do find that this time of the year is really great for taking the time out to reflect, reset and refocus for the year ahead.
It’s like that analogy - we’re so busy driving to stop and refuel. But at some point, if you want to keep travelling, you’re going to have to stop at that service station and fuel up.
This time last year, I stopped in at the service station to setup my strategy for 2018. I’m going through the same process this year, and thought I’d share some of the simple tools and processes I use to plan my year.
By the way, if you'd prefer to listen to this article, you can tune into Episode 47 of the First Time Facilitator podcast.
Reflect using The Good Life Buckets
Instead of leaping into planning for the upcoming year, I take some time out to reflect. "Reflection?" you say, ‘Yawn!’Reflecting isn’t super exciting but it’s important to take stock of your year’s highlights and where you spent your time.
I use Jonathan Fields’ ‘Good Life Buckets’ as a tool to reflect. Jonathan wrote about these buckets in his book, ‘How to Live a Good Life’.
Jonathan isn’t actually a big fan of the idea of finding your life’s purpose. Instead, he says it’s more effective to ask yourself, “What can I do now with a sense of purpose?”
I’m a huge fan of the three buckets framework. It offers a way to look at the life you’re living, quickly and easily access what’s working and what’s not, and instantly know where to focus your energy to make things better.
Imagine there are three buckets that all of us have:
Vitality bucket is all about the state of your mind and body and includes things like exercise, getting a decent night’s sleep and eating well. It also included mindfulness, being grateful, and feeling good in your own skin.
Connection bucket is to do with your relationships. Humans are hard-wired for connection, love, and belonging. If you feel a lack of connection with self, family, friends, or community, your Connection bucket is low.
Contribution bucket is all about how you contribute to the world through your job, calling, purpose, creative ventures, volunteer work, and so on.
If you’d like to assess how full each of your buckets are, I suggest you use this checklist: Jonathan Fields 60 second worksheet (Three Good Life Buckets). As part of this checklist, you rate each of your buckets between 0 (extremely dissatisfied) to 10 (extremely satisfied).
A quick reflection using the checklist and I have given myself in 2018:
Vitality = 7/10; Connection = 6/10, Contribution 8/10.
Jonathan also has rules that govern the buckets:
Rule 1: The fuller our buckets, the better our lives.
When all the buckets are spilling over – life is wonderful. However, if any single bucket runs dry, there is pain. If you have two buckets running low, you’re in a world of pain.
Rule 2: Over the course of our lives, our buckets leak.
Our job then is to keep taking stock of our bucket levels, and circling around, filling each bucket as needed.
Let’s talk about the Vitality bucket - you may train for a marathon, and be super fit. However, once it's over, you stop running. If you’re not maintaining your fitness, the bucket leaks, and a few months down the line you may even struggle to run 10kms. What’s happened here? Your vitality bucket is leaking...
Rule 3: All of the buckets are connected
That’s why it’s important to figure out which bucket requires some attention. For example, if you're pouring 110% into the Contribution part of your life, you’re probably overworking to the point of sacrificing your Vitality or Connection buckets. Not having optimal mind, body and relationships will prevent you from doing your best work.
Once you know which bucket needs to be filled, you can then identify strategies or things you can do to start refilling them.
Other good reflection questions (that you can ask yourself, any time of the year - the more frequent, the better)
When were you most inspired, in the zone?
What projects did you really enjoy working on?
When you had the most energy in a conversation, who were you talking to? What were you talking about?
Reset and refocus: Jenny Blake’s Pivot metholody
This time last year, I listened to Jenny Blake’s pivot podcast episode: Jenny Blake’s podcast, ‘Set Your 2018 Pivot Strategy’
If you’re serious about making 2019 a big, productive and fulfilling year - listen to the episode above.
She talks about pivoting and how you have your best chance of success by doubling down on what’s working, envisioning what success looks like one year from now, scanning for people, skills and projects that interest you, and then setting up a handful of small experiments to let them show you which ones gain the most traction on their own.
She suggests you start out by going BIG and set a theme for your year.
My 2018 was the Year of Action.
I’ve decided that 2019 is the Year of Maintenance.
Yes that sounds a little boring but I need to start maintaining the ideas, the projects, the relationships, as well as my vitality - maintaining good sleep patterns, and morning and evening rituals (on a side note, one new thing I'll do in 2019 is incorporate a a structured evening ritual, like a maintenance checklist. Michael Hyatt suggests having a start of day/end of day checklist to help you structure your time when you wake up and go to sleep. Read an article on his website about how a structured evening ritual can help you feel sharp and rested).
Once you have your theme for the year, you can start mind-mapping how that will play out in your life.
I like her idea of soul goals. These are the type of goals that you actually feel a bit silly writing down, because they’re a huge stretch. They're the type of goals that, if they actually happened, you'd start dancing wildly around the house (or your workplace).
Once you've created your mind-map and soul goals, you can start chunking it down to determine what tasks you need to do to make each of them happen.
Book recommendation to help you plan
Napoleon Hill’s ‘Think and Grow Rich’. You write down an intentional statement about how much money you want to make, by when, and how you’ll achieve this. Again, it’s all about setting the intention.
How do I remind myself of what I need to do?
One neat tool is to write down some of your goals and either screen capture them, or use a tool like Canva to create an image, which you can set as your phone's wallpaper. Every time you open your phone, you're reminded of your year, your soul goals and a couple of key actions you need to take.
That’s it! Some really cool and simple tools that will get your divergent brain thinking about the possibilities for 2019.
What's your theme for 2019? Comment below.
2019: The year you launch your podcast. Join me on a one day workshop where I’ll take you through the steps by launch your podcast from scratch! It’s on Sunday 13 January in Brisbane
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If you’d like to chat all things facilitation with the First Time Facilitator community, sign up to the free Facebook group called The Flipchart.
About the author
Leanne Hughes is the host of the First Time Facilitator podcast and is based in Brisbane, Australia. She loves to shake up expectations and create unpredictable experiences and brings over 12 years’ of experience across a variety of industries including mining, tourism, and vocational education and training. Leanne believes that anyone can develop the skills to deliver engaging group workshops.