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Welcome to Facilitation Stories, where we discover how facilitators ended up in the profession, and how facilitation methods, principles and techniques are used more widely. Brought to you by IAF England and Wales. For more information on our chapter, click here.

Nov 17, 2020

In this episode Pilar talks to the rest of the podcast team (Vic Hopkins based on the Cambridge Suffolk border, Nikki Wilson in Danbury in Essex, Helene Jewell in Bristol and Cat based in the North West) as they celebrate and reflect on the IAF England and Wales on line facilitation conference. We also hear from Penny Walker, Chris Massey, Jamie Colston and Fiona McBride – it’s a great episode!

The team start off with a big cheer for Susannah Raffe who lead the conference organising team. Then Helene talks a bit about the behind the scenes organising and how it all worked including using Basecamp for the team to communicate when planning, having a point person each day and using the Meetup platform to schedule the sessions.

Cat commented on the variety in the week but also that she could identify a thread about what it means to be a facilitator going through the whole week. Vic noted that it felt like a “living breathing programme” as influences were taken from one session to the next.
Penny Walker talks about how she really enjoyed reconnecting with other facilitators and about some of the sessions she particularly enjoyed. Pilar remembers that Penny was one of the first guests in the IAF England and Wales podcast!

Nikki attended as a participant and particularly enjoyed the sense of community throughout the event and the different energy of both deep and more light hearted conversations. She also remarks on the value of what she learnt not just being for here and now, but for the future.

Helene commented on how the fact it was virtual meant that the community was able to expand beyond England and Wales and there were people from many different countries.

The Sessions

Nikki talks more about some particular sessions; Vic’s Murder by Zoom, Helene’s accessibility session, a session on participation and inclusion and one on the Magic of Metaphor and Fiona Mcbride’s session about pausing.

Fiona (freelance learning consultant and facilitator) shares some thoughts on how she has developed as a facilitator and discovered that her best facilitation is when she is “out of the way”. She explains how she is also a yoga teacher and see a crossover with facilitation and yoga and how she thinks pausing, silence and slowing down can be brought into other parts of life. She describes her thoughts in why she wanted to do a session at the conference and the interesting conversations that came out of it.

See more here from Fiona:

Cat talks a bit more about the session she hosted with John Varney about upping the facilitation game in a time of crisis and other sessions that she felt drawn to. For example the I can't breathe session, Cari Hewer’s session when is a facilitator, not a facilitator and how the issue of neutrality came up in lots of sessions.

Helene talked about some of the sessions that stuck out for her including Jamie Colston’s open space session, Fiona’s pausing session, Gwen Wilkie’s physical place to virtual space session and Penny’s session which she described in a bit more detail. She commented on how she was able to juggle sessions in a busy work week and how she liked the extra coffee and evening sessions too.

Vic hosted one of the coffee sessions and described more about how the session went, including a spontaneous decision to involve hats!

Both Vic and Pilar talked about choosing not to go to some sessions to make sure they had space in their weeks.

A bit about the Open Space session

Pilar introduces a bit of audio from Chris Massey about joining the open space session and the calm way that it started. Helene then talks more in detail about the open space session and how it actually worked as an online session and how she was able to pop in and out of different rooms and join in different conversations.. Nikki also went to the session but had a slightly different experience, choosing to stay in one room. Vic talked about “steeling with pride” an idea from the open space session to use in a session later in in the week.

Helene was able to talk to Jamie in the evening he hosted his open space session which is included next as an audio clip. Jamie shares his key take aways and advice for anyone wanting to do open space themselves.

Being more pirate and making meetings accessible

Cat shares her reflections on her be more pirate session with the rest of the podcast team which was about drawing inspiration from Golden Age pirates to bring about change. She describes the links in the conversations between her session on upping the facilitation game at the start of the week and this session at the end of the week and the interesting progression of events during the week. She also talks about the different energy need to run a session with kids in the background! She felt that there were lots of opportunities to get to know people throughout the week and a lot to hold people’s attention as well as the positives from connecting on Zoom.

Pilar adds here experiences of working with teams adopting remote working and how some of this can be useful in a co-located space. Nikki and Cat add their thoughts on facilitating online.

Helene then talks about her session – how can we make our online sessions more accessible? And about where the idea came from and what came up in the conversations during the session. She also says how one of the main things was to just start the conversation off and see where it went.

Keeping it social

Vic, Pilar and Nikki talk more about the differences in the types of sessions; how they were not all “tell”, some were about exploring and that there was a “collaborative ethos” and learning by participating.

Vic tells the team more about her Murder Mystery session and how it started from a friend’s birthday party. She also describes her ability to work things out when she doesn’t initially know how!

As the group start wrapping Pilar talks about Nicola Morris’ session about using the chat box in Zoom and Pinar Akkar’s wine tasting, Helene recalls a learning moment about standing up and everyone shares their final reflections. These include – how well organised it was, how well it worked online, being able to pick and choose things to go to, the generosity and community spirit.

Twitter links to the people in this podcast:

@IAFEnglandWales; use #iafpodcast

@fac_stories (twitter account for this show)

Pilar Orti @pilarorti

Helene Jewell @helenejewell

Cat Duncan Rees @CatDRees

Vic Hopkins @UnanimityCC

Nikki Wilson @NiksClicks

Fiona McBride @fionamcbride

Other links

Penny Walker -

Chris Massey

Jamie Colston

Fiona McBride

Get in touch via email - Send us some text, or even an mp3 audio! Find out more about us over at the EnglandWales page on for show notes )