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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.

Jul 19, 2022

In this episode Nikki talks to Helene about the recent “Re-Facilitation Conference”. This was a hybrid conference with around half of the participants meeting in person and half Zooming in.  The conference had three streams - one fully in person, one fully virtual and one designed to be hybrid, joined by people in the room and those joining virtually.

They start by talking about the evolving team including a core group of Hilary Topp, Camilla Gordon, Cat Duncan-Rees, Adrian Ashton, Paul Kelly and Paul Brand who helped with the tech,  and some who helped at various points including Caroline Jessop, Nicola Morris, Gary Austin,   Lee Button and Megan Evans. 

They then talk about the planning process and the fact that a combination of uncertainty due to COVID and a curiosity about trying it out, led to a decision around the end of 2021 that this would be a hybrid conference.  One of the first things they thought about was the theme “Refacilitation” .  The conference then evolved from there with facilitators invited to populate the outline timetable with sessions.

Nikki then asks about what assumptions were used as a basis for the planning.  There were a lot of unknowns but there was an underlying assumption that there would be a mix of in person and online and in reality the split worked out quite even.  The team also assumed that the facilitation community would support and trust them.  

Nikki asks Helene about her hopes and fears before it started.  Key hopes were that the tech worked, that people enjoyed it, that the team didn’t get lost in organising the event at the expense of the content and that it would be a learning opportunity.  The biggest fear was that the tech wouldn’t work but also that there may not be enough people to do all of the things that needed to be done.

They then talk about conundrums and how they were addressed.  Alongside numbers and the tech a few extra things came up, which included that Ukrainian facilitators were offered places free of charge but it wasn’t possible to offer a translator.  Also creating a balance of content on the timetable, particularly given the three streams.  The main way to resolve these was through a lot of getting together and exchanging ideas.  The people resources and many months of planning time were important.  

Helene then talks about her experience of the conference which was quite hectic.  A key challenge was not being able to get into the room until the morning of the event.  Paul Brand took the lead on the tech set up and meanwhile Cat set up the alternative room.  She reflects that the event felt a bit of whirlwind.

Nikki asks what Helene learned from the process.  She says that with the time available and creativity, you don’t need to have an expensive tech company and a DIY route can work. The number of people needed is a key learning point as there are so many different roles to fill.  Also, Helene acknowledges that sometimes it’s worth just going for it and taking a risk.  Finally she reflects on the strength leadership team and the generosity and supportiveness of the facilitation community.

Feedback has been largely positive aside from a couple of very specific points such as whether to spotlight speakers on Zoom (the jury’s out), and that some music for the people on Zoom while there were organising activities in the room.  The shared WhatsApp group and Miro Board were positively received.

Nikki reflects that the dedicated three stream approach made it feel balanced and that there was an even attention paid to each part of the audience.  It was useful that two of the leadership team joined online and were able to provide reminders if the thinking was too much from an in person point of view.  The only downside of the three streams was that participants couldn’t go to everything!  Some of the “in person” participants deliberately joined online sessions to have the hybrid experience.

Nikki then asks about future plans and if hybrid is the way forward.  Helene reflects there will definitely be another conference but there hasn’t been a conversation as to whether it will be a hybrid.  It may depend on the times we’re in and the confidence and preferences of the community but with the added consideration of the resource intensity, although there is now a “blueprint”.

Helene’s closing thought is that leaving plenty of time to plan is the key learning.


All of the detailed information on the IAF England and Wales chapter is at

Follow the chapter on Twitter @IAFEnglandWales and connect with Helene and Nikki @HeleneJewell and  @NiksClicks