Want Your Event Technology To Add Real Value? Learn to Facilitate

Designing conferences used to be straightforward. Get together a bunch of clever speakers with interesting things to say, arrange into an agenda. Job done. Did someone say “facilitate”?

facilitate events

Now we’re angling for audience-led content, collaborative sessions, participative learning, self-categorised networking. This of course is a good thing, but it requires some different knowledge and skills.

Technology is the knowledge area most often discussed; it’s the merging of live and digital channels that enables us to be more ambitious in how we design interactions. But when it comes to creating exciting new formats knowing your tech is only part of it.

Go Facilitate

As we become more ambitious in the interactions we plan for our audience, it is essential to understand the human group dynamic and to embrace great facilitation.

Technology and facilitation are two sides of the same coin.


Demystifying the Art of Facilitation

Getting to grips with technology is something we’re all used to from everyday life, whilst facilitation can seem like a mysterious art, practiced by people with superhuman powers of empathy and perception.

Working with great facilitators is one of the real joys of our business; even more rewarding is to learn some of their skills. I was pointed towards Sam Kaner’s Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making as a useful step-by-step introduction to the dynamics that underpin collaboration.

There are also facilitation courses that help you learn the skills, there’s a good one run by the Facilitation Partnership.

Great Tech Deserves Great Facilitation

An understanding of facilitation ensures you design formats that make the most of event technologies, putting the audience at the heart of the content.

This might mean thinking about how you make best use of delegates’ self-categorising at registration to then run matched networking sessions (see Julius’ brilliant recent post on this in action), or how you use an App within an event to oil the wheels of collaboration, or how you get geographically remote audiences working together through a hybrid model.

Beyond designing your events, a working knowledge of facilitation is incredibly useful in everyday business life, from running daily meetings to moderating client focus groups.

In Conclusion

Technology is making it possible for us to engage audiences in exciting new ways, but technology without audience understanding is a busted flush. So, take the time to learn about facilitation.

Of course this doesn’t mean you’ll be qualified to replace the professional facilitator at your event, but in the same way you wouldn’t hire technology without knowing what it does, you shouldn’t hire facilitators without understanding what they can achieve for your audience.

About The Author
Jez Paxman
helped found Live Union based on a belief that the role and value of live experiences within the communication landscape was changing. An approach anchored in understanding where the true value lies for the audience has seen Live Union build a client base that includes EDF Energy, Oracle, AXA, TripAdvisor, Kennedy Space Center and Amnesty International.
Comment Policy Comments
  • Robert Dunsmore

    Facilitation is the most effective way to express your event – certainly it is risky – but if curated and planned with care and earnest the resultant intelligence and focus will be beyond mere metrics…

  • Great post! What we often see nowadays, is non-professional moderators/facilitators forced into working with ill-considered eventtech. We should work our way to the opposite situation: conference-moderators/facilitators who are chosen with great care (since they all have different skills and personalities), working with eventtech only when it adds value.
    JJ (Masters in Moderation)

  • Ole Bo Larsen

    Very happy about this article. What think it really points out is that you need to put your audience needs first and the figure out how to deliver a great experince and ROI to them. Obviously you need facilitation to help you do this because as humans we tend to follow habits and they need to be disrupted to really create innovation and learning. There is no doubt that technology can be part of this and it does not have to be very sophisticated – even SMS can do the trick.

Julius Solaris
Editor, Julius Solaris

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