Considerations When Chairing a Large Group Event – Part 1: Context and request for feedback regarding this media

Recently, I lent my skills to chair a large group event of 150 people. By sharing my thoughts on this experience, I intend to solidify my learning from the event and share this with others. This is the third post on a three post series.

In this first post, I will provide some context for the event and my role in it.

Context
This was a kick-off event to celebrate 100 years of the British Columbia Forest Service (BCFS).  Attendees were current and former members of the BCFS, including retirees and spouses.

I work for the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource operations, and part of my time (off the corner of my desk) I spend as a Learning Organization Practitioner.  I have considerable experience putting on large and small engagement activities and my past work let to the event organizing committee asking me to be a part of this.

When asked to participate, the word “facilitate” was used.  However, more correctly, my role was cross between a chairperson and a master of ceremonies (MC).  The difference, is that a each of these roles lies on a different place on a communication continuum that was once shared to me by  Dawn Miller, a seasoned Toastmaster and well established leader in my community.  Dawn explained that public speaking exists between two bookends: key note presentation on one end;  facilitation on the other. 

Image

Figure 1: Presenting and facilitate lie on a public speaking continuum

As a facilitator, your job is to help a group participants; either to enhance their conversation with one another or to tease actions or outcomes from them. It is really all about them.  However, key note presenters are more in the spotlight.  Good speakers still pay attention to peoples’ needs; however, their role is to entertain, inspire and inform their audiences and not necessarily to draw them out and get them to participate in activities among themselves.

The chairperson/MC function is somewhere in the middle of this continuum.  An MC is what I would call someone who leads a social or celebratory event while a chairperson would orchestrate something more formal, like a business meeting.  However, I digress.

 As I mentioned before, this event was fairly large one with approximately 150 attendees.  The venue was a local hotel ballroom and it was held on a Monday from 10 am to 1:30 pm and included a provided lunch.  The agenda consisted of 8 speakers and one 18 minute film.

In the second post in this series, I will share with you what I thought I did well and what I learned from delivering this event. 

Furthermore, I  realize I haven’t given you any “meat” as yet; however, I am interested in what readers think of this format for capturing and sharing the context and learnings of an event such as this.  I’m experimenting here and your feedback and your questions will be appreciated.  If you do not feel comfortable commenting below, kindly email me directly at  thejonuks@shaw.ca. 

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2 Responses to Considerations When Chairing a Large Group Event – Part 1: Context and request for feedback regarding this media

  1. Katia Gauvin says:

    I’d love to hear more!

  2. gsjonuk says:

    Hi Katia,

    Thanks for your reply and your encouragement. I will definitely fulfill your request with two additional blog posts with some specific lessons learned.

    Ironically, this blog series started from a single post-it note: “Build time for bridging comments into agenda.” However, when I started thinking of what I learned as part of my close out for this project, I realized that a lot more.

    Usually I place my “learnings” in a table based debrief document that try I to complete after each practice event (email me for an example). This time I’m experimenting with a more narrative approach using this blog I willbe interested to know what way you thing is more effective.

    Thanks again for your note,

    Greg Jonuk

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