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Facilitation and technology: The key elements of events that make an impact

By Juraj Holub

The frustration caused by boring presentations can be detected in many meeting rooms.

No wonder there has been a boom in the use of event technology to stimulate conversations and drive more audience participation.

Having worked with 150,000 events, we have observed one thing: using technology for the sake of technology never works.

Like social media alone won’t improve the quality of our relationships, interaction platforms won’t turn a stale monologue into an exciting dialogue on their own.

There is one ingredient that all successful events had in common: facilitation.

The moment we fully realized the impact of skilled facilitation happened at IMEX Frankfurt in 2015 during the co-located Exclusively Corporate event.

Over there, Padraic Gilligan and Patrick Delaney from SoolNua replaced a traditional slide deck with a series of live polls to create a talk together with the audience in real-time. As soon as the votes were in, they used the results to tell a story. It was not another "I speak, you listen" presentation. It was a mutual collaboration.

Paraphrasing the words of another dear friend and seasoned moderator, Jan-Jaap In der Maur, the moderators and speakers need to move beyond the mere act of using technology. What's critical is the follow-up -- using the poll results to narrate the story like Padraic and Patrick had done or acted on the questions that the audience had submitted.

Technology is a great enabler but the real magic happens during the live interactions in the room.

Talking about the importance of a follow-up, there is another story I would like to share.

Some time ago, we received a feedback from a Brazilian NGO which deeply touched us. The NGO runs programs in public schools located in rough communities of São Paulo to discuss serious topics such as gang violence, teen pregnancy, suicide or drugs with the affected children and teenagers.

During one of their sessions, a student posted a question saying "I want to kill myself, how can I do it?". Alarmed by this submission, an NGO coordinator set out to search for that person among the participants.

In the end, he managed to find the girl who had submitted it. She had already written a goodbye letter. Now she is alive and they are helping her to get back on her feet.

It’s thanks to great facilitation and a thorough follow-up that event technology can save not only presentations but lives too.

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