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Designing and Facilitating an Exceptional Conference Experience with City Awake

Designing and Facilitating an Exceptional Conference Experience with City Awake

Travis Martin's picture
Travis Martin
October 26th, 2016

city awake facilitation conference engaging engage attendees best practices creativity storytelling scribing graphic facilitation

This summer I had the fine fortune to meet Katie Greenman, the Program Director at City Awake, at a work event. City Awake is the civic innovation lab for Greater Boston. They bring passionate individuals together to help solve some of Boston’s biggest challenges. As someone whose unofficial job title is “collaboration engineer,” I was deeply intrigued. Katie and I chatted, and pretty immediately saw opportunities for City Awake and Collective Next to join forces to help facilitate meaningful change in a city we all love.

Katie shared her ideas for a conference that at the time was still in the planning stages, City Awake’s inaugural kick-off to their Delegate Program. My colleagues Liz Ball and Hamilton Ray and I offered insights to help elevate the experience for the Delegates. Together we designed an exceptional experience for Delegates – and a few weeks ago, we saw all of our plans materialize at the conference.

Here are a few of the concepts that we use when facilitating meetings and conferences for corporate groups, and how we applied them to help City Awake engage and enrich their Delegates at the session:

  • Provide opportunities for participants to connect and reflect
    We gave Delegates a vehicle to interact with each other and express their opinions by creating large “Graffiti Walls” with questions pertaining to the city of Boston, the Delegate Program, and the impact we have on policy and change of Greater Boston. It was amazing to walk around and see all of the sketched and written responses to these prompts.

city awake facilitation conference engaging engage attendees best practices creativity storytelling scribing graphic facilitation

  • Capture ideas and make connections between them in real time
    Liz served as our graphic facilitator/scribe and spent the day visually capturing (via big wall-sized sketching) the ideas explored by speakers and the audience. As always, participants enjoyed photographing Liz’s work and were able to use it as a visual touchpoint post-session.

city awake facilitation conference engaging engage attendees best practices creativity storytelling scribing graphic facilitation

  • Offer participants unique, useful, meaningful content
    I presented a workshop about creating powerful narratives through storytelling. I shared different examples of narratives, explored the meaning and impact of storytelling, and suggested ways to structure stories for different audiences. This is a timely topic that many have heard about, but few had explored in depth, and it was very well received.

city awake facilitation conference engaging engage attendees best practices creativity storytelling scribing graphic facilitation

Many thanks to Justin Kang and Katie Greenman at City Awake for this tremendous opportunity!

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