Collaboration is at the core of every SRCCON event. As a session facilitator, you’ll work with attendees to explore questions, share skills, and help everyone learn from each other.
- About this event
- Session facilitation tips!
- About the audience
- About the space & session rooms
- About the schedule
About this event
SRCCON:PRODUCT might feel different than many conferences you’ve been to. It’s a hybrid event, with scheduled sessions on the agenda as well as space to add new topics together as a group. It’s intentionally small, making it easy to connect with other people. Most sessions will be hands-on and conversational, not focused on presentations. Events like this work well because we get to learn from each other, and attendees will be ready to participate and share what they know. Take advantage of that!
Session facilitation tips!
So how do you run a session built around participation, not presentation? It helps to start by reimagining your role: You’re a facilitator, guiding conversation in a way that helps people learn. You don’t need to be the expert, because these sessions are about drawing out the expertise in the room. Share your excitement, your experience, and the questions you have—and create a welcoming space for other people to do the same—and you’ll lead a fantastic session.
Here are a few principles that can help:
- Think about scope and outcomes.
- If you’re taking on a broad topic, you can define boundaries to help focus the conversation. In a more niche session, imagine ways to help a variety of people participate.
- Outline how you’ll spend your time. It can be helpful to jot down some notes for yourself, because an hour goes faster than you think! Over-programming a session can make it impossible to get to your goals, but a session that’s underdesigned can lose focus or turn into a conversation between just a handful of people.
- Identify the takeaways you want people to leave with. A new skill? Bigger ideas? A broader sense of community? When you start planning your session by thinking about the end, it helps focus everything that leads up to that moment.
- Use your power as a facilitator to keep your session on track.
- You set the agenda, and sharing it with everyone as you start can help people get ready to participate. You can decide how to handle unexpected challenges, and when to revise or throw out the plan.
- Share your resources (even ahead of time). Every session at a SRCCON event has a collaborative notes document linked right from the schedule. You can use it to add links in advance and capture discussions and outcomes during your session.
- Invite participants to help! There are lots of ways to get people involved, from tracking time during activities to taking live notes up on the screen.
- Naming your goals makes it easy to check in with everyone about progress along the way and gives you something to review at the end of the session. (Also known as “tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.”)
- If conversations are getting off-topic, you can acknowledge the interesting things people are bringing up and still nudge them back toward your session goals.
- Use your power as a facilitator to make it a welcoming space.
- You’re an advocate for attendees. You may want to start off by asking about your group’s background: How much experience are they bringing into the conversation? What are they hoping to take home from this event?
- Setting ground rules is another great way to shape your session—being explicit about expectations is helpful for participants, and you can refer back to them as a facilitator. (Think about ways to help more people get involved, like “We’ve got a lot to learn from everyone here, so take a look around the room—we have N people here, so think about speaking 1/Nth of the time.”)
- Consider who takes more visible roles in your session, and how you can encourage many voices to participate. (For example, if your session reports back to the room after small-group discussions, you might first invite comments from anyone who hasn’t had a chance to speak yet.)
- If someone makes a problematic comment, you can address the issue in the moment. (For example, if a participant only uses male pronouns to refer to developers, you might clarify that there are also skilled women devs, including some folks in the room!)
- Try to avoid jargon. Explain it when you can’t avoid it, and feel free to ask for clarification on behalf of everyone when someone uses an unfamiliar term.
Leading a hands-on workshop and helping people stay engaged can take a lot of energy, so we always schedule long breaks and plenty of beverages and snacks to give facilitators and participants time to re-energize. We also try to schedule in a way that meets differing energy levels throughout the day, offering sessions that help participants engage in different ways (including, yep, sometimes just listening with curiosity, no sharpie required).
We truly appreciate you sharing your time and knowledge with everyone, and trust each facilitator to help us make SRCCON:PRODUCT a place where people can share and learn together. And we want you to know that we have your back! You’ll be surrounded by supportive staff and volunteers—if any questions or concerns come up, please reach out.
We also have some favorite guides with further tips:
- Aspiration Tech: How and why to run a breakout session
- Aspiration Tech: Facilitator guidelines
- AORTA: Making meetings awesome for everyone
About the audience
SRCCON:PRODUCT will gather about 150 people working at the intersection of product and journalism. Some will be part of product teams as managers or developers. Others are bringing those strategies to newsrooms that don’t have “product” in a role or title yet. As a group we’ll represent a huge variety of backgrounds and experiences to learn from, united by wanting to better understand how organizing around product can shift the way news organizations operate.
Our schedule will have four to five sessions at a time, so planning for 20-30 people in your room is a good starting point. It can be a little hard to predict exactly how many people might attend, but every session size has its own strengths. Smaller discussions can be especially productive because you can go in-depth or dig into personal examples, and larger groups can give people access to a wider range of perspectives.
About the space & session rooms
SRCCON:PRODUCT takes place in the Student Center at Temple University, 1755 N. 13th Street, Philadelphia.
- Underground A&B will be our main space to gather as a full group, and we’ll divide it into two spaces for 35 and 50 people during sessions
- the Cinema will have seating for 150, and is where we’ll schedule sessions heavy on show and tell
- Room 220 will have tables and chairs for 35
- Room 223 will also have tables and chairs for 35
Each session room will have post-it notes, pens, scratch paper, and other tools for creative discussions and problem-solving.
About the schedule
We’ll have four 1-hour session blocks throughout the day with four to five sessions running at a time. Some sessions will be pre-scheduled, and others we’ll add to the agenda that morning as a group.
- 9am: registration opens, we’ll have breakfast and start creating the schedule together
- 9:45-10:15am: welcome and introduction to unconferencing!
- 10:30-11:30am: first session
- 11:30am-noon: break, with snacks and conversation
- noon-1pm: second session
- 1pm-2:30pm: lunch
- 2:30-3:30pm: third session
- 3:30-4pm: break, with snacks and conversation
- 4-5pm: final session
- 5:15-5:45: we’ll gather as a group to close the day
- 6pm: SRCCON:PRODUCT closes