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How a conference organiser can strip a facilitator’s credibility with a single gesture

Most speakers (and I studied this during a recent lengthy conference, so it’s proper research) have trouble sticking to time. They tend to run over if allowed. Which may be mildly irritating or perhaps no bother at all either for the speaker or the audience. But in this case I was the facilitator, tasked in advance by the organisers to keep speakers to time.

As I gently signalled from the wings to the speaker that they had two minutes left, I felt the organiser grab my arm and whisper to me to let them continue. OK – that’s the organiser’s prerogative, and I have no problem with people making new decisions on the fly. Just that in this case, there was no good reason for doing so.

This presenter was conspicuously failing to hold the audience. I’d love to let a good speaker continue. Good speakers are rare enough. But this was a poor speaker, who already knew the time limit, which we were kindly stretching by a couple of minute anyway on the grounds that they’ve travelled a long way to be there. Did I mention that there were more speakers waiting their turn?

And that resulted in a facilitator now visibly stripped of any credibility and a rapidly-diminishing sense of purpose. Luckily, we had some good sessions later to restore my sense of mission and replenish our relationships. What are your thoughts?

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