Michelle Cartín, Project Manager – events and congresses. Former Deputy Forum Manager, IUCN World Conservation Congress
One of my most interesting and challenging roles was Pavilions Project Manager for the 2016 IUCN Congress, which attracted around 8,000 participants. The thematic pavilions, centred on themes from youth to marine conservation, are where delegates can explore the work of IUCN and partners through informal presentations and networking events.
Nine pavilions, each with its own planning team (of up to 21 people) and very diverse goals was a lot to coordinate over nine months. The teams involved internal and external members; they were multicultural and cross-functional. Some meetings were face-to-face, others virtual, others mixed. Learning how to foster collaboration and buy-in, and get everyone on the same page was essential!
Right after the Congress, I decided to build on my experience and looked for a way to improve these group processes in the future. A key lesson I learned from the Academy is not to be afraid of debate amongst your team and how to make it constructive while staying on schedule. There are so many different views of what will work best – you need to create space for people to voice their opinions and to brainstorm. If you don’t build time for discussion into your agenda, it can backfire later. There are many tools and methods. Poll Everywhere is useful for mixed teams – ensuring everyone’s opinion is tabled when you don’t have time for open discussion, also useful when you need anonymity. Six Thinking Hats can get great results, analysing a situation from different perspectives.
People often think of facilitation as being for external events but it is essential to facilitate well internally, within your teams. Fostering ownership of group work is vital if you want to be a good manager. It involves intuition, reading situations, knowing when things are not going well and being able to adapt accordingly.