An interview with Myriam Hadnes, the creator of the NDB facilitation festival

I met Myriam last year when she invited me to participate in her podcast (Workshop Works) to talk about designing meetings people want to attend. Since then, we stayed in touch, challenging each other, exploring paths, and supporting her bring her big idea to life: a global event for all types of facilitators.

Here’s a summary of our latest conversation on Myriam’s purpose and why the “Never Done Before” title is much more than a gimmick.

Who are you?

(Learn why I endlessly asked Myriam this question…)

I am a behavioral economist by degree, a podcaster by passion, and a facilitator by profession.

I am German by birth, and Amsterdammer by choice.

I have lived in Europe, Asia, and Africa and feel at home wherever life takes me.

I am a pragmatic dreamer, a sense-maker to others who struggles to make sense of myself.

I am a connector of ideas and of humans.

I am a creator.

I am a leader and a follower, a secret introvert who turns into an extravert as soon as I know what my role and my contribution is.

I am an optimist – sailing towards the edges of the status-quo to explore what might be waiting for us beyond.    

Myriam Hadnes, the creator of Never Done Before Festival and founder of Workshops.Work

2. What drives you?

At a few incidents of my life, I learned that our teachers are not necessarily those who carry the title. We can learn from everyone as long as we are open to listening. This is the most difficult part. And, this is the part where my background in behavioral sciences helps me. How can we get out of our own way to listen to what we don’t want to hear?

A few years back – before I thought of starting my own business, even before I knew that “facilitation” was a profession – I took Simon Sinek’s Find your WHY course, and what came out did not make sense to me until recently: “To unite people so that new ways of being and doing can emerge.”

Bringing people together in a way that they can learn with and from each other drives me.

3. Why a Never Done Before facilitation festival?

We don’t get enough opportunities to dance with the status-quo.

Daily routines and clients’ expectations keep us in our daily routines, we repeat our best practices, build on our lessons learned. No wonder that concepts like “Zoom fatigue”  may enter the Oxford dictionary. There is too much of the same when we join conferences, workshops or meetings – and Corona “working from home” times have amplified that.

Where we can find inspiration on how to try things differently.

This is where the analogy of the “Haute Couture Fashion Show” comes in. Haute Couture dances with the status-quo. Haute Couture provokes. Haute Couture defines the new trends.

Fashion on the catwalks in Paris, Milan, London will not become streetwear but, they inspire the next global fashion trends.

What if we could create an Haute-Couture Fashion Show of Facilitation? We will experience the art of facilitation which inspires the next facilitation trends. Independent of whether you join as an experienced facilitator or a newbie team leader who wants to host better meetings, everyone will find valuable insights on how to improve their practice.

Given such a bold vision, who else than the guests on the workshops work podcast could I invite to join me on this daringly-creative? They have shared only a fraction of their experience and expertise on the podcast. Never have they received the opportunity to explore the edges of their own practice and, to share these with a community of peers.

NeverDoneBefore provides the environment in which we can dance with the status quo, learn together, connect with each other and co-create something meaningful together.

4. What are the biggest challenges to building a global event in the middle of a pandemic?

There are pandemic-inherent challenges, mainly caused by the ongoing lockdowns, such as “Zoom fatigue”. We are all spending too much time behind our screens, craving for human connection that we don’t expect to find in online events. This is a presumption that I would like to break but how can we explain something that hasn’t been done before?

Other challenges are unrelated to the pandemic and refer to the coordination of a co-creative process: How to align a large group of people who has never met before? Which communication channel works best for what kind of conversation? How to make all ideas accessible so that we can build on them? How to take decisions in a co-creative process? 

Finally, we face “design challenges” related to the aim of being a global 24-hours festival. When we include the entire globe, we must remain mindful of the different time zones. How can we design an agenda that is easy to navigate independently of one’s geographical location?

We had the glorious idea of using UTC – Universal Coordinated Time. But, as it turned out, nobody really relates to that time.

The design challenge continues when building the agenda. We must remain aware of the fact that while some festival guests zip their morning coffee, others may close the day with a G&T. These participants are not in the same mood and have different needs. Hence, we need a diversity of workshop experiences, covering diverging needs.

We solved this by defining categories of comfort. Building on the fashion analogy, we offer parallel sessions in different comfort zones: If festival guests feel ready to get out of their comfort zone, they join a “High Heel” or a “Dancing Shoes” session, if they rather want to relax and introspect, they join the “Socks” or “Barefoot” sessions.

5. What can people expect from NDB?

Our guests can expect to learn and to experience the art of facilitation from the moment they sign up.

The NDB journey starts before the beginning of the festival. Together, we are designing an experience – more than we are designing a conference. We want to create real human connection without trying to replicate the offline world but by leveraging the possibilities of the virtual space.

Guests will receive their personal digital learning journal to reflect on their experience. They can join small workshops or large group experiences. We offer opportunities for synchronous and asynchronous collaboration, open space and informal gatherings.

We aim to create a festival experience where guests can stay and stick around, whether they want to interact with others or, just passively enjoy the vibe. 

Independent of whether our guests call themselves “facilitator” or not, they will leave the event with hands-on insights, inspiration, and learnings as they can try new tools, learn techniques and connect with each other.

As we collected the expectations and wishes from the audience on a public Mural-board beforehand, the sessions we offer are a direct response to their learning needs.

6. Why should facilitators attend?

If they are suffering from Zoom-fatigue, looking for inspiration on how to do things differently, or how to dance with the status-quo of facilitation. If someone seeks the exchange with other facilitators, trainers, coaches, team leaders, or changemakers from around the globe.

Facilitation refers to the creation of experiences that foster learnings. We share new ways of creating and facilitating these experiences. We want to give access to the art of facilitation: hosting, creating, and holding space, learning new tools, trying new techniques, experiencing what works and what doesn’t inspire new ways of creating connection, collaboration. 

7. What are the options for people to join the NDB event?

There are three types of tickets:

The Press Pass – the entry-level ticket – that provides access to all public spaces, including large group experiences and workshops.

The Model Pass – the intermediate-level ticket – that includes the same perks as the Press Pass, but also access to all workshops on a first-come/ first-serve basis.

The Backstage Pass is the all-access ticket that includes all perks of the other two passes, plus access to debriefing sessions with the facilitators after each session. The Backstage Pass holders get one 50-minute 1:1 coaching session with one of our facilitators and join a Mastermind session after the festival. 

The Model and Backstage Pass holders can join our co-design meet-ups and the Slack Workspace from the moment they purchased their pass.

All guests get access to the BrainDate App and can schedule 1:1 or small group calls with other festival guests on the day after the festival.

Book your ticket now.

8. What would you tell those who want to attend but are unsure?

I would tell them that this is an opportunity for them to learn and to create connections that will last for longer than the festival. They don’t have to stay for the full 24 hours, but can join at any time – they’ll always find something to explore and to learn for them.

Give NBD a try. What’s the worst thing that can happen?


Save the date. The NBD global facilitation event is scheduled for November 20, 2020. Learn more about the Never Done Before festival.

Connect with Myriam on LinkedIn.

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