People skills for digital workers
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London
20 January 2014

Reflect on a day of talks about people skills

On 20 January 2014, a hundred digital workers came to Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London to learn about, reflect on, and discuss people skills. #dareconf mini was inspiring, useful, and challenging.

We’re all fish out of water: how to face work anxiety by making real connections

Elizabeth McGuane, content strategist & writer

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A lot of us feel like frauds in the work we do, even though we seem accomplished and capable from the outside. Likewise, many of us feel like our work itself is fraudulent or lacks value, because it doesn’t feel integral to who we are. In this session, Elizabeth will show how these feelings are exacerbated by workplace stress and bureaucracy, but can be overcome. She’ll show how nurturing two abilities—making real human connections, and facing down your anxieties—can help. You’ll learn:

  • the value of mentorship and becoming a mentor,
  • how collaboration across disciplines helps set personal goals, and
  • how to take risks to face anxiety.

Elizabeth is a writer, editor, and content strategist with a background in journalism and UX. She’s worked with small businesses, startups and agencies including iQ Content, DigitasLBi, and FleishmanHillard.

Stealing from sports: really useful coaching

Meri Williams, geek manager at ChromeRose

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We can learn a lot from sports coaching, where the most effective coaches aren’t the most talented players. How does a coach help an athlete who’s an expert in the actual practice of the sport to perform better? And how can we apply the same techniques to our own work? Meri will teach you:

  • how to coach people to find a course of action themselves through structured conversations,
  • how to recognise when people (including you!) need coaching, mentoring, instruction, or cheerleading, and
  • some simple coaching techniques that you can apply immediately.

Meri is a geek, manager, and manager of geeks. She led the Delivery Team at the Government Digital Service during the launch of GOV.UK and worked in Procter & Gamble’s Global Business Services organisation for 10 years.

How to teach brands to collaborate instead of control: lessons from a community manager

Rob Hinchcliffe, product & community manager at Rushmore

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As customers realise that they no longer need permission to recycle, repurpose, or remix digital content and services, organisations are learning how to give up control. Although the benefits are clear—an easier route to innovation and research, for example—collaboration is difficult to pull off. You neither want a chaotic free-for-all or a regimented on-rails experience. Based on his experiences working with high profile and (justifiably) nervous organisations to build creative relationships with their audience, Rob will teach you how to:

  • create an environment that leaves space for collaboration,
  • find structure instead of defining it by involving your audience in the creative process, and
  • capitalise on the unexpected through preparation, trust, and bravery.

Rob founded Londonist, edited Yahoo News UK, brought reviews site Qype to the UK, led the community outreach strategy for JK Rowling’s Pottermore, and helped create the cross-platform experience for The Utopia Enquiry, Channel 4’s groundbreaking drama. He leads product and community development at Rushmore.

Improving your UX: how to stop being angry and start empathising

Chris Atherton, senior UX consultant for digital government

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Other people can drive us crazy. So when understanding people forms a big part of your job, you have two choices: be driven crazy, or start finding people delightful, pronto. In this session, Chris will explain why understanding people for a living will make you happier. You’ll learn:

  • the #1 rule for liking people more,
  • how to use barely-games to start empathising with other people,
  • how to start scary conversations by setting simple challenges (spoiler: they’re not really that scary), and
  • how to turn conversations into services that do what your business and your customers actually want.

Chris is a UX architect and cognitive scientist, fascinated by human attention. She’s worked for the BBC, Skype, and the Time To Change campaign. She’s currently doing UX things to government.

Taking off the mask: how to lead when life feels out of control

Tim Chilvers, senior leader at Riverside Church

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We all go through ups and downs in life. We often put on a mask to hide the things we’re going through from our colleagues or clients—because we fear that being honest about our challenges might damage our career. But what if being real with the people around us could actually benefit our work? And how can we take off the mask without damaging our professional reputation? Learn how to lead others even when your world is falling apart, by:

  • Leading by being honest.
  • Understanding the unique part you play.
  • Using tools like a personal vision statement to stay focused on what’s important, even in a results-driven culture.

Tim is a communicator. He’s worked as a project manager and as a campaigner at an international development agency. He’s now a senior leader at Riverside Church in Birmingham, where he spends every day trying to lead a diverse group of people through life changes.

Stop assuming, start asking questions: how to turn conflict into collaboration

Penny Walker, facilitator & author of “Working Collaboratively”

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When we enter a discussion armed with assumptions about what we want and what others want, we’re setting ourselves up for conflict between fixed “positions”. If we treat our perspective as just one among many, we can suspend what we “know” and step into curiosity instead. We can explore the differences between our perspectives—and the interests and needs which underlie them—and discover common ground. Learn how to turn conflict into collaboration by asking questions like:

  • What do you want to see?
  • What would that give you?
  • What do you want to achieve, that this could help you with?

Penny helps sustainable development change agents by creating safe spaces for conversations about change. She’s a facilitator, coach, and author of Working Collaboratively.

You’ve already got what you wanted: how to realise your dreams

Gabriel Smy, content strategist at Sparkol

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When we tell ourselves that we want something different, we’re trying to keep our dreams alive while our everyday work pays the bills. But what if we’ve already got what we wanted: a safe and familiar situation that provides the perfect excuse not to try?

If you really want to strike out on a different path—if you’re ready to work at realising your dreams—you’ll need some encouragement to help you to commit. This is how I got started on that road, and the people I needed (and still need) to help me get over my excuses.

Gabriel is a writer, teacher, digital content expert, verbatim poetry curator, and novelist. He’s content strategist for animated video service VideoScribe.

How to scale startup culture without losing your mojo

Lee Bryant, social business pioneer

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In startups, the constraints of bootstrapping create an opportunity for innovation in behaviours and processes as solutions to everyday problems emerge. Where established companies tend to do things in a more elaborate, process-driven way—the way they’ve always done it—startups focus on the next best action that moves them forward, which makes them more direct, task-focused, and intolerant of waste. But when startups scale, they often try to re-create what they think a “grown up” company should look like, and risk losing the culture that made them successful in the first place. There’s another way. In this presentation you’ll learn:

  • areas of startup culture and practice that larger companies can learn from, and
  • how to scale up these practices without becoming the kind of firm that you are trying to disrupt.

Lee founded London social business firm Headshift. He’s now working on a new social business venture.

Who’s behind this?

At Together London we organise events about collaboration. We’ll make sure everyone at #dareconf has a safe and enjoyable experience. Reach us at or Together London.

Jonathan Kahn

Jonathan Kahn

David Caines

David Caines

branding and illustration
Rhiannan Walton

Rhiannan Walton