Running a Magicians Session

I got asked recently about how to run / prepare people to have a good EthMagicians-style session or ring gathering.

So here are some quick thoughts.

Identify the facilitators

This can usually be done ahead of time, but at other times the original person who suggested the topic might not be attending. Or the topic suggestor isn’t comfortable with guiding a session.

The facilitator mainly should keep the flow of discussion going. They might help open or close the session.

They should definitely make space for different voices, and ask others to make space if they have been carrying the conversation a lot.

Reinforce action items so the scribe can capture them. Suggest moving on and/or doing a follow up.

Inspire people to contribute, that they are being heard, and to keep doing work on the topic at hand.

Ask for one or more scribes

We tend to use HackMD a lot. Multiple people can view and edit simultaneously, and the Markdown formatting is portable to the forums here, to GitHub, and most places that Markdown is supported.

Creating a HackMD file ahead of a session is excellent, but the web addresses are a bit funky. Note it down, or even start an EthMagicians topic here with the link — which you can come back to and fill out with final notes.

At least one scribe should take notes. Action items or unanswered questions are more important than a transcript of who said what.

Scribes often don’t get a chance to participate as much — if they do, make sure someone else takes on scribing what they have to add.

We haven’t done a lot of this, but ad hoc audio or video capture with a smartphone could be helpful.

Determine next steps & follow up

A simple example is “please give your email to the scribe and we will send out notes”.

For the sake of EthMagicians, often this can be “look for the notes post on the forum, and Bob will plan a video call in 3 weeks”.

Try and assign actual individuals to take on specific follow up actions. And don’t have just one person unless the tasks are very small.

Posting notes to the forum and using it to follow up should be considered the default next step for a session.

Even if the notes were scribed in HackMD, cut and pasting the Markdown text into the forum here is preferred so we know we have a copy of the content.

Or, “Alice is filing a GitHub issue in the Florp repo”

Get & give feedback

Can you get feedback as a facilitator or participant on how the session went? Can the participants give feedback?

As part of the notes from the scribe being shared, encourage this feedback. “Next time we should do more of this and less of that” - “I really enjoyed how we did X”

Further Reading and Resources

This should probably be a Scrolls wiki or HackMD document, which we can perhaps copy and paste this into later and evolve over time.

The Open Space User’s Guide is good reading for not only a single session but a whole event:

There are various things to call out, like “the law of two feet”. If the session you are in is not enjoyable or isn’t want you want — use your two feet and leave.

From the Polyglot Software Conf in Vancouver, an Intro to Fishbowl and How to Hallway:


For session running at Council in Paris: please contact me if you need some presentation supplies that you can’ bring with you.

Personal supplies like pens, pencils, notice books - please bring with you.
For presentation supplies for common use - please bring with you (then you will have it for sure) or you can ask me for help (you will get it if nobody else will collect it first).