Over the 20+ year-long run of Typo Berlin, the number of visitors has grown to approximately 1,800. The conference is organised and run by a variety of teams. Next to the the team that knits together all loose ends over month to set up a program featuring 101 speakers there is a small group of people that play a vital yet rather less-known role in the conference. They are a bridge between three forces: an enthusiastic (and sometimes very large) audience, the different teams running the show behind the scenes, and the next speaker waiting on the side, ready to come on stage.
These are the facilitators—the hosts of the stages at the TYPO conference.
The job of a facilitator is to keep each of the TYPO stages running smoothly. They serve as a mix of host and administrator, not only introducing speakers but announcing any changes to the programme or additional events taking place.
“It’s absolutely crucial to have someone in this role for each stage, to bring the audience’s attention back after a break and set the mood for the next speaker,” says Indra, who first served as a facilitator for TYPO Berlin in 2008.
TYPO Berlin 2018, has a team of five facilitators: Stephen Coles, Indra Kupferschmid, Johannes Erler, and Kali Nikitas. Each brings a variety of professional experience. “What’s crucial for a TYPO Talks conference is a background in design or typography,” says Jürgen Siebert, Programme Director of TYPO Berlin. In fact, many of the people who have facilitated in the history of TYPO, have themselves given talks at this or at other conferences, and have also contributed to the curation of the TYPO Talks programme.Even before the conference starts, facilitators are already thinking ahead about speakers they would like to introduce, or stages they wish to host. “Many of us are already friends with speakers, which makes it easier to introduce them. What makes for a nice challenge is introducing someone you don’t know,” says Stephen, who first served as a facilitator for TYPO San Francisco in 2012. The team of facilitators always meet on the morning of the first day to review the entire programme in detail. One by one, they select speakers to introduce, making sure all the stages are properly covered. It’s also crucial that they pace themselves—no running between stages—and schedule proper breaks. Each Facilitator spends time researching each of the speakers they will introduce. Their goal is always to conduct a very welcoming, yet brief introduction of the speaker.
Finding this time to research can be tricky at such a busy conference as TYPO. They often carve out small amounts of time to be totally alone to review information on a speaker and make their notes for the introduction.The facilitator always meets with the speaker before going on to the stage, most often in the speakers’ lounge. This first meeting starts what could be considered a rather special and temporary relationship between the two: talking not only to get to know each other but to create a level of reassurance and trust. The facilitator is also the last person to talk with a speaker before they begin their presentation. “These moments for the speaker are often the most sensitive,” says Johannes, who first served as a facilitator in 2016. “We check in with them to see how they are feeling, but it’s best to leave them alone, to let their thoughts run.”
The facilitator remains in the audience during the presentation and maintains a special, focused attention. They become especially aware as the speaker reaches the end of their talk, ready to come back on stage to conduct the proper thank you, pose a question (time permitting), and then ensure a smooth exit. Kali, who first served as a facilitator at the first TYPO San Francisco in 2012, summarised this role perfectly: “When people are speaking and presenting, they are showing their humanity and opening themselves to critique. My job as a facilitator is to be aware of the mood of the space and ensure it remains very welcoming and energised for both the speaker and the audience.”