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    Entries in conference (5)


    Break some patterns.


    When you next plan an all-staff meeting, a conference, workshop, strategy session or meeting ... break some patterns.

    The way it’s being done is dull. Starting at 9am; morning tea at 10.30am. Dull side decks from leaders trying to get ‘alignment’ and ‘buy-in’.

    It’s too much presentation, not enough conversation; all monologue, not enough dialogue.

    Darkened theatres and vanilla communications. We are done with it.

    Open the blinds! Ask some questions. Break the routines and expectations that you think are the ‘right way’ to do things.

    The people you serve - not the ‘resources’ or ‘numbers’ or ‘head count’ - the people will thank you for it. 


    How to have the best job ever

    I saw a speaker at a conference a week or two ago; she walked on stage with some Bollywood dancing music pumping out loud … and she danced and danced! She used this as a metaphor for loving the work you do.

    It was Diana Larsen, speaking at Agile 2014 in Orlando, Florida. Diana presented on how to have the Best Job Ever. Here are my visual notes to her wonderful and energetic keynote. I hope this gets you thinking about what you're doing and whether it's what you really want to be doing!

    Diana's advice is to:
    1. Do work you love to do (and you might need to think back to when you were doing work you loved)
    2. Work with purpose - work that inspires, focuses and motivates
    3. Care for your tribe - this is about collaborating. Working on working better together is the best team building!

    I'm just back from presenting at and attending some brilliant events in Berlin, the Florida and Sydney and will share some of the great learnings, insights and thinking from these events with you over the next few weeks. 

    For now, get thinking about how much of what you're doing is contributing to you having the best job ever. 


    The Conference Cringe List - Part 2

    Following on from, curiously, Part 1, there are more things at the events I am often speaking at or graphic recording for that make me cringe. These spotted in the past fortnight. 



    • Why that uninspirining 'holding slide' of the event logo, name and the word 'Agenda'? Bluh. It's so uninspiring. Use full size visuals or some slides (plural) to outline the agenda or use none.  
    • The currency you need to focus on is time. That's what people are really spending when they're there. Make the event efficient, engaging, creative and 33 times worth the price they are paying to be there. 
    • That theatre-style seating you've arranged and the interactive speaker you've got on the program, are not a match. If the room is jammed with seats because the venue you have is too small, you've failed. If you've attracted more people than you thought, you needed a bigger venue. 
    • The long, seemingly unrelated items on the agenda are nauseating. Have section themes for focus and make it build up to a crescendo, not whimper off into a corner.
    • That awesome adventurer/motivational/inspirational speaker you paid for (wow they were good!) has just been negated by your dull executive who wanted some 'air time'. What a waste of time, money, energy and the result of your poor planning and flow. The mood has changed and it's on you to bring it back up again. Good luck!
    • And that dull executive that wanted the 'air time' - oh dear... so focused on trying to get a key message across, they had no heart, no soul, no passion. D-u-l-l. That equals no leadership. They're not as good as they think they are at presenting. You are stronger than you think you are to persuade and influence them to not do it or do it very differently.
    • Doh - You made it about you the organiser again! Why do you say 'when WE were designing this day we thought...'. Just deliver a brilliant event. You'll be thanked for it. You don't need to claim the designer kudos in the first three minutes. 
    • No I'm not going to 'bear' with you while you 'read this out' - and then you read a written story, list of points or other wad of information you're already feeling bad about reading out. Frame WHY you're reading it and then get on and read it with your best acting skills, as if you're an Academy Award winner on their 12th take. Sell it to me. I'm not bearing with you on anything, particularly if you ask me to.
    • Ok, you have a cold or flu. Gee, thanks for telling me as your first key point. Now I'm not going to shake your hand or be within breathing distance of you, all day. No need to apologise. Don't say a thing about how you feel. Get on and do great work speaking, presenting, leading and inspriring.


    Yeah, there are more. I'll definitely need a Part 3. 




    The Conference Cringe List

    Yes, there are some things to avoid when you next bring the team together to deliver some inspiration, motivation or realignment to the strategy.

    This list is from the intersection of some of my very specific experience as a facilitator, performer and MC. The job of the conference is to inspire participants, engage delegates and attendees, share knowledge and information. It’s not to serve the speaker, leader who is presenting or the organisers. 

    I’ve got a lot on my ‘cringe’ list that I’ve seen over recent weeks…


    The Conference Cringe List – Part 1

    • Why are the blinds closed in this room? Lighten it up. Your PowerPoint presentation is not THAT interesting that you need a darkened room. And a darkened room for a title slide? Oh come on! For a few minutes maybe, but not all morning, or all day.
    • Still, quiet, silent even. Yeah, that’s really inspiring. Put on some music and pump it up. It helps engage the ears of the audience, lifts the mood, sets the tone and can present a style, brand or theme for the rest of the event.
    • Announcements titled ‘Housekeeping’. Oh yawn! Yes there are important things to present and announce; don’t diminish them by lumping them together under ‘housekeeping’. Whoever listened up for important housekeeping announcements? It quite simply means ‘don’t listen to this.’
    • Amateur microphone technique. ‘Is this on?’ ‘Can you hear me?’ Stop holding it like it’s a bridesmaid’s posey and hold it more like an icecream – up near the speaking part of your body, your mouth! Your chest, stomach and groin don’t speak. Not in words people want to hear anyway!
    • Don’t aplogise for your PowerPoint slides. If you need to apologise, don’t show ‘em.

    • Stop stealing time from invaluable break, refreshment, nuturing and networking time because your agenda ran over. You stuffed up – someone spoke too long and was not politely reminded to wrap it up. Don’t make your delegates suffer for these amateur stuff ups.
    • Why did you promise we’d all be ‘up and moving soon’ and 45 minutes later we’re still seated? You may promise, but you need to deliver that promise real quick!


    Oh I could go on… I have another 25 points here but I’ll save them for parts 2 and 3...



    Memo to guest speakers: organise your thinking

    Yes, three cheers for a call to conference presenters to have a go at engaging the audience (participants!) and delivering their thinking without the use of PowerPoint.

    On Twitter today, I happily retweeted  and  when this was put out there, with a reference to agile conferences:

    RT @neil_killick I call on #agile conferences to ban PowerPoint and equivalent. Let's see presenters really present and lead discussion.

    Here's the next challenge then - given the Agile Australia conference is set for June, the sold out Scrum conference is next week, and the UX and LAST conferences are also bearing down in August, every speaker has the time to organise their thinking. 

    Start now speakers! Get your thinking sorted out now! 

    I believe visual agility skills are what's needed - visual skills where you can swiftly and clearly:


    1. capture your thinking
    2. convey information, and
    3. collaborate with others


    ... using visuals.

    What happens is that PowerPoint gets used to capture thinking. And then it's the tool that's used to convey information. (Not as good at collaboration is it?)

    A great communicator, leader and conference speaker/presenter can use all three: 


    1. Capture your own thinking about what your presentation and key message is;
    2. Convey information during the presentation; and
    3. Collaborate - get input from others in the session, engage and lead discussion. 


    It's not for artistic types or creative folks; it's for normal people and thinking people whose job it is to think, communicate and work well with others. 

    I'll be watching next week at the Scrum conference; and I'll be capturing using visuals on my ipad.

    I so hope a session I've proposed for the Agile Australia conference gets up; no surprise it's on visual agility - I want to help Agile folks get more visual so they can help people in their teams - and right across the businesses they work with and in - to "get" what they're on about quickly, clearly, and in an engaging and captivating way.

    The sooner you're understood, the sooner we can all get on with it.