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The delightful DO Lectures is a strong brand and a wonderful, intimate experience for the impressive DOers who attend. I strive for our team to be as impressive as the experience, each individual performing at their peak and forming new skills.


How Do You Create A High Performing Team for Extraordinary Projects?

Here are my top tips from directing two Do Lectures experiences in Australia in 2014 and 2015, attending Do in Wales in 2011, volunteering in 2012 and 2013, as well as directing various experiences over the past few decades ~

1. Recruit High Performers.

Recruit the most incredibly mature, self-caring (so they don’t burn out), high-performing, big-hearted, others-focused, autonomous, motivated, resourceful, thoughtful, resilient, collaborative people you can.

Look for people who have some of these traits:

  • well-travelled (especially in less-developed locations),
  • done extra-curricular side projects,
  • received awards,
  • have experiences that show they’re autonomous, self-starting, able to thrive amongst ambiguity, and
  • have a great support network around them.


  • Have clear position descriptions and recruit to fit the description.
  • If you don’t have experience in the activities, get someone who does to advise throughout the recruitment process.
  • Careful not to ‘fall in love with’ the person – make sure their experience and desires match the position description.
  • Call referees. Save yourself time longer-term. This includes volunteers.

Thanks to Ross Hill for some of these tips.

2. Find People Who Truly Care.

Pay extra for people with inherent thoughtfulness and a default of high performance. It’s a gift to you and the team.

Find venue hosts who deeply care about everything down to what kind of bottle the sauce comes in. Find people who ‘get’ the need to tweak even the little details for big effect.

As examples, we didn’t set the date for The DO Lectures in Australia until Tess & Graham Payne of Payne’s Hut agreed to being involved. Jessie and Scott of Happy Glamper were incredible, Brooke Payne quietened everyone with the food (it was so delectable we couldn’t speak), Jenni Bryant of Market Lane, was a gem (going beyond the amazing coffee), Jon Hopkins (calming, proactive approach to AV and last-minute hiccups) and kind, clever Nadia Astari created wayyyy beyond her pro-bono offer of a few films. Mark Lobo I so hope you’ve gained so much for all of your clever photography.


3. Build the Inside as Strong as the Outside.

Build the team to be as strong as the brand.

Set trial periods for new staff or volunteers and stick to them.

If someone isn’t a good fit for the activities required, be quick to communicate and if it goes on, be quick to let them go (for their sake, the event’s sake, the team’s sake and your own). This great clip by Didier explains it succinctly – the longer someone’s in a role that’s not a fit, the further the gap is from the gains of the right person for the role.

“I remember hearing a CEO say something that really resonated with me: “the longest period of time is the gap between when you lose faith in somebody and when you do something about it.”

No judgement – just that the activities that need to be done don’t fit the person you’ve found. Even if this feels impossible – rip the bandaid off fast. I’m still a (determined) work in progress on this one.

4. Encourage Autonomy & Excellence.

Explain how you’d do something and that they may find a better way.

A former colleague used to say,

“Here’s how I’d do it…. This is who it’s for…. This is when it’s due …. If you can do it a better way – go for it.”

Help uncover individuals’ natural leadership – the activities they’re impressive at, that they can do naturally, where they shine.

5. Acknowledge, Acknowledge, Acknowledge.

Acknowledge the little things and big successes in the way the person prefers to hear it (public appreciation / social media / team acknowledgement / newsletter / private / little gestures such as a thank you card).

Allow a person’s extra-ordinary effort to happen. Acknowledgement can be a trigger for it.


6. Create a Great Culture and Communicate.

In our first year, The Do Lectures Australia Event Organiser, Angela Eldering, created a regular newsletter that kept people aware of how much we were achieving, acknowledged people, and prepared people for the upcoming activities that needed involvement.

Ask her how she did this in such an upbeat, consistent, engaging and simple way.

7. Have the Team Know You’re the Ultimate Decision-Maker.

This is an art and science. While not wanting to be involved in every decision, there are micro-branding activities that are often helpful to be asked about – e.g. Tess of Payne’s Hut created two names for the coffee station and called me for the final decision. This thoughtful action of deferring to me as the ‘brand owner’ afforded us a fun moment to check in with brand thinking and showed her care.

While having everyone as peers is great in theory, you are the person to make final strategic decisions.

8. Look out for each others’ wellbeing.

Be ready for the breakdown moments – yours and others’. If someone is falling, help …and keep helping til they’re righted. Get ready to replace them if they need time out.

In the second year, one of our key members declared honestly (and in a really upbeat, fun manner) that she’s expecting three meltdowns ‘like last year’. While in a highly stressful, tearful moment, she joked along saying “this is the first one, two to go” and sure enough, with the high intensity, there were three that she commendingly managed (both herself and the people around her).

In intense situations help others around you. Try to get beyond your own emotions and even the potential impact on the vision or timeline.

9. Create Fun Experiences for the Team.

As often as you can. A team that plays together…


10. Respect your volunteers

Look after those serving. They’re as important as everyone else.

The special packs and books we surprised people with throughout the event included one for each volunteer.

Thanks to the many exceptional volunteers who quickly created camaraderie and high levels of service – Cassy Wiggins, Christy Kemp, Craig McSweeney, Dunno (Dennis) Bainger, Doug Millen, Gabba (Gabriel) Snow, Gavin Barrow, Gina Remba, Jez (Jeremy) Forbes, Kathryn McAllister, Kieren Brown, Liza Holdsworth, Lucy Armstrong, Matt Pfahlert, Paul Dyer, Philippa Devine, Jo Lippold, David Thompson, Joy Davey, Vic Davey, Maryka Giliam, Edwin Perry, Liz Leyshan, Andy, Penny, Sue, Suzanna Christison, Judy Hungerford, Don Buckmaster, Matt Cooksey, Jacqui Duca, Stef Caroll, Louis Bowden, Elyse Dudgeon, Franny Wiegerink, Amy Winter, Rachel Duthie, Nick Jaffe, Rupert Shaw, Shae, Amy Hart, Will Dayble, Mai Rääbus, Anthony, George, Emily Direen, Tess, Lee, Roddy, the Mittagundi crew.

11. Surprise your team and volunteers.

This wasn’t easy! Keeping secret a couple of specifics (such as speakers they’d love and small moments in the program) and delighting the hard-working individuals at the event was thrilling and fun for all.

Thanks Mark Lobo for being up for some mischief.


12. Keep A Lookout.

When briefing the onsite team, encourage them to look out for missing details and to look out for each others’ wellbeing. Do you absolute best to provide examples that’ll stay in people’s minds.

Tess Payne and daughter Brooke are masters at creating high performing teams through bringing out the best in others. Tess has a great way of leading in to these briefings:

“What’s common sense to one isn’t necessarily common sense to another. Here are specifics in case they help or save you time…”

An example of noticing the details is when we noticed Payne’s Hut amazing outdoor bed wasn’t decked out for people to lounge on during the breaks. Jessie was immediately ‘up for’ styling it and… voila, for the rest of the day people lounged and met there – it was a great new location for a conversation or relax!

13. Put in Place Assistants for Key People.

At the event, consider having assistants for key people on the team – Doug Millen was Tess Payne’s assistant, Brooke (chef) had a couple of assistants, Graham Payne had Vic, and Christy Bishop often played the role of my assistant at the first Do Australia.

14. Hire a Senior Event Producer for the Event.

We have an amazing team and the final part we’ll nail in the future is our onsite management. For our next experience I’m considering having the core team plan and organise the event and do the post-event cleanup and briefing a highly experienced, independent Senior Producer to direct the bump in (the few days before the event) and the event. Some reasonings:
a) The team could potentially enjoy more of the experience after a year running fast, preparing the event
b) The team could learn from a more experienced operator
c) Briefing an Senior Producer a month before removes more risks by showing up activities yet to be done that we hadn’t seen, has us take things to another level and provides an early deadline for the program schedule to be ready.
d) The Senior Producer is less invested in the history and can be objective about urgent activities.
e) We could potentially reduce onsite risks by the Senior Producer being really refreshed and raring to go.

Thanks to Angela Eldering, Matt Flinn, Caz Pringle, Mel Jacobsen, Tess and Graham Payne for the shared learnings. 

Thank You and Well Done!

The DO Lectures crew are here cheering you on, applauding all you’re doing.


Get in touch for further support.

~ Sam

Other posts in this series are here and this is why I do DO.

The Do Lectures Australia crew are currently enjoying other adventures and we’re starting to feel the pull to organise something that’s bonzer.


Sign up here to be the first to hear of the next experience and do check out the talks. My favourite is still this one.

Thank you, DO-ers…

Thank you to Clare and David Hieatt for their cheeky reply in response to whether we could do a DO in Australia and for having our backs. Hugely appreciated.
Thanks to my partners on numerous events before DO and since, Tess and Graham Payne. You are incredible!
HUGE kudos and thanks to Naomi Dyer for her wise guidance, proactive support and uplifting emails. We seriously couldn’t have achieved such heights without you. PS Thanks for again for agreeing to sit in the Giving Chair!
Thanks to Mel Jacobsen who tipped my research into organising a DO in Australia to DOing, for the fun laughs after big meetings, for effortlessly getting through all of your checklists, being graceful under pressure and for your tenacity.
Thanks to hilarious Hamish Curry for saying “yes” and for bringing along your clever ways of mashing disparate topics together and for being intrigued by the speaker and program possibilities.
Thankyou to everyone who’s been on/close to the Do Lectures Australia crew & helpers over the years – Mel Jacobsen, Tess & Graham Payne, Adam Rozencwajg, Trevor Jeffords, Bec Rozencwajg, Ilya Lovell, Hamish Curry, Ben Janssen, Matt James, Angela Henderson, Brooke Payne, Gina Rembe, Doug Millen, Matt Flinn, Caz Pringle, Col Duthie, Sally Hill, Yvonne Lee, Jo Lippold, Juvy, Gilly Thorne, Lisa-Jane Bell, Jacqui Hocking, Jan Stewart, Ross Hill, Sarah Moran, Paul Kaan, and Dónal.
Thankyou to The Do Lectures Wales and DO USA teams ~ Naomi, Anna Thomas, Em Wells, Jon Heslop, Miranda West, Anna Felton, Mark Shayler, Stuart Hobday, Stephanie Lynn, Hieatt gals, Gwenllian, Sonny, Andy Middleton, Anna, Gary, Duke, et al. You are inspiring.