What we learned by running #OTGSP

One Team Gov commit to working in the open, sharing our findings when running events so that others can learn from us. Here you will find stats, feedback from attendees, and lessons learned from running the event.

A wonderful sketchnote produced by Angela Buron and featuring all of our speakers on the day.

I always feel especially privileged when we run One Team Gov events that our attendees are engaged and willing to give their honest feedback, good and bad, and that our organising teams are always willing to listen and learn from that feedback.

This event was no different. We had 78 survey responses, including 5 who were unable to access Google but supplied their feedback via a PDF version of the form.

We have also pulled together email feedback from attendees who wanted to write to us rather than using the form, and what you told us in the chat functionality on the day.

It’s fair to say running events is a bit of an art, and it’s nearly impossible to forsee everything that might occur. Running this event has definitely been a learning curve for most of our organising team, who worked on developing this event in their spare time and free time, putting in many hours over and above their day jobs.

Our team mostly did not have experience in the field of suicide prevention or connections to those working in it — we were just a group of people who thought it important enough to do something.

We needed to use our connections within and outside of government, listen and be gracious to offers of help, and welcome people into the organisational team at key points to help shape our direction. Big thank yous go to people like Jamie Baker (who linked us up with CALM), Julia Mazzafiore from DWP, and Ceclia Da Forno from Cabinet Office, as well as all of our mental health first aiders and MHFA co-ordinators who helped us to define the direction and agenda for the day.

Paul Vittles definitely supported us in building connections outside government and finding us speakers who we we would have been unlikely to have found ourselves. Thank you Paul.

When you’re running an event there’s a lot to cover, so for ease we’ve tried to split this post up into relevant parts that may interest you:

  1. Sign ups and attendees
  • Where were they from and what do we know about them?
  • Why did they sign up?
  • Did they feel that the event was a good use of their time?

2. The format of the event.

  • Why did we do what we did and what did we learn?
  • What our attendees thought of the format and running of the event, including hosting and facilitation.

3. Our speakers.

  • How did we chose our speakers?
  • What did we learn? Including the benefits and difficulties of ‘lived experience’

4. Support to attendees on the day.

  • What support did we offer?
  • What did our attendees say about provision?

5. Technology and accessibility

  • How we decided what platform to use
  • What our attendees thought.

6. Post event resources and videos.

  • What we know about how they’ve been received so far.

We really hope you find it useful if you are considering running your own events in the future, and if you have any feedback or questions about this blog post please email us at contact@oneteamgov.uk. Thank you.

1.Sign ups and attendees

Attendees: The numbers

When we started thinking about this event we thought that it might attract a couple of hundred people, maybe 150. I messaged the organising team and described 300 attendees as a ‘moonshot’ — in that I thought that would be the absolute limit of our attendee sign ups.

A screenshot of a WhatsApp message where I describe 300 attendees as shooting for the moon.

It turned out rather differently;

  • 1 September we had 372
  • 3 September we hit 500
  • 7 September we had 640

…and after that the numbers seemed to go up by around 100 each day until we had over 900 sign ups on the day of the event.

We usually see attendees for One Team Gov events rise as the event gets closer, word gets out more and time becomes available in people’s diaries, but this was very unexpected. More than this, it was too late in the day for us to really take into consideration what the impact would be on our event structure. Had we known that the demand and numbers would be so high, we may have considered running a series of events, or breaking up the day to make it more personal and interactive.

On the day, our attendee numbers across the whole 3 hours ranged from around 450–250 staying fairly steadily around 300 and only dropping within the final hour. 78 people responded to our feedback survey, of which 80.5% told us that they attended for the full 3 hours.

Pie chart showing that 80.5% of attendees stayed for the full 3 hours, 11.7% attended for most of the event (more than 2 parts), and 3.9% attended for some of the event (between 1 and 2 parts)

This is not what we had expected, we split the event into three parts and had numerous lightning talks so expected people to drop in and out of the event depending on their other commitments. Our agenda reflected this.

Only 1 responder told us that they signed up to get access to the resources and videos at a later date, again, not what we expected. Given the volume of sign ups and a handful of email queries in the run up to the event, we expected this to be higher.

Where our attendees joined from — organisations

Our attendees came from all over government and the public sector. The MoJ and associated agencies being the biggest proportion of attendee sign ups at 174, DWP and HMRC had 134 sign ups each.

We were really pleased to see sign ups from the Army, Navy and RAF, over and above 42 sign ups from the MOD.

A bar chart showing attendee sign ups and and where they came from. We can provide an accessible version of this for anyone who may need it, please email contact@oneteamgov.uk

86 of our sign ups did not provide enough information for us to know where they had come from, possibly because they used personal email addresses or did not complete the ‘organisation’ field in the sign up form.

85.7% of our respondents told us that this was their first One Team Gov event, meaning that we reached a new and different audience for this work, which is great.

Where our attendees came from — around the world

Of our sign ups we identified attendees from the USA (10) and Australia (2) and we wanted to understand more about this, so in our feedback form, we asked where in the world our attendees had joined from.

Of 75 responders, 80.3% came from England, with a further 18.4% coming from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland. However we also had 4 feedback responses from USA and 1 from India.

A pie chart showing 80% of attendees came from England.

Why did people sign up?

We asked people what attracted them to the event an allowed them to tick all that applied. The most popular reasons for signing up were:

  1. Subject matter (66 responses)
  2. Personal or professional development (35)
  3. Personal experience (20)
  4. Interested in volunteering in this field (8)
  5. Particular speakers (8)

Did attendees feel that they learned something?

We asked attendees to rate their level of knowledge about the field of suicide prevention before the event on a scale of 1–10 where 10 was expert and 0 was nothing at all. Responses to this question were varied and spread across the scale.

A bar chart showing attendees self-assessing their level of knowledge before the event

Later in the survey we asked attendees to rate their knowledge after attending the event:

A bar chart showing attendees self-assessment of their knowledge following the event.

These two charts side by side show a definite movement to the right, where attendees assessed their level of knowledge as higher following the event.

Only one respondent rated their knowledge as below a 5 after the event had taken place. The proportion of respondents rating their knowledge 7 out of 10 or higher increased from 43% to 84%.

A pie chart showing how attendees rated the event overall

Overwhelmingly respondents rated the event as excellent or very good with 86.9% choosing this. 9.2% rated the event as fairly good. One person rated it as satisfactory and one as poor, another told us that they felt there was a lack of information or speakers from Scotland.

We asked attendees what immediate actions they had taken after the event, and had 58 responses. The responses were varied, from those who said they had taken no action, though many told us that they have shared the information, videos and resources with their teams or signed up to undertake Mental Health First Aid training. One person advised that they had set up a MHFA network where they work and others told us that they had looked into MHFA training.

Responses to Q15. Did you take any immediate actions?

We also asked attendees: What one action would you love to take to improve mental health and reduce suicide risk if you could get support from your Organisation or find others to collaborate with?

We had 58 responses and these are some of our favourites:

  • “Train everyone in spotting signs in themselves and others and give them the confidence to have those important conversations and signpost”
  • “I would love for there to be more readily available training and knowledge events.”
  • “Something I came across on a Andy’s Mans Club podcast recently with Jodie Hill was a rate your mental health as part of an email signature. I think if we can implement something like that in to a general practise than that would make mental health part of the everyday rather than just something that everyone talks about on awareness days. In essence I think that the key to suicide prevention lies within having these simple things to facilitate an open culture where people can engage when they have suicidal thoughts and not feel like someone will jump to the extreme when they mention that. Alongside supporting the fantastic initiatives that go on up and down the country.”
  • “Make Mental Health Awareness training mandatory for all staff. There’s a need to destigmatise talking about mental health and mental ill health.”

2. The format of the event

Our objectives

We had two primary objectives for the day:

  1. To give attendees an overarching, broad overview of the field of suicide prevention with diversity of perspectives.
  2. To empower attendees to feel more able to hold conversations about suicide prevention.

And two secondary aims:

  1. We wanted to attract a diverse set of people from across the public sector and beyond.
  2. We also wanted the agenda to be hopeful, showcasing some of the innovations happening in the field and the amazing work of volunteers working in this area.

Because most of the organisational team were not experts in this field, we felt it would not be appropriate to try to provide training or workshopping that would lead to attendees having ‘tangible actions to take back’ to their organisations. As such we decided to invite a range of speakers to deliver a set of ‘lightning talks’ of 5–10 minutes to give an overview of their work and some of their findings; focussing on our first objective.

A couple of our attendees expressed that they had thought that the event would be more interactive and focussed on practical actions, this may have been due to our messaging being changed as the details of the event were promoted within different departments, however we could have possibly made this clearer in our communications with attendees.

Bar charts showing how attendees rated: a. the event format, b. pre-event information, c. pre-event tech support and d. tech support on the day.

We asked attendees to rate the format of the event, and 37 people rated this as excellent with a further 24 rating it as very good. 14 people rated it as fairly good or satisfactory. 1 person answered ‘don’t know’.

We hoped that through providing resources and signposting to charities and support services working within the area we would be able to meet our second objective — you can find out more about that in section 6: Post event resources and videos.

We also invited 4 speakers with lived experience to tell their stories, listing these on the agenda so that our attendees could decide whether they wanted to attend those sessions. We knew that more of our attendees had experience but that this would not be the basis of their presentation.

Throughout the organisation we were aware that this would be a tough subject for our attendees and wanted to ensure that people had the space to decide their own comfort levels so we designed in two breaks, and encouraged people to take those breaks in our introduction to the event.

We also included a line about incorporating trigger warnings within our Code of Conduct, to enable people to opt out of content they might find difficult.


With so many speakers and such a tight time schedule, it seemed inevitable that we would overrun, but hoped to use the breaks as a buffer, enabling people to rest and digest information but also to recalibrate and get back on track. The breaks would also offer an opportunity to remind attendees of the support offerings available and check in with anyone who felt they needed support (see section 4 for more info).

We also extended the event from 2 to 3 hours when all of the speakers we approached agreed to take part in the event. We also thought that due to the numbers of speakers, and their other important commitments on the day that we would be likely to see drop outs. It’s great that this didn’t happen but contributed to making the timekeeping more difficult.

Within the first part of the event it became clear that the timings would be difficult to manage, the organising team did not want to cut short people’s important stories and experiences and wanted to be especially sensitive to this on the day. The breaks were reassigned to ensure that the event did not overrun and that speakers remained close to their allotted times. Paul, our MC, also needed to move on quickly to keep the pace of the event and ensure that we didn’t overrun.

A couple of attendees told us that they would have liked more time after each speaker to digest what they had said, particularly with the ‘lived experience’ talks, with one telling us:

“ I found Jordan’s fathers piece very sad but it seemed that after he spoke it was swept under the carpet and you moved on completely to another subject.”

A bar chart showing the ratings for timekeeping and adjustments to the agenda
A bar chart showing the ratings for hosting and facilitation.

Despite this 58 attendees rated timekeeping as excellent or very good. 12 rated it as fairly good while 6 rated it as satisfactory. 1 person rated this as poor.

65 people rated the hosting and facilitation of the event as excellent or very good, 7 rating it as fairly good and 4 rating it satisfactory. 1 person answered ‘don’t know’.

The hosting partly comes down to Paul Vittles who acted as our MC for the event, but also down to the rest of the organising team who spent the event responding to queries in the chat, to emails from attendees who had technical difficulties, and much more. We are very glad that attendees saw value in this.

3. Our speakers

Speaker briefings

Speakers were asked to speak for 5–10 minutes with any spare time being allocated to questions. Some speakers wanted to use slides and due to time constraints we asked that these were kept to a minimum.

Ahead of the event we held 1:1 conversations with speakers to get to know them in person , and held 2 speaker drop in sessions to test the tech and to discuss:

  • who One Team Gov are,
  • who the audience would be and an overview of the Civil Service Code
  • the Code of Conduct and support we would offer attendees,
  • technology and use of slides, and,
  • any questions the speakers had.

Diversity and quality of speakers

It was important to the whole of the organising team that we included a diverse range of speakers who represented the communities we serve within the public sector.

Of our speakers we scheduled 7 women and 6 men onto the agenda. In reality Chukumeka Maxwell brought along his friend and colleague Dr Jean Dillon, so we had 8 women and 6 men. We wanted a range of different backgrounds so deliberately sought speakers from black and minority communities, as well as from the LGBT+ community.

Finally we wanted a mix of speakers with ‘lived experience’ and those without, to give some personal information without overwhelming our attendees.

You can find out more about our speakers here:

View at Medium.com

…and here:

View at Medium.com

A quote taken from an attendee on the day that reads “Much needed and brilliantly diverse”
A bar chart showing diversity of speakers

While the majority of our attendees rated the diversity of speakers as excellent or very good (70 in total) there were a few lower ratings for this with 3 people rating this as fairly good, 1 as satisfactory and 2 as poor.

If you would like to share your thoughts on this or how we might ensure diverse and inclusive attendees at our future events please email contact@oneteamgov.uk and let us know.

A bar chart showing the ratings for quality of speakers

Most of our attendees rated the quality of speakers as excellent (52) or very good (20). With 2 people rating it as fairly good and 3 as satisfactory. Again, a qualitative free text field in the survey may have given us more insight into those lower ratings.

A bar chart showing answers for “provided deep insight into the experiences of those that have lost someone to suicide

Attendees also stated that they ‘strongly agree’ that the event provided deep insight into the experiences of those that have lost someone to suicide, with a further 11 tending to agree.

Working across borders

Our speakers came from academia, business, the charity sector (both small and large), and the public sector. This is an important part of One Team Gov’s work, and is outlined within our principles, specifically principle 6. Work across borders:

A screenshot from the One Team Gov website: https://www.oneteamgov.uk/principles with principle 6: Work across borders (this principle is spelled out below)

This principle states:

“We believe that diverse views make our outcomes and services better. We will be characterised by our work to break down boundaries between groups. This means we’ll work across:

sectors: our community will include think tanks, academics, charities and private sector organisations. This will not compromise our impartiality, but will make our ideas stronger and wider.”

Izzy Whitelock from Houston We Have and Emma Barrand from QES are both doing important work within the field of suicide prevention, and we invited them on the basis of the good work that they do, they also both had lived experience of suicide that made them well placed to speak ont he day of the event — they also happened to be from the private sector.

However, we had feedback from one attendee who told us:

“ The whole event to me felt like a sales pitch for various different products…”

There is an interesting dynamic when, as public servants, we work with colleagues from the private sector, however we believe it is important to have a true diversity of perspective, which means working across these boundaries and valuing experience from all areas. We can’t account for how this may be perceived by all attendees, though we did take steps to mitigate this by briefing speakers in advance about the expected (civil and public service) audience and format of the day.

‘Lived experience’

As suicide is such an emotional subject, we wanted to incorporate speakers with real lived experience into the day so that attendees got a sense of the real stories behind some of the work going on in this space.

However we were also conscious that this would be a difficult subject for some of our attendees so scheduled 4 such speakers and made sure that they we’re labelled on the agenda so that attendees cold decide if they wanted to listen to those sessions.

In planning, another of our speakers mentioned that they had lived experience but was unsure if they would share it, as such, we advised all speakers to give “trigger warnings” if they were going to include any such information, in order to give people due notice.

Again unexpectedly, 11 of our 15 speakers mentioned that they had experience of suicide on the day of the event. This meant that there was much more ‘lived experience’ across the three hours than we had anticipated.

One of our attendees on the day commented on how valuable this had been to reinforce formal training in suicide prevention. As shown in the below graphic (the quote is given below in the caption).

A quote from Michael an attendee on the day who said “Listening to all these stories really highlights the importance of lived experience as a learning tool alongside formal training in suicide prevention”

However some of our feedback also addressed the other side of this, like this comment received by email:

“I would like to point out the positives on the people that spoke about their own family members they had sadly lost due to them taking their own lives. It is a most difficult subject to talk about and very heart wrenching — I felt there were too many speakers talking about their life story and not enough speakers talking about how to reduce suicides and signposting to useful resources sites.”

We also asked our attendees to complete a question of how they would describe the event in 3 words — here are a couple:

“Harrowing, exhausting, emotional”

“Emotional, Heavy, Interesting”

Our speaker Penny Fosten, and organising team expressed exhaustion immediately after the event. Listening to these stories is hard.

Even so, the feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive.

We asked attendees to give us three words to describe the event, and using a word cloud generator looked at what the most often used words were:

A wordcloud of responses from attendees

Most attendees used the following words to describe the event:

  • Inspiring / Inspirational
  • Informative / Insightful
  • Powerful
  • Interesting
  • Encouraging
  • Emotive

The organising team worked hard to pull together suitable resources some of which were shared ahead of the day, we hoped that these would provide a useful resource for attendees, but also could have signposted this more using the chat functionality. You’ll find resources shared before the event here:

View at Medium.com

…and after the event, here:

View at Medium.com

We will be adding to this, so if there is something you think we should include please let us know contact@oneteamgov.uk

Quality of speakers

We asked attendees to tell us if they felt that they were listening to experts in the field of suicide prevention.

A bar chart for the question “I felt I was listening to ‘experts’ in the field of suicide prevention”

Most attendees agreed with this statement, with 46 respondents selecting ‘strongly agree’ and a further 21 choosing ‘tend to agree’. 4 people selected ‘tend to disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree’ for this statement.

4. Support to attendees on the day

We knew that this subject would be difficult to wanted to make sure that we had a number of suitable support offerings for attendees on the day. You can hear more about this in Sam’s introduction (YouTube).

Our support offering included:

  • a specific Code of Conduct for the event, which was also shared on Twitter and by email to attendees ahead of the day,
  • almost 100 mental health first aid volunteers on hand to offer listening and signposting to relevant resources,
  • monitoring the One Team Gov mailbox throughout the event to see if anyone was reaching out for support, with huge thanks to Steve for the support on this,
  • resources shared openly ahead of the day on both Medium, Twitter and LinkedIn and by email to attendees, and,
  • a collated list of all of the Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) for all of the major government departments available to Civil Service attendees.


We asked mental health volunteers on the day to change their screen names to reflect their MHFA status, asking them to make this “Sam, MHFA, here to help” some of our volunteers had difficulties managing this.

We had also expected that attendees would be able to message one another privately to make contact with MHFAs however, due to our technology choice this was not possible. This lead to many MHFA volunteers sharing their email addresses directly in the chat for others. This was a personal choice for volunteers, however would only have been seen by attendees who joined at the beginning of the 3 hours as the chat discussion moved on.

Attendees needing help were actually asked to email contact@oneteamgov.uk to be linked up with a MHFA volunteer and so that we could provide immediate support and resources, including Employee Assistance Programme information directly to them.

During the 3 hours we received no emails to the inbox requesting support, 100% of our 21 responses from MHFA volunteers stated that they did not receive any requests for support from attendees either before or after the event.

Our survey asked attendees to state their agreement or disagreement with two statements on this theme:

f. It provided valuable support for my own mental health and wellbeing

g. It will help me to support others.

A bar chart showing responses to statement f.

For the first statement, responses were slightly lower than the others, though still mostly positive. 54 people selected ‘strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’. However 13 respondents did not give an opinion and 8 respondents strongly disagreed with this statement. This may be a reflection of the amount of ‘lived experience’ speakers as previously mentioned.

A bar chart showing responses to statement g.

Even so, respondents told us that the event would better enable them to support others with 67 respondents selecting ‘strongly agree’ and ‘tend to agree’.

Qualitative feedback from the event also suggested that attendees intended to take forward practical actions to support others, with one person telling us:

“I’ve decided to do the mental health first aider training and regularly “check in” with my staff well being.”

And another:

“I have been looking to what additional training is available to help me gain a better understanding and information around what further support I can provide at a time my support may be required by someone in a position where they are either considering taking their life or attempting to.”

One of our attendees also told us that they had:

“Set up RAF Coningsby MHFA support network”

We are really pleased to see how attendees are making changes and having conversations with their teams around this theme.

5. Technology and Accessibility

We made technology decisions for the day based on a number of things:

  • feedback from attendees at the One Team Gov MHFA breakfast takeover on 12 August,
  • the format of the event,
  • the expected interactivity on the day including support offering,
  • the organising team’s previous experience of running events

For our MHFA breakfast takeover we decided to use an online tool called Remo, but our attendees had difficulties accessing the tool, or using their cameras and microphones. That meant it was important to the organising team to have a solution that would be as simple as possible to reduce the barrier to entry for our attendees.

We decided to use Zoom Webinar which would have limited functionality and would mean that attendees would not have too many issues, it would also mean that they could participate without needing microphone or camera through the chat and Q&A functions.

Ahead of the event we sent all attendees joining information via Eventbrite and on the day before held a drop in for attendees to test that the tech would work for them. One of our organising team, Jon, ran this and responded to queries from attendees within the mailbox in the days before and on the day of the event, creating an access factsheet with information for attendees to ensure that they had all of the information that they needed.

Bar charts showing responses for Pre-event tech support and support on the day of the event

We asked our attendees how they felt about the technical support provided ahead of the event and on the day.

In both instances the majority of attendees rated technical support as excellent or very good (37 for pre-event support and 43 for on the day support). In both cases a significant number (16 and 18 respectively) answered “don’t know” to this question, which may signify that they had no problems or need for support. Only 1 person rated pre-event tech support as “poor”. We are really pleased that our technology decisions caused less friction for attendees for the main event and that our efforts to support attendance were useful.

A bar chart showing responses to Opportunities to interact during the event

We also asked attendees about the opportunities that they has to interact during the event so that we could get a better idea of how effective the platform choice had been. Attendees were still positive about this with a combined 46 respondents rating this as excellent or very good. However 5 attendees told us that they felt this was poor, though this may be more related to the overall format of the event (speakers and not interactive sessions) rather than technology choice.

Finally, we asked attendees about the quality of the broadcast (being able to see/hear the speakers). Again responses were overwhelmingly positive, with 58 respondents rating this as excellent or very good. While 3 people voted this poor or satisfactory, it is good to see that most attendees were positive about this as a couple of our speakers had sound issues and the organising team were worried about this. We asked 3 speakers to re-record their talks ahead of uploading to YouTube to ensure that the quality would be appropriate.

For future online events we are likely to brief speakers on some key parts of speaking online to ensure that this will work better for attendees. For example, one of our speakers had paper notes on their laptop keyboard, which could not be seen but caused some issues with sound.

6. Post-event resources and videos

Two weeks after the event we published a set of resources that were sent to all 900 attendees with the feedback form. You’ll find that blog post here:

View at Medium.com

We also uploaded all of the event videos to YouTube, and created a playlist so that attendees could watch any that they may have missed, or watch the full event again. You’ll find that here:

As of today’s date, our resources blog post has had (according to Medium) 158 views, and 23 reads. It was important for the organising team to signpost to relevant places where the information lives, and provides a resource that will be available online for a long time.

Our YouTube channel has seen increased visitors since the upload of videos from the event. The below chart shows YouTube stats across the past 90 days, and when videos from the event were published and publicised.

After sending a link to the videos to all attendees, viewings peaked at 232, and we can see that they are still getting viewings at numbers higher than before the event. It’s great to see that the event is still being viewed and will continue to be useful to people long after World Suicide Prevention Day.

The organising team were also interested to see how many people watched the videos, and uploaded not only the edited short talks but a video of the full event. While the full event is one of our ‘most viewed’ videos, viewers typically only watched it for around 8–9 minutes, less than 5% of the event.

A screenshot showing our most viewed videos.

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