Coaches’ Summer BBQ – ingredients for success

text: Caoches' Summer BBQ: Ingredients for Success

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The first Coaches’ Summer BBQ was a wild success. 

Participants described it as fun, community, connection, energizing, valuable, laughter, and gratitude. Someone said it was a “feast for thought”. About 350 people signed up from around the world, but who knows how many came. We decided not to track those stats—see below on BBQ vibes.

The sessions that people facilitated and hosted were generous, high quality and fed people’s minds and spirits. As organizers, we had fun organizing, didn’t do things we didn’t want to and became friends. 

Here’s some of our reflections on the ingredients of what made this event special. We’re documenting this for ourselves and for others to run their own events. 

Finding the right metaphor

I was pissed off about the ICF’s decision to host their conference in Florida and started a petition calling for a boycott. Jeff asked me if we were saying no to ICF’s Florida conference, what were we saying yes to? 

I was excited to host an unconference. The problem was, no one in the coaching world knew what an unconference was. In our first meeting Jeff, Autumn and I were riffing on “what’s a metaphor for this gathering?” We came up with a summer BBQ. This helped us communicate out the atmosphere we were going for: fun, some structure but not a lot, and an  informal vibe. This metaphor also helped us make decisions later–what if people wanted us to record all the sessions and make a digital library? No. That doesn’t fit for a summer BBQ. 

This metaphor also determined our branding. Kudos to Alexander Agent for putting our website together and social media visuals. 

I wanted to send out a survey, but Jeff and Autumn thought that was too stuffy for a summer BBQ. Instead we asked people for 3 words to describe their experience–kinda like a group photo.

The Welcome Wagon

We knew we needed a space for people to pop in and say hi, or for the brave people for whom this idea was outside of their comfort zone to have a place to go to connect. 

The Welcome Wagon was our version of greeting people as they entered our backyard. We would be there to point out where the cooler for drinks was, where the bathroom was located and let folks know what was going at that time slot. 

Jeff was set to host this space for 2 hours but our ICF…WTF session ran late, so Autumn stepped in to host. Jeff has been CTI faculty since the late 90s and knows a lot of people. When Autumn realized that everyone was there for the Unofficial Jeff Jacobson session she riffed on that and asked everyone to share how they know Jeff. 

Designing for inclusion from the start

Creating an inclusive and welcoming space was really important to us and we designed the BBQ to optimize for this from the start. 

This looked like:

  • asking what time zone people were in on the original call for interest (thanks Tim Smith for your help!) then scheduling to provide maximum global coverage, while not overstretching
  • including multiple time zones on the schedule (someone from Germany specifically mentioned she felt seen and included by this)
  • asking about accessibility needs, and about 10% of people requested live captions. There were no requests for ASL or CART transcription. If there was, we would’ve figured out how to cover these costs. 

Online is an important way to provide access to people across time zones, people who are immunocompromised and for people who can’t travel across the world, for whatever reason, be it money, visas, caregiving responsibilities or…

One of our rules was: Everyone is welcome: leave your credentials at the door. Coaches without credentials are welcome too. It was especially delightful that Stephanie Rincon stepped up to do a session called Q&A with a VA (virtual assistant). She welcomed Alexander Agent to join her. Natalia Sanyal offered a session Sell Online Without Selling Your Soul. These people are an important part of our community too. If we’d held this event for only credentialed coaches, these three wouldn’t have been able to attend and present, and what they did present was stellar. 

There were many first time presenters who were phenomenal. 

Simple, elegant systems

One of Autumn’s many superpowers is designing simple and elegant systems that eliminate  manual work on the backend. Autumn built processes that scale too, so if we (or someone else) do this again, it’s easy to add more scheduling tracks. 

Alexander Agent’s impressive skills helped us here too.

Best advice? Keep things simple. 

BBQ rules

It’s fun defining rules of engagement with other coaches. Here’s the guardrails we set up:


  • Selling
  • Experts only spaces
  • Don’t do the thing if you don’t want to. 
  • Law of two feet: if at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing – use you two feet and move to some place more to you liking. 
  • Hand holding/babysitting


  • All coaches welcome, leave your credentials at the door (you don’t even need a credential to come)
  • Self directed organizing
  • FUN and playfulness

These principles also influenced how we as organizers worked together too. For me the “don’t do the thing if you don’t want to” was an awesome rule for us organizers. Jeff is brilliant at noticing and articulating out loud what he’s feeling. When he said “I just noticed my excitement dip a bit”. Autumn replied “so let’s not do that then.”

Next time we might…

Here’s three things that we would do differently: 

  1. Make sessions 50 min sessions instead of 1 hour, to allow for breaks and time to get from one virtual room to another. 
  2. Make the event free yet again, but invite participants to make a donation towards an organization like Coaching For Everyone or Women’s Impact Alliance.
  3. Be more explicit about what kind of access options people can ask for, like ASL interpreters or CART transcription. We would do a better job of briefing the presenters on accessibility and inclusion too. 

Call to action

So, we had so much fun, we’re doing this again! Save the date: March 22, 2024. We’re doing this again! Fill out this form so you don’t miss out on any of the details.