When bringing together a new group, you want to help people make new connections. A good place to start is to offer ways for them to find out who is in the room. Here is one quick technique that can be done to facilitate this. We facilitated the introductory session the the UNH/NHBSR three-day business sustainability training institute. The session’s objectives were to help people:
- Learn more about who is in the room
- Build the foundation to discover connections and create a peer network
- Experience facilitation techniques they can use to strengthen networks and teams
Adult learning is made richer when participants can bring their experience into the conversation, so for the instructors, this could also provide a quick picture of the talents, experience, and interests of the participants.
We put four big white sheets of paper on the back wall. Each had a question, as follows:
- What industries do you have experience working in?
- What functional expertise do you have (e.g., strategy, marketing, finance, sales, compliance, IT, social media, communications)?
- What are strengths that you could offer a team?
- What aspects of sustainability are you interested in?
The first person to write on the paper was instructed to draws a circle for a topic and write a line coming off of it with their name. Others added their name with a line as well or drew a circle for a new topic. People milled around filling them in. In less than 10 minutes, we had maps for all 4 topics, covered with names so people could see common interests.
Josina Garnham, one of the organizers, said “Graphically representing the networks and interests of the participants in our Institute proved to be a powerful tool to facilitate getting to know one another – including each person’s areas of expertise and the fields of work they are involved with. We kept the large (4’x6’) charts on the walls the during the three-day Institute to serve as a reminder and spring-board for further conversations between the participants.”
“The networking exercise really helped participants draw out the power of the experiences and stories in the room. Often learning is limited to the subject matter being presented, but with this exercise, everyone was able to build on the that foundation with ongoing conversations throughout the program.” Michelle Veasey, NHBSR’s Executive Director said.
One of the participants said “I have never been to a session where networking skills were emphasized so much. Great idea! It’s really challenging for me to network – so this gave me the boost I needed!”