We have been experimenting with a technique to encourage and strengthen network connections at conferences. In this great blog post from our colleague, Janne Flisrand of Flisrand Consulting, she shares how it works and her experience using it at a recent conference. Janne is a network building facilitation consultant, based in Minneapolis. This is cross-posted from the Flisrand Consulting blog.
I’m supporting an emerging network, one focused on energy efficiency, water, and health in affordable apartment buildings. Recently, we had our first big in-person gathering of network participants. Because networks consist of personal relationships, we incorporated connecting activities.
The Closing Triangles Drawing, an idea I got from Beth Tener, was the run-away favorite.
First, a 101 on Closing Triangles. A network weaver closes a triangle by introducing two unconnected people. This is valuable when those two people gain mutual benefit from knowing one another. Skilled network weavers share the value of the introduction, and even name the small first step to take. You can read more here, or here.
We wove the Closing Triangles Drawing throughout our event. My goal was to create two network norms:
- Mutual curiosity about our work, assets and needs
- An expectation everyone makes connections
We began by explaining the concept of closing triangles with stories of meaningfully connecting people in the room.
We placed forms to enter the drawing in registration packets. The forms required the name of the connector and the two connected people – and prompted people to name what made the connection meaningful.
Then, we drew names for prizes (books on network themes) several times throughout the convening.
By the time we got to the evening happy hour, making connections had become a competitive sport, and by the time we got to the end of the event, we had a vase full of entry slips so everyone could see the connections.
The post-convening evaluation highlighted our success. Not only did respondents report hundreds of connections they planned to maintain after the event, multiple people listed the Closing Triangles Drawing as their favorite part of the convening.