Blog FPO
By: Aaron Wolowiec | Apr, 1 2022
Networking

The Last Relationship-building Activity You’ll Ever Need

colorful pawn pieces

Photo courtesy of Pexels/Pixabay

As more and more groups begin to meet again in-person, the need for some sort of relationship-building activity at the start of sessions, meetings, or conferences has become less a luxury and more a necessity. For starters, it’s been a while since we’ve seen some of these colleagues and friends face-to-face. But we’re also out of practice when it comes to small talk and, in some instances, we’re still navigating masked faces that are difficult to recognize and read.

Many of us have been on the receiving end of a poorly constructed get-to-know-you activity. Often referred to as icebreakers, these are usually silly, unnecessarily complex, or physically demanding exercises that end up causing more anxiety, shame, or embarrassment than anything else. 

For example, have you ever had to introduce yourself with an adjective that starts with the first letter of your first name, and then remember and recite what everyone before you said? Or perhaps you’ve been asked to detangle yourself from the human knot after just meeting a group of strangers not five minutes earlier?

Alternatively, we may find ourselves in a room of 20-30 people or more, and the facilitators ask for each participant to introduce themselves by stating their name, pronouns, title, organization, and a laundry list of other information. Knowing full well that most people could talk about themselves for days, this activity – though well intentioned and informative – eats up 45 minutes or more. In the meantime, those who have yet to speak become increasingly anxious about their turn, those who have completed their introductions check out, and there’s an abundance of detail that no one person could ever remember, let alone use.

So, what’s the alternative? Several years ago, during a ToP Network Annual Gathering, I was first introduced to liberating structures. Liberating structures are defined as easy-to-learn microstructures that enhance relational coordination and trust. They quickly foster lively participation in groups of any size, making it possible to truly include everyone’s perspectives and lived experiences. Liberating structures are intended to be a disruptive innovation that can replace more controlling or constraining approaches.

One of my favorite liberating structures is called impromptu networking. You can read all about it here or search for the liberating structures app (LiSA) on your smartphone. But, in short, here’s how I typically use it with the groups I work with:

  • In three rounds, participants who are able are asked to get up from their seats, raise their hands, and pair up with someone they don’t know or don’t know well. (Be prepared to work directly with participants who may need physical modifications.)
  • As soon as they pair up, participants can lower their hands (but unpaired participants will know who is still available).
  • Each round, participants will be given about five minutes (two-and-a-half minutes each) to answer the following two questions:
    • What big challenge do you bring to this gathering?
    • What do you hope to get from and give this group or community?
  • Before sending participants off to find their first pair, be sure to ask if there are any questions of clarity.
  • Additionally, clearly identify the sound participants should be listening for as a prompt to move on to the next pairing/discussion (e.g., a set of chimes, a bell, or a whistle). You’ll note here that even if you have a microphone, calling the group back together with your voice alone will simply cause them to speak louder in their pairs.
  • Finally, I always find it helpful to clearly post the two questions for all to see and refer to throughout their discussions (e.g., PowerPoint slide or flipchart).

If you or your team has a relationship-building activity you love for creating connection, building trust, and making meaning, please share with us your tips, tricks, and recommendations using the comments below or by emailing us at info@eventgarde.com.

In Event Planning…We’re All on the Same Team

In basketball, you win as a team, and you lose as a team. It doesn’t matter if you personally play your best game, if you aren’t supporting each other and working together as a team, you won’t be successful. This is true of events too! 

Read More >

Breaking Down the Many Faces of Meeting Software (in VR)

Pandemic accelerated the adoption of virtual tools for business communication. Now we live in a remote-first society that demands better ways of connecting online. Here we explore what Virtual Reality is, and the many forms that it comes in to help us connect with others remotely.

Read More >

Gardian of the Month: Ahliba Toffa

Ahliba Toffa is our Gardian of the Month! Find out her favorite thing about learning something new, her go-to networking tip, the resource she can't live without and a little-known fact about her!

Read More >
By: Shannon Lockwood | Sep, 9 2022
Meetings

Aligning Your Venue Space, Content, and Experience Goals

You’ve just begun digging into the planning process for your organization’s next event. The venue contract was signed months (or even years!) ago, and you’re beginning to align the existing components of your event within the contracted space grid. And suddenly, a colleague comes in with their next BIG IDEA… and “the plan” goes out the window…

Read More >
By: Krista Rowe | Sep, 2 2022
Facilitation

How the Questions We Ask Effect Our Work

Often as facilitators we create questions to get to a particular outcome, to the extent that it guides the conversation in a narrow direction. Being clear about our own agenda for a question - the ways in which all questions are loaded and are directly connected to our own worldview – is super important.

Read More >

Forces Impacting Our Success: MSAE Members Complete PESTLE Analysis

During the Michigan Society of Association Executives, members and attendees had the opportunity to participate in a facilitated exercise to identify and explore current forces at play that are affecting them and their organizations. Following is an overview of those sessions led by Event Garde team members, along with the strategic insights and actionable business intelligence association leaders can apply to their work immediately.

Read More >