Events that Inspire #1: Not Your Typical Networking Event
Welcome to the new sub-category of the Shalon blog: Events that Inspire
Every month I’ll highlight an event or activity that I’ve attended that inspires me, through the connections I’ve made, the way the event was designed to shake things up, the space and aesthetics, the facilitation or … any number of thoughtful and creative factors that made me say “wow!”
Recently I attended the “Not Your Typical Networking Event” hosted by the Golden Gate Australian Football League. The cool thing about this recreational league is that while players are athletic and competitive, there is also emphasis placed on building strong teams that support each other both on and off the field. People from diverse backgrounds join the league to find camaraderie, be sporty and to build connections for personal and professional development. As a non-league member, I was impressed by the openness and welcoming attitudes of the women and men at the event.
What made it truly special was that the focus was on helping others. Each attendee was asked to send in a request – for anything from a connection, recommendation or funding to a new job or a running buddy – before the day of the event. The organizer, the dynamic Alison Vorsatz, Head of Events and Sponsorship for GGAFL and West Coast Sales Director for Fairygodboss, consolidated the requests and wrote out and posted each one around the space. As everyone settled in and started to mingle, Alison assigned each person a number (which corresponded to numbers written on the personal requests we’d sent in.)
"I'm looking to connect with badass leaders who are successful, value philanthropy, and are living their passion and who can help me be successful doing the same"
(Yes, I meant building the Shalon platform!)
Right away people started walking around with their drink in one hand and a pen in the other. Watching people read through the requests, it was awesome to see their eyes light up as they realized they were able to be a resource and enthusiastically wrote down their number. Even when someone didn’t feel like they had the ideal solution, you could see the wheels turning in their heads as they thought about who or what from their networks could be beneficial to the requestor.
Once people had indicated the areas where they’d be able to help, it was easy, even for an introverted person, to start a conversation – because they knew that the person they were approaching understood what they were looking for and had ideas on how they could achieve their goal. Unlike a typical networking event where folks stand around awkwardly trying to figure out how to connect with a stranger, it felt comfortable walking up to someone because they’d proactively indicated that they not only wanted to lend a hand, but they had an idea of how they could provide value.
After the event, Alison made it easy to connect with everyone who’d been there by sharing all of the numbers that had been written on each request sheet and providing contact information.
I’d love to see this model utilized more often and I am eager to incorporate aspects of this event into upcoming Shalon dinners. Here are just a couple things I’m planning to do for my next event:
Build structure into the event by having people send asks or questions in advance. This is a fantastic way to engage people before they arrive and ensure that they are eager to participate in the conversation.
Make it easy for attendees to understand how they can give back. Creating opportunities for attendees to positively impact fellow guests or their communities is actually scientifically proven to boost people’s happiness, generosity and maybe even long term health!
What activities have made networking events you’ve been to enjoyable and successful? Would you be interested in a Shalon networking event?
Share your thoughts in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.