Events management from the point of view of a participant

I am choosy about events

Well, I am easy-going in the sense that I will pitch up and help anywhere if I can, but I distinguish in my mind between events where I am just being obliging and events which I really enjoy.

Seeing events from the point of view of a participant

I’ve been asked about why I enjoy some events and I’ve tried to articulate the whole process of event participation – the flip side of events management.

When I am being choosy,  I look for three things.

#1 When I look at myself in the mirror of the event, do I feel more vital and more alive? Do my dreams seem more full and more colourful?  Do my dreams seem to belong and do I get the feeling that if I choose, I can make my dreams come true?  So not all events are for everyone.

#2 Does the location, timing and pace of the event allow me to be relaxed and playful?  Do ideas start connecting in unusual ways?  Am I likely to end the day having made new connections that I could have made at home or at the office but won’t because it is too busy there?  An event that doesn’t allow time to unwind will just be work.

#3 Was I able to be heard at the event?  We often don’t know what we think until we hear ourselves aloud.  Sometimes the simplest things aren’t getting done because we didn’t label the task out loud.  Sometimes priorities have shifted and as soon as we say so out loud, our action plan is startlingly clear.   When I hear other people, do their lives provide sufficient insight about my life that I get an “aha” experience.  Actually, I am greedy.  I want many “aha” experiences.  I want to get an inkling that an idea is worth pursuing.  And then I will  pursue it away from the meetup – much richer for realising there are interesting possibilities in places that I had never thought to look.

What is likely to be part of an event that I really enjoy?

#1 Style. I am sensitive to chi and like to feel it flow.

#2 Good food.  I don’t mind the style of cuisine and it can be very simple but I like it to be done well.

#3 Competence.  I love listening to competent people and watching them work.  I like mixing with competent people.  I like admiring competent event managers.  I cannot do what they do.  But I watch them as happily as I will watch a Wimbledon Tennis Final.

#4 Voice.  I want people to be able to speak up and be heard.  It is hard to organize an event where everyone is heard.  It is a big ask and I think it can only be done when all the other factors are in place.

#5 Connections.  Surprising connections bring astonishing futures.  The right people, who are interested in meeting each other and helping each other, generate possibilities we couldn’t imagine until we got together.  We attend new events hoping this ingredient is there.  We go back when it is right.

Creating atmosphere as a competency

Now, none of this is too hard, is it?

I jest.  Creating a good atmosphere is the most mysterious of competences.  Good Headmasters and Headmistresses do it.  Good Presidents and Primeministers do it.  And so do event managers.

Maybe this is the age of event management.

I invest in 10 ways at a meetup and expect to get nothing! What’s your equation?

Carmen asked me what I “get out” of Spicy Networking and my answer is nothing. I don’t get anything.  That is why the meetings are so enjoyable!

Robin, whose last name I didn’t catch, also asked me, and I asked him if he knew the concept of “chi”.  Rooms have chi (or not).  Well, events do too and so do people.

To use an example to explain.  I don’t get anything out of putting a money tree in the wealth corner of my house. Putting a money tree in the right corner simply pays respect to what is respect-worthy, and creates the right environment for good things to happen.  They may or may not.

The expression “make my own luck” is similar. I have to create the conditions to be lucky – but I can’t force luck.   Luck doesn’t like to be forced.

Chi can’t be forced.   Joy can’t be forced.  But I can’t function without chi and joy in my life.

When I try to “get something” at an event, it won’t happen.

But it won’t happen either if I don’t make an effort. It’s the asymmetry that confuses people.  People want a linear equation – if I do it, it will happen.

It works more like this.  If I do certain things, something I value may happen.  But if I don’t do certain things, it  certainly won’t. I know people struggle with this lack of equation.  But there it is.  Life isn’t a straight line graph!

So let me ask the question the other way around.

What do I invest in a networking event?

#1: I am choosy.

Why go to a dull or badly organized event? And certainly why go back? I think people who tolerate rubbish events (and go back) have no respect for themselves.  They are unlikely to be a good environment for me.

#2: I show up

90% of success is showing up, reasonably on time. We can’t benefit if we are not there.

#3: I introduce myself to people

We gain little by standing in the corner (next to the snack table or the bar) having the same conversation that we had with someone last time.  First rule – don’t hold up the bar!

#4: I make time to listen

Particularly to people who haven’t learned the art of networking.  It is hard to introduce ourselves concisely. Like everything it takes practice. Those of us better at it need to give people still learning some air-time.

#5: I try to learn

People can ask amazingly disconcerting questions.  Last night, I often said I was from a small town.  Everyone wanted to know more.  I need to think seriously about what they want to know about my town.  Questions simply tell us what is unclear to people. And we all are unclear to someone!

#6: I (sometimes) ask open-ended questions

It’s smart to end our elevator pitch with questions so the next person learns about us while talking about themselves.  It’s much better than interrogating them or yawning as they stumble though some waffle.

#7: I rephrase what people do and tell them how they benefit me

It’s good for people to hear how their work has value.  It struck me last night that a lot of people have got into the habit of concealing their contributions.  I must think about this a bit more.

#8: I play “happy-families”

How many people can you talk to in an evening? 15? And if we introduce ourselves randomly, how many will share our interests?  If I can speed up the time it takes to find someone with mutual interests by pointing out who has what in common with whom, very good.

#9: I connect after the event

I look up their website/blog and follow up using one of the channels they provided.

There is no point in sending an automated message that does not remind the person of our specific conversation. I am really arrogant if I think  they will remember me among all the people they met.

And to send an automated message via a service they don’t use is just an irritant.  I know I avoid anyone who does that to me.

#10: I am grateful and allow the possibilities to bloom

In a good evening, the ‘chi’ gets my creative mind going. I come away feeling that I want the day off to think through the ideas that seem to come out of nowhere. They came out of my head of course.  They don’t come from anyone I met.  It’s just that being in a good environment sets the process off.

I suppose that’s what I “get” – though I can’t “get” with any certainty because chi, luck, job, connection, belonging, creativity cannot be forced. They can only be encouraged.

Your turn.  Review time!

Should I be striving to “get” something?  10 things I do are a lot – I don’t actually think about it when I do it.  Writing it all down just makes a long list.

What do you do?  What could I do differently?