I recently attended a three-day state conference along with around forty other people.
Day one was dedicated to networking and getting to know each other. There was a ten-minute presentation followed by morning tea, and then we all jumped on a tour bus for a visit to a restaurant, where we listened to another ten-minute presentation before tucking into a two-course lunch.
After plenty of time to shop and socialise it was back onto the bus for a visit to a winery.
The day concluded with a three-course dinner. All of this was paid for by the conference organisers and I’m sure most people would be quite happy to be able to do this for a day instead of working.
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I couldn't shake the feeling though, that it was all a bit extravagant – and pointless. There was a lot of chatting going on but much of what I heard was people commenting on the meal or showing each other the bargains they bought at the shops. I questioned the relevance of all this to our work.
Throughout the whole day, I managed to have two good conversations that I felt were productive.
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Days two and three were considerably better, with some interesting guest speakers, but there was still little opportunity to have serious conversations, pick each other’s brains and come away with a solid plan of action.
If you’re going to organise a networking or team-building day, think carefully about what activities you can do that will enhance the knowledge, skills and abilities of the participants in relation to their roles. Make sure that they have an opportunity to make good connections, bounce ideas off each other and ask questions.
Here are a few suggestions:
- It's OK to have a bit of fun, but think seriously about whether team ‘games’ are the way to go. Many employees only go along with these out of obligation.
- Seek some input before the event. What would your colleagues or staff really like to get out of the day?
- Plan to have rotating small groups that discuss topics for a length of time and then move around to other tables.
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- Start the day with a list of questions and have attendees vote on which questions they would most like answered by the end of the day.
- Try to organise two or more simultaneous guest speakers in separate areas. Participants can then have a choice which one is most relevant for them to listen to.
- Have notes available to take away, or video the event for future viewing.
- Always request feedback from participants and make sure the information you request is relevant and useful.