Note: "advance" as in the title of this blog post is Seth Godin's preferential word for what we normally refer to as "retreat" or in-person gathering with a mission (he thinks retreat is too negative; I agree).
Online Communities are strengthened by simultaneous offline community gatherings. But importantly, not all offline community gatherings, or "retreatsadvances" are created equally. Some downright stink in many cases. If you're looking to energize your online community with offline events, do it right.
My favorites below:
- Must be off site, with no access to electronic interruption
- Should be intense. Save the rest and relaxation for afterwards
- Never (never) have people go around a circle and say their name and what they do and their favorite kind of vegetable or whatever. The problem? People spend the whole time trying to think of what to say, not listening to those in front of them (I once had to witness 600 people do this!!) Instead, a week ahead of time, give each person an assignment for a presentation at the event. It might be the answer to a question like, "what are you working on," or "what's bothering you," or "what can you teach us." Each person gets 300 seconds, that's it.
- Use placecards at each meal, rotating where people sit. Crowd the tables really tightly (12 at a table for 10) and serve buffet style to avoid lots of staffers in the room. Make it easy for people to leave boring tables and organically sit together at empty ones.
- Don't serve boring food.
- Organize roundtable conversations, with no more than 20 people at a time (so if you have more attendees than this, break into groups.) Launch a firestarter, a five minute statement, then have at it. Everyone speaks up, conversations scale and ebb and flow.
- Solve problems. Get into small groups and have the groups build something, analyze something, create something totally irrelevant to what the organization does. The purpose is to put people in close proximity with just enough pressure to allow them to drop their shields.