I was in Germany last week and had an opportunity to network at a conference with biomedical engineers and physicists. Some pretty amazing engineering minds, let me tell you.Like you, they are engineers. Like you, these engineers and physicists feel there are certain venues and environments which make for more productive collaborative engineering experiences, especially during the conference.
If you think this blog is going to extol the magic qualities of bier to loosen the tongue, sorry to disappoint. What I noticed, however, is that depending on the venue for networking, these engineers were more gregarious, open to meeting and talking with strangers and to sharing collaborative ideas.
Why you may ask?.
It’s the venue.
Let’s take the opening night festivities in the exhibition hall. Lots of booths with vendors excitedly hoping these folks would stop by and ask about their products and services. Not so. In fact, there were the proverbial islands of 5’ tall, exceedingly small “standing tables” running down the length of major traffic areas for everyone to congregate about with their food and beverages. Which immediately sorted everyone into sets of four… since everyone was hungry and thirsty by that hour of the evening. So not a lot of networking going on under these conditions. Everyone stayed with the pod of folks with whom they came to the conference. And occasionally , they went out into disorganized, winding lines to forage for more food. A bit visually and logistically chaotic, to say the least.
Then there was the bier event later during the week. The engineers entered a huge bier hall at one of the fabulous local breweries. The high ceilings and stained glass of the room reinforced that this room had no other requirement from them than to fill its ROWS AND ROWS of tables. Each long table sat at least 50 people, 25 per side.The food stations were around the periphery of the room. And of course the waiters and waitresses were ready with beverages.
THE ENGINEERS KNEW WHAT TO DO.No hesitation. No confusion. They didn’t even break a sweat. The engineers picked a place at a table… any table… even if it wasn’t with their colleagues. And once their territory had been staked out, these biomedical engineers headed for the food stations. And started to talk with whoever was in line in front of them or behind them. And they made introductions and started sharing ideas. And that idea-sharing continued once these engineers sat back down at their table with their plate of food. In fact, some of these engineers invited the people they had met in line to sit with them at their table.
What a difference from the first night.
Once back at the long table where I was seated with colleagues and strangers, I remarked to these biomedical engineers about my observation of the beauty of the bier hall venue for networking. And they confirmed my observation. Once they saw the linear, orderly layout of the room, with its long orderly lines of tables for as far as the eye could see , they were comfortable. Period.
Now think about the next team meeting you are attending. How can you make that venue into a bier hall? No, I’m not talking about bringing in a keg to enhance creativity and the collaborative spirit. However, think about how you can use the room- and even re-arrange the room – to create greater comfort for everyone attending, especially you.
If everyone walked into every meeting they had with a bier hall mentality and felt comfortable instead of sequestered, collaborative instead of defensive, and had confidence that the discussion would be orderly and could be brought back into linear mode due to the venue, how much more productive would be the outcome of these types of meetings?
How does your work space and your meeting space impact creativity and collaboration? We are visual animals and take our cues from our surroundings. When’s the last time you took a look at your surroundings and considered whether they have a positive or disruptive impact on your performance?
You shouldn’t have to fight the venue to thrive in it. Make it yours. Own the space. Feel comfortable and confident.