Buzz Collaboration Format

On a recent Twitter chat for Association Leaders (#assnchat) the topic of event formats came up.  I mentioned a format called “Buzz” and there was interest so it seemed a blog post with more description than 140 chars was in order.

I support a group called the KM Institute.  We are a bunch of Knowledge Management professionals who get together periodically to discuss the practice of knowledge management.

We have two main goals:

  1. Learning about KM
  2. Networking with other KM professionals

We want our meetings to support both goals.  Lectures tend to be heavy on #1 and light on #2.  Cocktail party type discussion can be heavy on #2 and light on #1.

One solution that we use is called a KM Cafe.  I believe it was created/popularized by David Gurteen.  It involves a series of tables each with a different topic.  Attendees spend X amount of time at each table having a discussion.  When “the whistle blows”, attendees move to a new table.  The “menu” gives you the topic for each table and the “chefs” are facilitators at each table.

While that provides more structure than a cocktail party, we still felt it was light on #1 so we created the “Buzz” format.  Here’s how it works:

  • 10 mins – A presenter has 10 minutes to talk on a pre-determined topic.  If they go over 15mins, they are cut-off
  • 5 mins – Everyone splits into 8-10 person tables.  Around the table everyone introduces themselves and gives 15secs on what they do
  • 20 mins – The tables discuss what they just heard and how it may impact them
  • 5 mins – At the end of each buzz, attendees count off at each table to determine what table they will move to next.  Start counting with the number of your table (to avoid more 1’s than 5’s)

We do cocktail style networking on the front partly because people like it and partly to make sure everyone has arrived before we start.  We find that many people linger afterwards to dive deeper with people that they found especially interesting.  We usually accomplish 2 Buzzes per meeting.

Also, remember to number the tables to help with the table movement.

Any interesting formats that you have tried for your events?

7 responses to “Buzz Collaboration Format

  1. Thanks for sharing this. We do a similar learning and networking event called Peer2Peer Roundtable Discussions. (I used to call it Really Live Chat Rooms.) We let people spend 75 minutes at a table with the topic of their choice. We also do it over a meal. It’s always one of our top rated sessions at conference. People really like to learn from one another.

  2. Swan is being modest. He invented the KM Buzz Session we use and have perfected over time.

    Here’s some “Keys to Success”:
    The presenter is called the Sous Chef (specialty chef) and we provide a meeting brochure in the form of a cafe menu – checkered table cloth look.
    If anyone wants a copy of our template, send me an email request.

    Have a ‘server’ (continue the cafe metaphor) at each table to moderate the chats, making sure everyone gets a chance and keep aggressive sales folks at bay, when on occassion they are not.

    Limit table size to 6-8 max 10 so everyone can participate, and separate tables so noise levels are lowered.

    Bon appétit!

    Douglas Weidner
    Chairman, KM Institute

  3. Thanks Doug and Jeff. Great additions.

    Now that online environments are more interactive, people expect to have much more contribution in a live setting as well. The more info we can share about what works in different settings, the better.

    I look forward to the continuing dialog. If you know of any good links for session formats, include them here and I will append to the main post.

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