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:
- Learning about KM
- 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?
- Post Edit: came across this format by Nancy Dixon called “High-Impact Storytelling“