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Loose Networking: Impromptu Networking

Every good meeting starts with the people who are part of it and thus help shaping it. At the beginning, participants should be invited to get to know each other and to tell each other where they stand mentally or emotionally. This is the only way to develop a sense of the group and to lay a foundation for direct conversation, openly developing ideas and working out joint results. In Impromptu Networking, participants are thrown into randomised small groups to check in with each other in a trusting way.

Room setup and group size

For this format, you create a video room (e.g. an event in a workshop room) in which several people can switch on their videos, as the situation requires. The format is therefore only feasible for a group size of up to 40 participants - for even larger groups, the group would have to be divided up beforehand and sent into several simultaneous get-to-know-you rounds. When the group returns from the spontaneous exchange to the main room, this format can be repeated as desired and further exchange rounds can be added.

Implementation

In Impromptu Networking, participants may be brought together several times in a row in different group rooms to engage in spontaneous exchange. Participants can stay in the small groups for about 5 minutes - preferably in pairs. If the number of groups does not add up, three people can be brought together or someone from the organising team can join the format as a "joker".
Please note: BigBlueButton only allows you to create 8 group rooms in parallel. If you have a certain group size, you will have to adapt the format. Instead of breakout sessions, it would be feasible to use café rooms (and creating as many of them as you like).
Ideally, participants should be given a guiding question to facilitate the start of the conversation. Here are some examples:
  • "Who are you and what has brought you here?" or
  • "Who are you and what are you most looking forward to today?" or
  • "Who are you and what can you/would you like to contribute today?"
The questions should always be easy and spontaneous to answer because it is more about getting into a good conversation than making progress on the content. If the group members already know each other and you want to use the format more for content-related networking, you can of course also formulate other questions such as: "What question would you hope to find an answer to today?" or "What central challenge do you want to address/solve today?"
The discussion can be timed, in order to ensure that speaking time is equally distributed within the small group: You could start by giving person 1 two minutes to speak first, followed by person 2 with two minutes followed by one minute of talking together. Before starting the breakout rooms, it is important to explain to the participants that they will be thrown into a small room without moderation and that it is their responsibility to engage in a joint conversation. Participants also have to organise the change of conversation themselves. Preferably, one person in the group sets a mobile phone timer on loud. You can always provide participants with the option to return to the main room, if there is a problem. However, this should only be done in case of emergency, everyone should participate in this format!