Making gatherings better [video]

[Watch “Helpful Networking Thingy” on YouTube; 03:12 minutes]

We had a great time at last week’s Biznik event at Jerry’s Deli. We pretty much always do, but this time, we introduced a new, fun, sharing-kinda thing that really reinvigorated everyone, provided interesting things to talk about and gave each of us insight not only into each other, but some ways we might improve our lives and businesses moving forward.

I describe one of the tools I used in the video above. Basically, it comes down to this:

  1. Have each attendee to your gathering come with a problem or question they’d like to crowdsource.
  2. Provide some means for them to write the question and collect answers, we used 8.5×11″ sheets and markers, and laid them out on a table. I rolled out some kraft paper underneath it all so I could tape the sheets neatly. You could also put giant sheets up on the wall, or use a big whiteboard and take pictures after.

If you’re the organizer, it’s helpful to seed things with a question or two, or press a willing friend to ask one as well. It will help people get over their initial shyness with the new idea.

If you were one of the attendees and happen to be reading this, please feel free to leave your thoughts about how this worked in the comments.

If you’ve done something like this and achieved great success with getting people to loosen up right away and share, I’d love to hear your methods.

Oh, and if you’re an entrepreneur in the Los Angeles area, I’d love to meet you at an upcoming event. There’s one on February 16th; sign up for Biznik (free!), then you can RSVP to the event.




  1. This is a great idea, and it’s great the way you delivered this great idea.

    Just want to say for the record that ‘long and rambling’ never crossed my mind as I was watching — until you started talking about it — and then I was like ‘What is she talking about? I was into it!’ It felt like you were taking the wind out of your own sails a bit.

    No need to worry/apologize for taking the time you need – to say what you need to say. You were passionate, connected, informative and entertaining to watch!

    Bottom line… if you’ve got the passion, viewers have got the time (and the ones who don’t – you’re not talking to anyway.) Leave any doubts off-camera. I’m looking forward to more tips and (hopefully) reviews on anything you feel inspired to share about.

    1. You’re right, Carolyn. This is me, trying to dodge a bullet. If I think they’re too long, I should make them shorter and shut up. (Or at least, I should stop nattering on at great length about how long they are and making them even longer in the process.)

      Thanks for your wise input, and for phrasing it graciously. NOTE TAKEN.

  2. This is a fabulous idea, Colleen! It’s so good I’m going to propose it to a group I don’t even belong to yet!

  3. I like this tip! My “day job” is at a chamber of commerce, and we’re always looking for interesting networking ideas.

    I was recently at a small (~10-12 people) breakfast meetup, and the organizer had us all “beg, brag, or what if” when we introduced ourselves. Beg = a request for help or advice, something that’s challenging you; Brag = an announcement, accomplishment, or something self-promotional; What If = crazy ideas or conversation starters like “What if the Biznik events became so popular that we wanted to franchise the idea in other cities?”

    Anyway, I liked the “beg, brag, or what if” idea because everyone got a chance to talk about something that was interesting to them, and the discussion provided a lot of good ideas to consider after the event.

    NOW who’s long-winded?! Apologies for bogarting your comments. :-)

    1. That’s a great exercise, Jess. We did a little roundtable thing toward the end of the mixer where we shared our fave bit of learning from the year; I don’t know why I shy away from the “beg” thing all the time. (Oh, wait—yes, I do. Still sales-averse. Sigh…)

      There’s something nice about the paper thing, too. Gives the introverts a chance to warm up, allows for conversation starters (like a silent auction can, now that I think about it.)

      I think you could do both. Why not?

      Long-winded, FTW!

  4. Brilliant, Colleen! This sounds like fun. And what timing. I am considering a move to a new city (Milwaukee) where I will have the scary task of building my freelance business with zero contacts in my field, few friends, and next to no knowledge of the area. Yikes! Am I crazy? Probably, but I think I’m going to go anyway. It doesn’t look like there’s a very active Biznik community there, with no events listed for the past or future… but your blog post is inspiring me to join anyway. So thanks for introducing me to Biznik. Now if I can only get over that pesky fear of networking!

    1. Move! Move! Milwaukee is a terrific city—beautiful and very inexpensive. Plus, you know, close to Chicago!

      And definitely give Biznik a try. Matt Lawrence, the Community Manager, is terrific at helping people get started. There was no activity in L.A. until I started two years ago; now we have a few different people hosting events, and a lot more members. And L.A. is notoriously flaky, whereas the Midwest? Rock solid.

      I’m alerting Matt to your potential presence, just to pave the way. He’s great—fun, nice, not pushy, and smart. Ask, and ye shall receive!

  5. Kate:
    Colleen is right, you and I gotta talk. There are a whopping 48 Biznik members in Milwaukee. BUT, since LA is notoriously flakey, and Milwaukee is rock solid, that makes Milwaukee more like 480 members, in like, dog years.
    But I just popped over to the Milwaukee page and there is a new member there, Mike, who seems pretty cool. I’ll introduce you…

    1. Wow! I love the interwebs. Colleen and Matt, thank you so much for your responses. I’ve had so much nervousness about my upcoming move, and it’s mostly about the fear around having to basically start from scratch. But the amazing ask-and-suddenly-receive experience of commenting & connecting here makes me feel like this is totally possible – and exciting! Matt, thanks for your email — I’ll drop you a line once I get my Biznik profile set up. And Colleen, thanks as always for sharing your brilliant self and creating an awesome virtual space full of possibility.

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