Creating Conversation Space Supports Success in Business and at Work
Last night, I attended a wonderful fundraising event for and at the Susan O’Dell Taylor School in Troy, NY – A Celebration of the Arts. The school’s leadership team consciously transformed their traditional fundraising gala into a movable feast showcasing the school’s classrooms, its modest yet verdant grounds and the artwork of their talented students – I particularly loved the sand mandalas created by the school’s kindergarten students. It was a beautiful and breezy late spring night. The dress code was date-night, decidedly funky-informal. We snacked on home-made potato chips, antipasto, fresh fruit and vegetables and meringue cookies. I moved from classroom to classroom and food station to food station (inside and outside), chatting with fellow attendees, making new contacts and spending time with wonderful clients and colleagues. It didn’t feel like a business event at all. It was relaxing and great.
It reminded me of the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner, held at Franklin Plaza in Troy. That event, too, is a wonderful movable feast of multiple conversations with treasured clients, great friends and colleagues and interesting new prospects, starting with a tour of the member trade show in the tent with great snacks; a dinner buffet in the main ballroom; the tempting dessert room on the second floor; culminating with the best view in Troy, NY of the sun setting on the Hudson River on the Plaza’s new roof-top terrace, with mini-hamburger sliders, french-fries and Cokes. That event is like networking in Wonderland.
It’s always been my habit to network first for fun, a habit that originated many years before I started my business. When there’s enough space to network for fun, you can actually have authentic and interesting conversations with people. My curiosity about people in general and at these events specifically always serves me well. My minimal expectation is to have an interesting conversation. My expectations are always exceeded, and I’m never disappointed.
I’ve seen the same experience work inside of organizations, too. For example, it was wonderful to witness small groups of employees in a client’s organization authentically engaged in answering questions as part of a company-wide strategic planning process I co-facilitated. Not only did they produce great work, they genuinely enjoyed spending time with each other and the executive team. It was periodically challenging to keep the agenda moving, they enjoyed their conversations that much.
How will you create conversation space for internal and external stakeholders to best support your organization’s success, in business and at work?