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Looking for Innovative Ideas to Enhance Networking at NCDD 2008

Windy Lawrence, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Houston – Downtown (and member of the conference planning team) asked me to post the following request to the conference blog. She invites everyone in the D&D community to share their ideas using the comments feature.

Snapshot of Open Space session at NCDD 2006I’m helping to research innovative networking session strategies for the upcoming NCDD conference and I could really use your input.

Sandy mentioned to me that in the past, NCDD has tried different things to help conference participants network – using methods like Open Space (pictured) and World Cafe to help people meet each other, having people self-organize topics during receptions so people can identify others who share their interests, etc. But, as always, we’re looking for innovative new ways to foster quality networking and relationship building at the next NCDD conference – and we’re especially interested in ideas that work well for introverts as well as extroverts.

Beyond the traditional networking that goes on at conferences (time between sessions, meals, etc.), we’d love it if you could tell us about:

  • a networking activity or strategy you’ve experienced that was particularly innovative or effective
  • people or organizations you think we should talk to about this, or resources you’re aware of that could help us
  • any ideas you have about innovative networking activities we should consider for NCDD 2008

Please post your ideas and feedback here, or email it directly to me at LawrenceW@uhd.edu. I will be keeping track of all of the input I receive here.



Windy Y. Lawrence, Ph.D.
Department of Arts & Humanities
Assistant Professor of Communication Studies
University of Houston – Downtown
1 Main Street #S1009-C
Houston, Texas 77002

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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We always encourage a lively exchange of ideas, whether online or off. Questions? Please feel free to contact us directly.

  1. Windy – one idea to throw into the mix is what our sister organization in Canada, C2D2, tried at their 2007 conference. When participants arrived on the first day, they had to choose which table to sit at based on topic (methods/tools, research, conflict resolution, youth, D&D and the arts, climate change, etc.). Later that morning we discussed with the others at our table why we chose the topic and what we hoped to learn at the conference regarding the topic. We had the opportunity to get in those groups again the next day over lunch, and the final day as well (although by that day everyone from most groups were dispersed throughout the room). I think it worked pretty well.

  2. I recommend taking some pages from the geek community who organize "Unconferences"… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconference

    and "Camps"… http://barcamp.org

    Your friendly geek,
    -Jason Diceman

  3. Andy Fluke says:

    Jason: except that the people who run "un-conferences" got all their ideas from our community… 😉

  4. Ken Bausch says:

    Group dialogue faces 3 pitfalls: groupthink, spreadthink, and the erroneous priorities effect (EFE). Groupthink occurs when a group works from a very limited perspective or its member assent to things that they do not really understand. Spreadthink is the multiplication of ideas without focus. EPE is the choosing of courses of action without evaluating their effectiveness. How do we move beyond the comeraderie of sharing our ideas with each other?

  5. Windy Lawrence says:

    Laurie Bezold (aka Polly Riddims)suggested:

    …"I’ve attended and worked at all 3 past conferences. One thing we did at the first one and maybe in Denver was to network by region of the country. Though there is a midatlantic/DC regional group, we never get together or do anything. I think this is a good way to network with folks nearby to talk about ways to continue work from the national conference on a regional level."

  6. Windy Lawrence says:

    Phil Mitchell suggested:

    "Attendr is a cool way for people to learn more about who'll be there in advance and network before and after. http://attendr.com/"

  7. Here's a great idea submitted by Erin Kreeger (erin.kreeger@gmail.com):

    I shared this request with a colleague of mine, Amanda Crowell Itliong, who is at the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University. She had a lot of great activities we used in a face-to-face meeting for the Dialogue, Deliberation and Public Engagement certificate program I just completed at Fielding. Here was her suggestion for Windy:

    I would do a goals cocktail party. That is where you have everyone reflect and write down 3 personal goals they have related to the field and their learning (practice facilitating a sustained dialogue, learn about world cafe, create more balance in my life, get more involved in DDPE, etc). Then you mosey (spelling?) around a big room (I do it with the students over cheese and crackers and "mock"tails) and talk to different individuals (I set a goal of 10-15 or something). Each time to talk to someone new you introduce yourself and tell them 1 of your 3 personal goals and they give you their off the cuff idea about what you could do to achieve that (who you could connect to, a strategy for implementation, etc.) and you should take some notes. Anyway, it works well for me even with huge, mixed groups and no matter where people are in their level of experience everyone should have some goals. The stuff people say on the fly is usually really awesome too!

    Amanda Crowell Itliong
    Director of Leadership Programs
    Haas Center for Public Service – Stanford University

    Phone: 650-724-9233
    Email: akc@stanford.edu
    Web: http://haas.stanford.edu

  8. Windy Lawrence says:

    Kevin Leahy wrote:

    I have only a passing knowledge of some of the great dialogue, deliberation, and conversation formats I am hearing about though NCDD and completely enjoy my learning curve.

    The one format I am intimately familiar with is Socratic dialogue.

    Might be fun to offer "Socrates' Tables", where Socratic method folks can conduct dialogues with attendees who sit to be examined. The topic can either be the sitter's choice, or, ones that fit in with the very cool growing conference theme of the Arts of Democracy.

    To make sure the spirit is all in good fun, the Socrates side of the table might wear robes and laurels.

    This is a very raw idea but I would be glad to explore it more.

  9. Windy Lawrence says:

    Another good idea by Rainer Rothbacher:
    There is an association of improvisation facilitators who are particularly skilled at designing what they call icebreaker games to fit all types of situations. The activities are designed to be fun and because they are facilitated the introverts don’t have to initiate. One of the best is Sue Walden at Reach her at suewalden@sbcglobal.net. The AIN association website also has many contacts at http://www.appliedimprov.ning.com. Another activity that has networking embedded in it is World Café when you use the table rotating element. http://www.theworldcafe.com
    And of course this is a great dialoging activity as well. I observed how participants enjoyed skipping over the small talk part and get right into talking about the central question and make more and deeper connections in the process.

  10. Windy Lawrence says:

    Great idea by Chad Beyer:

    I heard from Sandy that you are looking for ways for people to network at the conference. This isn't exactly networking, per se, but I always appreciate the way that Open Space Technology works to get people with similar interests in the same room. As well, it may be a good fit with the theme–arts of democracy. So Open Space could be used for a way to organize some of the content while at the same time grouping people into groups with similar interests. I don't know if this would accomplish what you are aiming at but I thought it might.

  11. Windy Lawrence says:

    Great idea by Daniel Horsey:

    OK, having seen the second request for conference networking ideas ….

    Combination story/arts event. Participants would tell stories and/or create art (poetry, clay, finger paint, drawing, cartoon, performance, etc.) related to personal experiences with D&D, conflict, decision-making, etc. Event would be guided, gently, with plenty of space for people to interact. A couple of guided team activities would encourage further collaboration and interaction. Products could be photographed/recorded, posted online, compiled onto CD/DVD for attendees and others, and even auctioned. Optionally area artists could be recruited to participate. Event could be scheduled for an hour or two, or could be ongoing throughout the conference with one or more specific sessions scheduled.

    Design name tags to break ice. Through a combination of shapes, colors, stickers, ribbons, etc., each name tag would present several key bits of information about wearer. Colored dots might represent areas of expertise, shapes might represent geographical region, stickers might represent profession, ribbons might be other life experience, etc. It would make it easier to identify those like and unalike us, offering easier paths toward serendipitous conversations.

    Video registrants. As part of the registration process each person records a 30-second statement about themselves (interests, experiences, etc.). Those statements, recorded directly to disk, could be looped and played on a couple of screens set up around the facility. People would recognize themselves and others, again offering conversational opportunities.

    Conference design. Obviously, I hope, design schedules and sessions to invite participation. Have gathering areas, allow unscheduled time, ask presenters to allow for introductions and participation, etc. Post conversation-starters in gathering areas (and elsewhere): stimulating quotes (especially about D&D, of course), pictures, graphics, etc. Set up quiet corners with a few seats so people who are taking breaks can relax in the company of others and have smaller scale interactions.

    Hope these help.

  12. Sandra Zagon says:

    Why not provide space for and encourage members of existing networks to attend and gather as a network at NCDD 2008? I am thinking here of C2D2 and IAP2 for example. If there were sufficient numbers of C2D2 members at NCDD 2008 and a space built into the program to encourage their meeting, NCDD would thus be the vehicle to strengthen NCDD at the same time as the sister D&D communities, within or beyond the USA. Sandra Zagon. Co-Chair, C2D2. 10/4

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