Meeting strangers can be awkward and even scary to lots of people. Even though many can agree on the importance of building valuable relationships for professional and personal life, the approach to networking today seems limited and outdated. I’m talking about the hustle to meet as many people as possible, collecting stacks of business cards and trying to impress everyone at networking events. Where is the value in that? This is obviously not the case for everyone, but there is no doubt that there is an opportunity to make networking less awkward and scary. What if networking can be more enjoyable and meaningful?
This story first appeared on my LinkedIn page.
SUPER PLAY MEETUP was our first community event in Doha gathering strangers from previous PLAY MEETUPs over the past 8 months. These were essentially weekly meetups that brought strangers to play, learn and share stories using the power of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY. To learn more about PLAY MEETUPS, please see my previous article and video below on the subject.
Addressing Networking Challenges
I wanted to design a user experience that can address the challenges people face in networking and provide a more effective way to create genuine relationships. An experience that can redefine what networking should look like and communicate deep values that connects with the audience. From there, these values would trigger action that benefits the community and helps it to grow organically.
Challenge #1: Fear of strangers is in the room
What if we could eliminate fear and create a safe space the moment people enter the venue? That’s how the idea of the LEGO Profile Wall came to life! As people came to register, they were asked to draw on a template a LEGO figure of themselves showing who they are creatively. They were also encouraged to write down their email or social media account so others can reach them if they wanted. After which, they took their drawing and placed on the LEGO Profile Wall. As the wall was getting filled up, there was lots of great energy and fun of people looking at the wall and guessing who is who.
Challenge #2: Managing internal fears
What if we could free people from their internal fears and take control of their emotions using EQ?
To establish a clear purpose to why we need to network, I played a powerful video that showed how disconnected our society has become. I followed that up with the story of PLAY MEETUP as an initiative to address the issue.
The attendees then enjoyed a fun chocolate ice-breaker activity followed by an emotional intelligence session led by my friend Joseph Al Haddad. He is a certified EQ practitioner and showed the attendees how emotional intelligence can help set their mindsets for effective networking. We could see that the attendees were getting more comfortable with each other’s and now anxious to start the main activity which was LEGO Networking.
Challenge #3: Fear of talking to strangers
What if we could use the power of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY where people can build, play and share stories using LEGO as a medium to network?
This was the toughest part and was essentially an experiment to see what happens. The attendees built LEGO models that metaphorically represented them. It was anything they wanted to share like their occupation, hobbies, dreams, values …etc. Once completed, they carried their models and met others to share their story through the models and listen to others as well. Finally, they made physical connections using LEGO between their models representing any common area they have found between them.
The venue was high with energy and discussions unlike any other networking event I have ever seen. Judging by the faces of the attendees, they were having great conversations and navigated from one person to another with great ease.
Event Core Values
This event was co-created by myself and my amazing team of volunteers. It was everyone’s event where each contributed with lots of passion and energy. When everyone is valued and given the chance to contribute, you can expect to feel the magic in the air!
This event had zero budget! It was purely volunteering services from me, my passionate volunteers and the kind collaborators who supported us with venue, catering, marketing services, decorations and gifts.
3. Social Responsibility
This event reinforces the importance of giving versus taking. We all need to be reminded that we have a social responsibility to give back to our society. All of us can give something even if it’s small and it doesn’t have to be money. Offering some of your time and talent will make you feel great, strengthen your relationships and create a ripple effect of others giving leading to social goodness to the whole community.
“Is amazing how every time I participate on these events, I end up with an addition of awesome souls to my list of friends.”
This event will leave a long lasting positive effect on all of us involved! Keep doing what you are doing one brick at a time and we will keep supporting you 😁
Wow that is something creative & out of box 👏 would really like to attempt it someday..
- Networking using LEGO was effective in easing the networking process and removing fear. There are some still improvements to be made to the process, but for a first time I was very pleased with the results. Some reported they could articulate their thoughts easier using the LEGO models. One Brazilian attendee networked successfully even with her broken English and had a great time!
- Typical networking is rushed and is about quantity and not necessarily quality. However, networking with LEGO allowed fewer interactions but more valuable conversations because they took more time.
- The attendees reacted positively to the value of GIVING rather than taking in networking. They were volunteering their services and showing support to each other. This is how a healthy community looks like. It’s built on giving and collaboration instead of transactional relationships. This could be the seed for a mindset change!
- There was lots of buzz on social media about our next SUPER PLAY MEETUP. It validated that there are many others who are interested in attending future events and joining our growing community. We have lots of work to do and we will build an amazing community stranger by stranger, brick by brick.
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