My team planned and executed on a great 2.5 day client event this past week in Vancouver, Canada. It was the perfect mix of personal development (we did DISC personality training and had an acting coach teach us how to audition/present), professional development (discussed fundraising, LP relations, and audit issues), and networking. I highly recommend utilizing the Canadian Broadcast Center for corporate events in Vancouver, and Roger our acting coach was a ball of energy like no other – perfect for that post-lunch session.
Unlike most conferences where there’s hundreds of people wandering the halls, listening to boring panels and only getting getting to talk to people at the breaks, our event was constantly in motion and full if interaction and collaboration. Guys like Dave Hornick of August Capital with “The Lobby” and Tim O’Reilly with “Foo Camp” embraced the idea of the un-conference years ago, and I think it’s so much more of an effective way to meet people and share ideas. The premise is that you get a bunch of people together who have a common interest (technology, fund accounting, kite boarding, etc), and give them topics to discuss, and you provide a venue where they can interact instead of just listening to some self-proclaimed industry expert orate at them for hours. But the real power isn’t in the topics discussed, but in the interactions which allow people to get to know one another better and have a shared experience together. Having a shared experience can lead to better understanding and trust, which will hopefully lead to friendship and more open dialogue on subjects.
We struggled a lot with the idea of taking clients outside the US, but ultimately that we wanted a destination that wasn’t more than a two hour flight from the SF Bay Area. It ended up being a great idea to go “off-site” with clients, and away from the pull of the office. Many brought their spouse or significant other on the trip, and ended up making a long weekend out of it. While I’m sure we could have gotten more to attend if we did something in the Bay Area, the size of the group made it more intimate and you were able to talk with more people 1:1 or 1:2 and get to know them better. And the size of the group really led to great interactions, where everyone could find at least one person they could relate to and hang with. We also created a LinkedIn group in hopes to keep this group together and continue the dialogue.
We’ll continue to do more events like this based on the great feedback we’ve gotten. Let me know if you’ve had any experience with the un-conference.