I had talked with some individuals on what exactly the “SQL Dating” or Networking was for SQL Saturday #66. I thought I would put it down just in case someone else wanted an idea on how to network at their events. The overall principle or thought was to reproduce the bar or club style of speed dating. The idea of being able to talk and learn from many people in one room, after the rotation is done it then leaves each person with an idea on who they may want to talk to more; we were hoping that no one felt they had been ignored.
The idea is that each person comes in the door to “check in”, they are asked to declare a discipline. So if you were a DBA you would get something such as a poker chip or a color of paper that would help you identify people of like interests. We had 3 groups that attendees could join in BI, DBA, or Database Developer. If someone was new to SQL Server we would ask them if they had a preference, if none was selected we would put them in a group that looked like it had less people in it. We then pointed them in the direction of our main room, where we had food and coffee.
Once the started the Keynote, was a very basic Keynote, it covered:
Who was the User Group
Location of the restrooms, and drinks
Why we were doing this
Plans for the day
And then we went right into the Networking
I walked everyone thought the steps, started by asked the attendees to get into a circle with all the people that had the same color item they did. Then I pointed each group to an area in the room. Each person was asked to get a partner in the group and once that had been completed they were to get in a circle, with one partner facing the inside of the circle and the other with their back to the center of the circle (Note 1). At this point we shared the directions with them:
They had only 2 minutes with their partner
They may not have time to meet everyone in the group, that is ok
During the 2 minutes they were with the other attendee each person needs to answer 2 questions.
1. What one thing would they really want to learn at this SQL Saturday
2. What is their biggest accomplishment with SQL Server (Note 2)
I had a stop watch and every 2 minutes I would signal to everyone that it was time to change partners by the outside group rotating to the left.
We continued up until the time that we needed to break to get started for the sessions. I was really surprised on how many people liked doing it. To be honest, I don’t think we heard a complaint. During the day we started a Tweet Board. The idea here was to get contact info for people that you may have not had a chance to meet or exchange information with during the day. People could come up and write their twitter handle on the board.
So a Couple of notes:
Note 1: This can very easily get out of control real quick. Asking people to get into 2 circles facing each other can just be complex and awkward to communicate. About 5 min. before we started this all occurred to me, so I made sure that each circle has as many volunteers in it that I could get in there. The idea was that they could help getting people in the circle, and with them in the circle they can help promote getting people to talk and not just stand around looking at each other’s shoes. I was really surprised that we really didn’t have any wall flowers. A great source for volunteers with this is the speakers. The idea with the speakers here is that the speakers get to hear what the attendees want to learn about, and they get to promo their session. Another neat part to the speakers being there in the circle is that there are some people that are too shy to ask the speakers direct questions. This breaks the ice.
Note 2: The idea of the biggest accomplishment question is to talk about what you are most proud of with what you have done, or what was the most complex thing. We wanted people to be able to say something along the lines of… I was able to replicate data from Japan to the US. This way if someone wanted to learn about replication, there are many people that know the person that considers that an accomplishment of theirs.
If you have any questions on how to apply this at your event I would be more than happy to answer those.