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Game-On: Event takes a new approach to business networking

By Julie King |

On July 17, 2013 in Stouffville, Ontario business owners will come together to explore a new "gamified" approach to networking and learning.

The event is being hosted by the York Small Business Enterprise Centre (YSEBC) and as YSBEC's digital media ambassador, I have been given the opportunity to experiment with this new approach.

There is great information about the event on the YSBEC website. If you haven't signed up yet, there is still an opportunity to register and we would love to see you there.

Since this event is taking a new approach, you may be wondering why you should attend.

Meeting new people in the real world - "networking" - is a vital part of running a business. The traditional approach to business networking has been to hold an event that brings out business owners and staff, who are then expected to mingle and connect with other attendees.

I have attended those events since I started my first business in 1996. Depending on the group that comes out you can have more or less interactions, but in all cases but one the process was effortful.

The problem is that this model of networking puts the onus for connecting with others at the event on the attendees. A psychologist could probably provide insight into why it is difficult to create relevant connections in this environment. Yet rather than dissecting why this format is awkward I would rather take a different tack and ask if there is not a better approach to business networking.

What if a business networking event could make the process of meeting and connecting with other attendees effortless? The first clue to how this might naturally occur came from the Unconference CanadaOne helped run last fall. That event had participants suggest topics for discussion and then sessions were chosen based on topics that received the most votes.

The conversations this stimulated were amazing and one attendee, Stuart Morley, noted that he made twice the connections he had at other conferences and that the process was effortless.

Which led me to ask: What if we could revise the format of a traditional networking event to make the process of establishing connections effortless? The ingredients needed would be two-fold.

First, we would need to shift the responsibility for making connections from the attendee to the organizer. The event also needed a framework that would make it easy to establish real rapport, the first steps in the networking process outlined by networking guru Donna Messer. To that end we needed to find a format that would remove the awkwardness of having a conversation about how the attendees could help each other.

Seen from that viewpoint the answer was obvious. It was time to "game-ify" business networking.

The really cool thing about this approach was that we could not only naturally create "casual collisions" between attendees, but this was also a perfect fit for integrating meaningful learning opportunities.

Gamifying business connections is an idea whose time has come. If you have time on the evening of July 17 and are in the GTA, you should come out. I look forward to seeing you there!

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