Satisfy crucial attendee needs with Give and Get

GiveAndGetMaking deliberate and constructive connections amongst participants is a core goal of peer conferences, so I’m delighted to see that techniques with the same outcome in mind are beginning to be adopted at traditional events. For example, the March 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review includes an excellent article “Leadership Summits That Work” by Bob Frisch and Cary Greene that focuses on creating effective conversations and outcomes at large and midsize company summits.

In particular, Frisch & Greene describe an exercise, Give and Get, for making the most of internal organizational resources :

“Typically, [Give and Get] is part of a breakout session with anywhere from 30 to 60 people. Two charts, one labeled “Give” and the other marked “Get,” hang on opposite walls. On each chart, each participant is assigned a column with his or her photo, name, function, business unit, and location at the top.

In the Get column, each participant posts a card that completes this sentence: “If I could get help in one area that would make me and my team more successful in the coming year, it would be…” The card is like a classified ad, asking for a particular type of expertise or assistance. Perhaps someone needs help developing a product feature, reconfiguring a plant layout, or adjusting a customer contract to achieve a certain outcome. In the Give column, the participant posts a card that completes the sentence “If I could name one area in which my team and I have developed expertise that may be useful to others in the company, it would be…”

After all the Give and Get cards have been posted, participants are given Post-it notes and asked to circulate around the room. If a participant sees a Get that she or someone she knows could address, she leaves a Post-it with a message about how she might be able to assist. If she sees a Give that could be helpful to her, she places a Post-it with a message under the card.

Once participants have posted all their offers to assist and requests for help, they switch rooms with another breakout group and survey the Gives and Gets on those walls. If each breakout room holds 50 people, each participant will see 100 requests for help and 100 offers. Those 200 Gives and Gets typically generate hundreds of Post-its, creating a network of connections across locations, functions, and business units. After the meeting, all the Gives and Gets are recorded and distributed to the appropriate individuals for follow-up.”

Most organizations above a certain size (perhaps 100 – 200 employees) do not have effective methods for fully capitalizing on internal expertise and experience. Resources to solve a tough problem in one business unit may be hidden elsewhere in the company.  Give and Get provides a simple way for corporate summit attendees to connect with useful internal resources, making the organization more effective and self-sufficient.

Discovering fruitful connections is an essential component of participant-driven and participation-rich meetings. The Personal Introspective I facilitate at the end of peer conferences also leads participants to reflect on and plan follow up with useful people they have met, via the fifth and last question that participants answer:

“Where and how will I get support?”

When I explain this question, I point out that during the conference participants may have discovered resources that can support the changes they want to make. These resources may be reference materials, they may be other conferences, local or online communities you can join, or, most commonly, people you’ve met. While they’re fresh in their minds, participants write down the names of resource peers and are then encouraged to seek them out and set up follow up meetings or consultations. At corporate meetings, this is the sole outcome of Give and Get, and it’s a valuable one under the right circumstances. By contrast, a Personal Introspective also includes four other questions that, first, uncover desired personal and professional change that the conference may have inspired, and, second, build the next actions to work these changes into participants’ lives.

Use Give and Get to build a useful web of internal resources to support and resolve current internal issues of a medium to large organization, A Personal Introspective is a more general tool that helps participants from both single or multiple organizations to work on individual professional change outcomes and plans, as well as inventorying and connecting with resources available from conference peers. Either technique helps participants become more effective workers in their own right and also for their organization,