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A Network Outreach Exercise

From the book
When Everyone’s a Volunteer
by Ivan Scheier

Background and Rules
This is an icebreaker and a way of illustrating experientially some basic points about successful networking.

The process is for groups of 15 to 150 or more, where many of the individuals do not know each other well or at all.

The exercise needs enough space for people to walk around comfortably, without having to navigate mazes.

It is desirable, but not absolutely necessary, for each participant to have several 'network exchange slips." These are slips of paper or index cards with the usual identifying information (name, telephone number, per- haps work title and address) plus these two headings followed by blank space: "what this exchange was all about" and 'arrangements to meet again.' The slips can be handed out for participants to complete totally or can be prepared beforehand with all the information except, of course, what will be put into the blank spaces during the exercise.

Here are the instructions, in script form for the facilitator to say to the group:

1.Get up and move around (or roll around in your wheelchair).

2.Your job is to meet ten new people in the next ten minutes (or 7 people in 7 minutes, or 5 in 5). These must be people you haven't previously met, or at least know only superficially.

3. Say hello, who you are, maybe a very brief bit on what you do or are interested in, add a smile or handshake if you wish. (It's okay if you occasionally find yourself in groups of three, but mainly this is supposed to be one-to-one.)

4.When an encounter suggests reasons you might want to get together again, fill out and exchange "network exchange slips." Or otherwise make definite arrangements to get together later. Too often, in the enthusiasm of a network contact, we forget to get identifying information and later lose the contact.

5.As a collective responsibility, try to see that no one is left standing alone, ungreeted, for more than twenty seconds.

Network Exchange Slip

Name: ___________________________________________________

Telephone: (day) _________________ (evening) __________________

Address: __________________________________________






Comments and Discussion
This process usually generates a great deal of energy and excitement. The facilitator may find it challenging to calm things down enough for follow-up discussion.

The facilitator can begin the discussion by sharing her or his observations of the process. For instance, were many people left ungreeted for more than twenty seconds? Did people continue to move out and meet new people, or did they tend to stick with people they had already met? The facilitator can also ask group feedback on questions such as:

**How many new people did you meet?

**How many names can you remember?

**How many of these people did you arrange to meet again (or would have liked to do this)?

A main point of the exercise is the value of reaching out to include new people in your networking (including somewhat shy people). Yes, it's more comfortable to stick with a few trusted "known quantity" colleagues and friends. But it's not a good network strategy because even if these few people could meet all your network needs (unlikely), you're very likely to burn them out. The extra effort to engage with new people is also worth it for the fresh experience, talent, energy, and enthusiasm it brings to your networks. Moreover, very simple permissions and supportive processes such as MIX'N MATCH can make it easier to reach out in this way. A successful network is not an exclusive club for the tried and trusted few. Reach out, don't leave out.

Allow 30 to 45 minutes for instructions, the exercise itself, and follow-up discussion.

When Everyone's a Volunteer   by Ivan Scheier is available for purchase from Energize.