By Anne Rowe
In Phoenix we kicked off the conference with a lively meet and greet free program called Speed Networking. Brave participants entered gingerly into the space; a slow trickle at first and then a small surge thanks in part to Niki Cuccinotto of the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix who took matters into her own hands. She tweeted to her contacts in attendance and ran over to the check-in area to wrangle unsuspecting conference attendees who somehow hadn’t heard about the funfest we were about to embark upon. In the end we assembled about 24 participants.
I quickly explained the road rules: “sit across from anyone and when we say ‘go’ you will have two minutes to exchange information.” I pointed out that the entire concept of conferences is that you have entered a space already artificially populated with your people: museum folk. So, given this head start toward making new friends and contacts, I encouraged participants to use their two minutes wisely. Simply put, cut to the chase. “Tell them your name, where you work, what you’re working on, what resource you’d love to have to do your job, where you’d like to work, and what your dream job is.” Our participants were a willing and lively group. They were ready.
Enter the referee. Steve Comba, Associate Director and Registrar at the Pomona College Museum of Art, arrived prepared to wrangle this group into action. Donning a full-on referee ensemble with whistle and off-sides flag he humorously prepped the crowd. He warned the amused group that he would be issuing penalties for fouls (stepping off the carpet, for instance) and any other misconduct he might imagine (any excuse to throw that flag). He blew his whistle to launch the first two-minute interval and they were off and running. Participants needed no further cajoling. Lively discussions and laughter ensued for the next 48 or so minutes and I dare say the seedlings of new friendships appear to have been sown. Business cards were exchanged, notes were taken, there was much camaraderie, and a good time was had by all. Steve threw that flag a few times but no one was ejected for unnecessary roughness—not this time. Please join us in Edmonton for round two!