In July, I traveled to Nashville for the Agile2022 Conference. This is the first in-person conference I've attended in two and a half years. What a great reminder of the part of in-person conferences that I truly love. It's the part where I sit around in the evening in a conspicuous public spot and have great conversations with whomever happens by and joins me. For bait, I often use a bottle of wine that I'm happy to share. In an afternoon, a tea ceremony also seems to work.
A few people gather and talk about what's on their mind. It might be something they just heard and found interesting. It might be something they've been thinking about for some time. Either way, it almost always seems to be ideas that people are currently wrestling with. No one is treated as "the expert" to whom everyone else must listen. No one is pushed into the role of "the expert" who must speak perfectly for all possible contexts. People speak from personal experience and observations. They reference others from whom they've learned. I find it a delightful way to both learn and contribute.
It's hard, though not impossible, to get that easy flow of ideas in a virtual space. It's even harder to facilitate the serendipity of those unplanned conversations. One has to be much more intentional in virtual space, as there's much less tacit awareness of each other. In a virtual space, subtleties often go completely unnoticed. Or, perhaps, the awareness and recognition of subtleties just takes much, much longer.
In the last two-and-a-half years I've been involved in several successful online communities of interaction. One has been the occasional online event of The Remote Coaches, Kirsten Clacey and Jay-Allen Morris. The purpose of these events is to share knowledge about and practice of facilitation in the virtual world. Through their excellent facilitation, it's much more than a presentation. It's a place where others can interject their ideas, or even give a demonstration of their own techniques. The fact that I've been able to participate in these, organized out of South Africa when I'm in the USA, illustrates a positive benefit of interacting in the virtual world.
I've also participated in weekly meetings of The Virginia Satir Global Network. These gatherings focus on the understanding and application of Virginia Satir's work. They have mostly followed a pattern of a presentation followed by small (3 to 4 people) breakout group conversations who report back on their conversation to the whole group. While some of the presentations have been excellent, I've found the most value in the breakout conversations where I get to share ideas with others and understand more about them. The participants join from around the world, though it's an inconvenient time for some of them.
Another weekly meeting I hate to miss is a simple gathering of friends of a retired consulting colleague. It's a small group and we talk about what's going on in our lives. Most of the participants I've never met in person, but now consider them friends of mine. I value the broad mix of points of view, and the human caring for each other in this group.
It's apparent to me that it is possible, even in virtual environments, to make that human-to-human connection that I value and enjoy. It may take a longer time. It may take more setup than opening a bottle of wine.
My first thought was to offer a seminar, a word derived from Latin seminarium "plant nursery, seed plot," figuratively, "breeding ground." A quick query on Twitter shows that this word has become associated with lectures rather than a "meeting for discussion of a subject" which I had intended. Another possibility I considered was a colloquium, which in Latin is literally "a speaking together." Then the word symposium was suggested to me, and seems perfect. The Latin symposium derives from the Greek symposion "drinking party, convivial gathering of the educated." I think that strikes the right tone.
I started this newsletter hoping to generate connections and conversations. I've had very few replies to my newsletter, so perhaps it's time to try another approach to generate those connections and conversations. I don't have a plan for doing this, but with the collaboration of whomever responds, we can figure it out. Who would like to try to co-create this with me?
P.S. Let's talk about the possibilities. You can schedule a Zoom call to share ideas.
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