December 19, 2009

Bulk view

After the tea party

Almost six hours of conversation over tea and assorted goodies. (I made home-baked vegan apple pie and non-vegan biscuits!)

Somehow, the numbers always work out. Just enough people to fit around the kitchen table, perhaps with a few extra chairs and a piano bench.

Now the house is quiet. The dishes have been put away. I don’t feel tired, as I sometimes do after social events. I don’t feel like I’m buzzing. I feel grateful.

It’s amazing that in just three years, we’ve built these friendships. It’s amazing that when new people join us, they feel at home.

I enjoy this a lot. I enjoy creating a space where people can connect, and where they can wander off to bookshelves or puzzles when they need a break. People don’t worry about how to start a conversation because there’s usually one or two to join, and people ask questions to draw others in. It’s a very different dynamic from cocktail parties, and I find it to be a lot more fulfilling.

It took us a bit of experimentation to get here. Lunch and dinner parties were fun, but timing was complicated. I wanted people to be able to drop in whenever they were available and leave whenever they needed. Tea is so much better. When guests arrive, I simply pop home-made biscuits into the toaster oven and heat up the water. Potluck tea is much easier, too. Potluck lunches and dinners take coordination of entrees, and many of my friends don’t have good cooking set-ups yet. With tea parties, people can bring different kinds of teas and sweets, and everything goes well together.

I’d like to host a tea party every other month. It’s a great way to hear from my friends, meet people they know I’ll get along with, and see everyone grow.

I wonder: how can I translate this to other spaces? Can I create this feeling online?

Book: The Hamster Revolution for Meetings

The Hamster Revolution for Meetings: How to Meet Less and Get More Done
Mike Song, Vicki Halsey, and Tim Buress, 2009

(This link is an Amazon affiliate link, but if you’re near a public library, take advantage of it. I borrowed this book from the Toronto Public Library. =) )

Reading voraciously—almost indiscriminately—has its benefits. Despite cheesy gimmicks, The Hamster Revolution for Meetings turned out to have surprisingly good tips that take virtual meetings into account.

Tips for all meetings are on page 20, paraphrased here:

  • P: Priority: Make sure meetings relate to your top goals for the year.
  • O: Objenda™: Make sure your meetings have a clear objective and an agenda that supports it. Use meeting templates to make sure you share the objective, agenda, and other details up front. As an organizer, have someone responsible for keeping the meeting on track. As a participant, take the initiative in helping the meeting stay on track.
  • S: Shorten: Shorten your meetings. Schedule 20-minute or 50-minute meetings to give people some breathing space.
  • E: E-vailable™: Make sure your calendar reflects all of your commitments. If possible, color-code your calendar to show priorities and balance.

For Web meetings, she suggested a number of things we already do (use Web conferences, chat channels, surveys, etc.). She added a few more tips I’m going to think about and try, including a Mystery team member icebreaker (p61). She also provides an excellent checklist for managing virtual meetings on p77, which include tips for preventing problems and controlling damage. The key ones I’m going to add to my routine are:

  • Arrive early: use the 30/15 Rule
  • Create a technical difficulties slide
  • Determine secondary communication plan
  • Have a disaster recovery plan

Worth reading and summarizing in your personal notes.