micelab:bodensee: "me & us" – a balancing act at meetings
At the fifth Experts gathering, the learning module of the training platform for event organisers micelab:bodensee, the participants considered the question of how the individual and the group can both realise their full potential at congresses and events. Getting the right balance between responsibility for oneself and leadership, giving and taking space, is of decisive importance. If interaction and communication can be achieved without a hierarchy, things will work even better – an approach that's also crucial in the further development of micelab:bodensee.
How can events really come alive? This is the central question explored by the training platform micelab:bodensee, which is targeted at MICE industry professionals. At the fifth the learning module micelab:experts, held in Singen municipal hall, the Experts approached the question this time from the perspective of the individual congress participant who is interacting with the community, i.e. "me & us".
"We experience it again and again in events that the balance between individual attendees and the group is wrong. Some are so dominant that they dominate the group, while others don't even get noticed," says micelab leading partner and director of Kongresskultur Bregenz, Gerhard Stübe. Curator Tina Gadow adds, "Ideally everybody brings his or her skill set to the group, maybe leads a workshop or hosts a session. The group in turn supports him or her in doing just that. This creates added value for both sides."
Giving and taking space
What is needed for this to happen was investigated by the forty Experts from the network in the Lake Constance region. By the head-stand method they demonstrated how a temporary community can grow from individuals. But at first they proposed ingredients that bring about exactly the opposite effect: establishing hierarchies, abandoning an equal footing, taking space away from other people. When they turned all that on its head, they realised that what's needed for meetings that are mutually enriching is a setting that prevents these things and establishes a basis of trust.
The encouraging effect of an equal footing
A factor contributing to this was the evening spent together before micelab:experts, as Chloé-Marie Seitz from Bodenseeforum Konstanz confirmed. She gave instruction in sociometric constellations as a co-coach. "I was nervous at first. But as I already knew the others, I made up my mind to go ahead with it, thinking: standing at the front is something new for everyone. We're on the same level then." The constellations were all formed on the basis of people's origin or occupation, and they got talking that way – which further strengthened the basis of trust between them.
Settings that establish trust
The 6-1-1-1 method is another way to create a sense of community that the Experts tried out. The setting: four people, one person speaks for six minutes about a selected topic, while the others listen. After that, one by one they give positive feedback for one minute each. "People who otherwise stay in the background get the space to present their experiences and questions. The whole group profits from that," explains curator Michael Gleich. A similar principle is followed in peer consulting.
Quo vadis, micelab:bodensee?
An Open Space dedicated to this idea was organised. The subject: micelab:bodensee. The platform will continue to be funded as an Interreg-V project by the European Union and Switzerland until the end of 2018. After that it will be self-funding. The Experts are looking closely at how the community that has grown up around Lake Constance and operates between the training modules as well can exist on a permanent footing and continue to evolve.
The "us" strengthens the "me"
Many ideas were generated, including low-threshold meetings like round trips to partners, ambassadors who represent the micelab:bodensee approach on the staff level, and virtual meetings. "What's much more important, though, is passing on the basic idea of micelab:bodensee and embodying the attitude and living it. There's a big awareness of this among the micelab partner organisations," says curator Michael Gleich.
This view is also held by Sabine Neufang from Mainau island. The project leader took charge of the Open Space. "Everyone who presents gives a measure of trust in advance and stretches out a hand. That can only happen if the community is open and honest and gives one confidence that the trust will not be abused. This feeling of belonging – the "us" – strengthens the "me". That's the art of the meeting, as practised in real life," she says in summary, adding: "If we manage to convey that to our customers, they will find a conference region at Lake Constance that is unique."
Photos: Michael Gleich