Why do we overload the agendas of our community experiences?

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Miguel Henriques on Unsplash

This is part 3 of my reflection about our unhealthy relationship with time and how it affects communities (part 1, part 2). In this post I share some reflections on how our approach to time influences experience design:

  • I continue to attend community experiences and events that are totally overloaded. There is too much on the agenda. We are constantly running out of time. Every session would deserve more time, runs late. It feels stressful.
  • In most of these experiences there is usually no or very little empty space, no unstructured time. Every minute of the experience is supposed to be productive.
  • Reading Peter Block always reminds me how communities are a sum of the many conversations that happen within. But in our chase of productive community time, there is no more space for longer, deeper, unstructured conversations. When conversations happen, they are often in larger groups and often with clear expected outcomes. There is also very little space for serendipity, one of community’s most powerful secret weapons.
  • When I attend community experiences as a participant, I always lament the fact how busy the programming is. I wish there were just some space to simply be with the lovely humans around. Yet ironically, when I’m in the drivers seat and designing experiences, I’m deeply worried about open spaces. I’m afraid of the chaos that unstructured time might bring with itself. And I’m worried that people will find the event “a waste of their time”. I want to make sure that people get value for their time.
  • These days, every event wants to have a clear “outcome”, to produce some results. Usually that means that the bigger group is split into smaller groups, the small groups are tasked to brainstorm ideas and answer a whole list of extensive questions in 15 minutes, and then each group have 1 minute each to share out. In most events I attend, these share outs at the end aren’t very meaningful.
  • It isn’t that a structured and filled agenda is only bad. It definitely has important upsides: a clearly defined event framework makes people feel safe enough to actually show up to your event. People show up for the agenda and the speakers, not to simply “be”, but once they are there, the biggest value they are looking for is often relationships. And on the flip side, I have definitely been in events without agendas that felt totally chaotic and a waste of time. So we need agendas and we need structure, but we need generous, patient structures.

As you can tell, I have observations, but not really recommendations how to change it. How are you approaching this? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Originally published at http://together.is on March 19, 2019.

Together Institute

Hi there, we are Together Institute, we exist to help…

Fabian Pfortmüller

Written by

Grüezi, Swiss community builder in NYC, author of @CommunityCanvas, co-founder Together Institute, fabian@together.is www.together.is

Together Institute

Hi there, we are Together Institute, we exist to help people and organizations build more meaningful communities. Here is where we share what we learn and think about. https://www.together-institute.org/

Fabian Pfortmüller

Written by

Grüezi, Swiss community builder in NYC, author of @CommunityCanvas, co-founder Together Institute, fabian@together.is www.together.is

Together Institute

Hi there, we are Together Institute, we exist to help people and organizations build more meaningful communities. Here is where we share what we learn and think about. https://www.together-institute.org/

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store