What we’ve learned from thousands of braindates in 2018

The Braindate movement is spreading fast–and far. We collected some of our favorite moments from 2018 and the most important lessons we’ve learned from another year of your courageous knowledge-sharing.

Some of our younger participants from Montréal’s Factry deep in a group braindate .

I recently stumbled upon a Forbes list of best questions to ask at networking events.

It includes things like, “How did you hear about this event?” “Where do you recommend that I go while I’m here?” and “What’s your story?”

As usual, my heart sank.

Just another suit of armor to help us march into an uncomfortable social setting in search of any kind of fruitful connection (and maybe a local restaurant suggestion, nothing wrong with that!). The hope is that we leave with the seeds of a relationship full of professional potential. But the reality?

It’s exhausting. And awkward. And what’s worse, these “networking” events never help us feel genuine. They don’t propel us to both seek and share knowledge for mutual empowerment– we just don’t feel like ourselves. Armor is only designed to protect us, after all. And real growth requires vulnerability.

That’s why we care so much about sharing how far the reality of braindates is from the often disappointing, always exhausting practice of networking. And the best way to tell that story? Well, we’ll let you do it.

© Youssef Shoufan

Here’s what you accomplished with braindates in 2018.

We might be the only company to have a dedicated global team of Learning Concierges. The onsite magic of Braindate starts with them.

These are folks who are literally world-renowned for being enthusiastic hosts; the warm and welcoming guardians of your learning experiences. They help you find the words–and often, the courage–to both share your knowledge and also seek the wisdom you need to propel you forward.

© Juliana Bergen — Part of the unstoppable team of Learning Concierges and Producers who make braindates possible.

Importantly, they also really love to dance.

© Juliana Bergen

Once creativity begins to flow, your braindate topics are nothing short of incredible. Here are the kinds of topics that you came up with this year, which went on to draw thousands of invitations:

Identity Development: overcoming self-sabotage
Engaging science education to reach groups lacking privilege
How can we use data and analytics to reduce veteran suicide rates?
Comedy as a key skill in growth, achievement, and happiness
Favorite methods & techniques for collecting product feedback from customers
How to work as a POC in dominant white culture and spaces?
Storytelling Science as a way to engage — theatre, podcasts, video and more
Community Engagement: How do you move beyond galas, sponsorships and status quo?
How to build a successful and sustainable technology startup
Moving from “command and control” to “empower and inspire.”

We could (of course) go on, because these are the kinds of topics that blow small talk out of the water. Imagine showing up at an event with conversations like these already booked in your schedule.

From what we saw, you left your 2018 braindates feeling like this:

and this:

and also this:

Try typing “braindate” into Twitter if you’re ever feeling a little bit hopeless about human empathy or generosity, trust us.

Highlights of a year that you should be proud of.

In 2018, I’m not sure how many times I heard discussions about the importance of stepping into unfamiliar social and conversational territory. Of welcoming encounters with folks who we might not cross each day––so that we can start to understand perspectives that fall (sometimes far) out of our comfort zones.

Sounds to me like a year that was built for braindate magic.

Now, we don’t believe that numbers can (ever) tell the whole story, but they do reflect an important truth from 2018: particularly among group braindates (you had three times as many group braindates in 2018 as in 2017), more of you than ever before reached far out of your usual circles to welcome new voices into important conversations about shared challenges.

In 2018 alone, you created 12,835 braindate topics, from which over 24,600 connections bloomed…

At 69 different events, of all styles and sizes…

In 37 cities across 11 countries. Did we meet you in one of these places?

You also dreamed big: of going on braindates with thousands of inspiring people, from Michelle Obama, Anthony Bourdain and Janelle Monáe, to Margot Anand, Indra Nooyi, and “Socrates, because the only thing I know is that I know nothing.” (We hear you on that.)

Topics like analytics, fundraising, population health, education, advocacy, startups, event planning, innovation and creativity drew you in the most this year.

And when it was all over, you shared your stories near and far. Here are some of our favorites:

and of course, it was nice to pop up here:

and here:

and here.

If there’s one takeaway that we’ve pulled from this year, it’s that even in an era where differences seem only to define us, you’re still more than game to reach out to each other to dig into shared challenges and find common ground. You’re living proof that taking a risk to shed our armor, open up and grow together is more powerful than fear.

We can’t wait to see what 2019 will bring.

Thank you.