Yesterday I wrote about how hard networking is in Berlin and that collaboration can be difficult to redefine, but it turns out with the right moderators and environment it is possible.
The organizers of UberB2B, a brand new casual conference for B2B businesses in Berlin, must understand this conference networking conundrum, because they employed tactics that I will refer to as ‘forced interaction’ throughout the day. And you know what? It worked.
During the first session, a facilitator divided the group into teams of four. Each team was instructed to write down the answers to four questions, write a joke, turn the paper into a paper airplane, and send it flying to the far side of the stage. The first team to land their plane on the stage, with the most correct answers, won free drinks at the after party. Everyone was engaged, attendees let down their guard, and not only was it fun, but team members created instant bonds that lasted throughout the day.
The second session was called, ‘I Collaborate My Way To Success’, and the speakers were Alex Farcet from Startup Bootcamp; Dr. Torsten Oelke from Smart Mobile Factory; Alex Saric from Ariba; and Felix Swoboda of Mobile Event Guide. The lecture was interesting, but what happened after the Q&A period was a novelty. Moderator Dr. Katja Nettesheim made all of the attendees pair up with the closest stranger, explain our business, and come up with three potential ways that we could collaborate. My partner was the founder of an intriguing health-related startup and he was looking for a PR freelancer. Bingo. UberB2B paid for itself within an hour.
There were also some misses, like the workshop ‘I Can Flirt At the Office, Without Drama’. The ‘flirt coaches’ were sweet kids, but had clearly never worked in a professional environment. Their advice was often off-color (Always be yourself! Flirting is harmless!), and I was tempted to share my own flirting in the office story which ends with the resignation of the Chair of the Board of Directors. There was yet more ‘forced interaction’, especially when we partnered up, and one partner was told to speak for a minute straight, about any topic, with no feedback from the other partner. There is camaraderie in awkwardness.
I came away with two potential clients, a handful of Linkedin connections, and a few individuals I might actually meet for beers, all people who had been my partners throughout the day. Startup conferences usually focus more on industry trends, or how to find investors, but UberB2B with its emphasis on connection, truly makes it a new standout in the Berlin conference scene.