Let's invite a bunch of strangers in my living room
When I was in high school, stable internet was still a luxury. Network games were on the rise. Online gaming still pretty rare. I will never forget when I first saw another human player driving around in "my city" in GTA1. This was my first real online gaming sessions, blocking the phone line, making my mom mad.
To go around this internet limitation, we organized LAN-Parties. We packed our monitors, towers & accessories. And we'd emigrate to someone else's basement for the weekend. We'd fight with BNC-terminators. We'd later make our own RJ45 plugs for straight and twisted cables. And we'd learn how routers and switches do not work. We'd start by leeching each other's hard drives dry, before playing until exhaustion.
One of the key elements was that someone was opening his or her world for all to profit. We met under the pretense of playing but exchanged lots of ideas. The groups were never quite the same, producing ever new connections and friendships.
Nowadays I don't play much anymore. I still enjoy it, but don't take the time. My time goes into my family first, and then toward personal development, coaching and above all mentoring.
A few months ago, Scott Hanselman posted an article about hosting a mentorship meal. I loved the idea right away. This could be the crossing point of those nostalgic LAN-parties and the mentoring I love. I had to try. But since I'm not as well connected as Scott, I had to find a trick to bring the right people together.
I searched for a while and finally found an idea. I coined the concept "LiMe Party". And the first occurred last weekend!
What is a LiMe-Party?
"LiMe" stands for "Livingroom Mentoring".
As the LiMe-Party host, you invite 4-8 persons that you admire. Persons who are or could be mentors. As a host, you provide your living room, nice food and beverages. Your guests are responsible of the rest.
But there is a twist. Each above mentioned guest has a "+1" and has to come accompanied. Each of them has to invite another person that hasn't discovered mentoring yet and/or could make good use of it.
Try to mix the origins of your guests. No-one should know all the others participants, not even you. Everyone should meet at least one person they wouldn't have met otherwise.
The LiMe Party concept is now licenced "Creative Common (CC BY 4.0)" because I want you to organize one as well ASAP, and I would love to hear about it!
Edit 2018.05.30: the CC idea wasn‘t the right one, so let‘s correct this right now.
Here is the LiMe Party Manifest, here are the rules of the
fight... LiMe Party we want to uphold:
- First rule of the LiMe Party, you not only have the right to, but also are encouraged to talk about the LiMe Party!
- Second rule of the LiMe Party, it has to happen in your living room.
- Third rule of the LiMe Party, make an effort to treat your guest something special to eat and drink.
- Fourth rule of the LiMe Party, mix the participants in term of origins, profiles and needs.
- Fifth rule of the LiMe Party, experiment, discuss, talk, go wild!
- Bonus optional extended track rule of the LiMe Party, write about it and/or tell me how it went.
Why in your livingroom?
Mentoring requires deep personal connections between the participants. And mentoring focuses on the person as a whole. By inviting people into your home, you draw a line in the sand and say:
"I mean it when I speak about mentoring. It's not something for work. It's not focused on the colleague. I'm helping a friend."
You wouldn't want to meet your friends in a meeting room. And if we want to have a serious talk, the calmness of your home wins over the loudness of a bar or a restaurant.
By showing your "other self", making yourself vulnerable, you invite others to do so as well. You thus lower the barrier to entry into mentoring for all.
Why nice food and beverages?
Because I'm french! And because it feels good to treat people well! And of course because of that very same line in the sand. This party is your way to say:
"I want people around me to grow. Their development is important to me. I want them to feel good. Specially when I push them to think twice about their life... in my living room".
You are setting the tone. You are making people comfortable to open themselves and talk. Don't order pizzas. Make them feel special. Make the evening something special.
What's the point?
I envisioned the following goals, in no special order:
- Making new connections
- Getting to know one or two persons better
- Find a mentor/mentee
- Know more about mentoring...
- ... or any other topic
- Eat & drink well
- Have fun
AS far as I know, we scored on 6/7th of them.
I invited 6 persons, plus my first mentee, for a total of 14 persons. Unfortunately there were a few last minute indispositions. We ended up being 8, which in fact was a wonderful number to start with.
Due to this number of participants, the dynamic of the group didn't go as I had envisioned. We talked as a group almost the whole time, leaving little to no room to bilateral discussions. In fact, the only ones who got alone-time were the masters of networking: the smokers.
I opened the evening with a short toast, explaining my mentoring journey. I told my guests how important it is for me that people find mentors and mentees in their lives. And I thus rehashed the purpose of the evening. Why I had invited them to be here that evening.
Since one of my mentors and one of my mentees were present, they got to tell their mentoring stories as well. Some others joined in. Soon, every participant ended up relating their experience to the group.
This was the ideal setup to clarify terms and concepts:
- The difference between Mentoring and coaching.
- The specifics of a mentoring relationship.
- How such a relation starts.
- The necessity for mentoring
The discussion then evolved into broader experiences. We helped each other on topics other than mentoring. The discussion then morphed into some kind of group mentoring & coaching. A few participants ended up asking quite personal questions, and we all tried to help them.
Then we got some crazy ideas. A few of them involving public speaking. We talked about being visible as a mentor. We touched on cross-public-speaking between companies. We discussed reverse mentoring and much more. It always amazes me how much can come out of a group when the people, the mindsets and the context are right.
My father came from France to visit and was present during the last hour of the evening. His German is not good enough to understand the discussion but he remained with us and used the exercise. The first thing he told me after the guests had left was something like:
Did you notice how calm they all were? No-one tried to get the upper hand over the others. No-one was boasting. The tone was friendly. People were listening to each other. And the tempo was pretty low as well, as if you were discussion complicated topics...
And he was right.
No mentoring-pair emerged from the evening. But I got 8 persons to reflect on the concept of mentoring for 5 hours. Bingo!
Food for thoughts, food for the body
I'm sure you're wondering what we ate and drank, since I put so much emphasis on it.
I made homemade black-olives tapenade, served on raw Zucchini slices for appetizers. Then I served a variation of 9 cheeses I had brought back from Paris during my trip to NCrafts last week. And for dessert there was a self-made chilled "mousse-au-chocolat"... which disappeared instantly.
All the while we drank a heavy red wine from the Pays d'Oc (South-west of France, on the Mediterranean side): "Domaine de La Clapière Gatefer" 2015.
I was unfortunately too slow to document the meal in pictures...
What I would do differently
I didn't do an "introduction round" at the beginning. I thought of introducing the "mentors" myself and let them introduce their guests. But I decided I didn't want to reinforce that difference between people. And since I didn't know all the guests myself, I couldn't do it for them. Since I expected a break out to happen very early, I chose the lazy way out and didn't do an introduction round. In retrospect, I should have made a short round anyway. Maybe I could have asked everyone to present themselves with a haiku... or a short drawing exercise... or have asked them to find an object in my living room that would represent them... or simply a few words... ;)
Before the guests left. I held a very short toast again. To thank them for coming, and asking them to take this setup, this idea with them and become hosts as well. This is my utmost desire, that one of them organizes a LiMe-Party as well. I wish some of my guests will be invited along some new guests and that the ball will keep on rolling...
Instead of a ROTI (Return On Time Invested) chart, we made a ROWI (Return On Wine Ingested) chart... which I had to make on a logarithmic scale to get the results on paper:
And while cleaning up the place afterwards, I found those two kuddo cards on my desk. And it felt wonderful.
But how about trying it yourself? You now have all the necessary elements to kickstart your own LiMe-Party! Organize the next one and then write down a few words to tell me how it went in the comments below