March 14, 2006

The Group Dynamics of a Dinner Table Meeting

Just returned from geek dinner that Rakesh Agrawal had organised for attendees of BarCamp - the informal conference that I recently attended and raved about. There were 12 of us at the dinner apart from Rakesh:

(links lead to their blogs)

Jonathan Boutelle
Amit Ranjan
Navin Pangti
Prashant Singh
Manik Juneja
Manu Sharma
Vishesh Bajaj
Manish Dhingra
Ashish Kumar
Alok Mittal
Sunil Goyal
Gaurav Bhatnagar

(If I've missed out anyone or got someone's name wrong, please let me know.)

More than the conversations at the table, it was the underlying dynamics of the conversations that was interesting.

Everyone seemed to have a good time. It was great to network with like-minded people. I think that was the key. It went well -- and this is true of the barcamp too -- because we all share a common interest: entrepreneurship in the internet economy. Everyone present at the dinner had something or the other to do with venture creation around the internet - many of us are founders of our own company, some of us work independently, three of us plan to launch their company and there was even a VC!

Another common thread binding the people at the table was that they are very clued-in to what's happening in the internet economy, Web2.0 etc. We monitor dozens of blogs and spend a significant amount of the day just reading or expanding the blogosphere. Rakesh, who is based in States, wrote that his experience at BarCamp was a bit surreal... "to be sitting in Adobe's office in NOIDA and hearing folks in the audience dissect and discuss technologies like Google News, gada.be, Windows Live and Gmail."

One little gripe I have is that I didn't get a chance to interact with everyone. The meeting started on a great note - sitting around a big table, each person talked a bit about himself (and his favorite gadget) addressing the entire group. This led to conversations across the group. But after the introductions talk was soon limited to those sitting around you with no way to talk to or even catch what the people across the table were talking about.

I'm all for free flowing discussion amongst small groups but I dislike the loss of "reach" because of lack of "bandwidth"! I think we need more of one-to-one or one-to-many interactions along with one-to-few that such a meeting format inevitably entails. Particularly for someone like me who is not a "group person." Being an INTP, I inadvertently switch to observation mode when in groups (I express better in one to one conversations and best when I write). It'll be interesting to come up with a meeting / conference format that alters these dynamics and at the same time still retains its informal, conversational tone.

Btw, to end on a self-congratulatory note, at least three people (Manik, Prashant and Jon) commented that they are extremely impressed with this blog- both the styling and the content. Jon was kind to say, "it's phenomenal... it's like a magazine." :D

UPDATE: Pictures are now up. Rakesh's Flickr set of his Gurgaon visit. You can see me in this picture. That's (left to right) Navin, Manik, Prashant, myself and Ashish.

Earlier notes from BarCampDelhi: Smart People, Entrepreneurship and Cutting Edge Tech
All my posts reviewing BarCampDelhi

7 Comments so far      

Blogger Jonathan Boutelle:

Hey Manu,

What is Vishesh Bajaj's problem? Why doesn't he have a url?

We should harass him about this.

It was good to see you last night. I agree, that table was a little too wide to talk across.

And I stand by my comments about your blog, btw: very high-quality content AND presentation.

Jonathan Boutelle
www.jonathanboutelle.com

14 March 2006 at 10:26:00 GMT+5:30 link  
Blogger PRASHANT SINGH:

Geek Dinner was good indeed . although I agree that whispering around the corner was a bit of problem . what we were expecting were more of a discussion across the table .still it was good . problem with across the table discussion is that sometime it becomes a monologue .

your blog deserve all those complements .its really very beautifully done . as Mannik said you sit silently & observe and than blog about it . your capacity to remember these conversation and than sum them up beautifully is really amazing .

14 March 2006 at 11:39:00 GMT+5:30 link  
Blogger Manu Sharma:

> What is Vishesh Bajaj's problem? Why doesn't he have a url? We should harass him about this.

Heheh. Yeah good idea, Jon. He doesn't belong in the internet economy without a url to himself.

Thanks again for the compliments.

> problem with across the table discussion is that sometime it becomes a monologue.

Prashant, as long as there are people like Ashish to cross question everyone the way he did, I'm sure it'll never be a monologue ;-)

Thanks for the good words. Keep reading and also let me know when I slow down or when the quality isn't upto the mark.

14 March 2006 at 11:55:00 GMT+5:30 link  
Anonymous Gaurav:

Make that 4. I also think your blog is very well designed and posts very well thought out!

I agree that post-dinner everybody kind of broke into smaller groups. But geek dinners are easy to setup so we can have more of these and come up with a different format next time!

14 March 2006 at 12:08:00 GMT+5:30 link  
Blogger Manu Sharma:

Thank you Gaurav.

Yes, absolutely. Next time we'll be creative about ensuring that each person gets to spend time with everyone else.

That said, it was a small gripe. I think the dinner was a success overall. Hats off to you and Rakesh for getting us together.

14 March 2006 at 12:23:00 GMT+5:30 link  
Blogger Manish:

Hey, I like the design of your blog too! It's very neat.

And I'm really jealous of you guys. I wish I was in Delhi for this geek dinner thing.

14 March 2006 at 12:44:00 GMT+5:30 link  
Blogger Manu Sharma:

Thanks Manish. And don't fret, you might soon have your own barcamp and a dinner meet. Hyderabad and Chennai BarCamps are already on, can B'lore be far behind?

14 March 2006 at 12:56:00 GMT+5:30 link  

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