What happened when we implemented feedback into our “Social Adventures”

How do you implement a feedback loop into your events, that lead to growth? We at talkin’ made exactly this and we want to share our ideas, strategies and lessons learnt with you.

I’m the founder and current president of talkin’, we organize “Social Adventures”. We’re currently active in 3 countries, and expanding. There were a couple of defining moments in the history of talkin’ (founded 2006), let’s explore one of them.

It’s common knowledge that you should implement feedback into your product. Check out the feedback loop, or similar concepts. This concept is nothing new or groundbreaking, but in my experience few apply it.

Me voting for “Improv” at the english speaking group in Vienna.

How it started

It was at talkin’#25 on the 10th of May 2011 when everything changed. For the first 4 years we did the same thing over and over again. It’s what we call “original talkin'” now: Every participant  had the chance to  give a presentation and he or she got feedback. At this point I was sick of it, and asked Markus, my co-founder and founder of Vienna-based INFIP, if we could do something else. Something to improve my abilities to give feedback for the people holding presentations. He said let’s do Improv, with focus on awareness. So we did. After three sessions (talkin’#26, #27, #28) on October 18th 2011, I thought “thats enough Improv”.

So I asked the audience, at the end of the evening: “Should we do something different next time?” To my surprise, this question led to  a disucssion and to something very essential for talkin’: at the end all participants search for the next topic as a team. Though we never had a “control” event to prove it, I am convinced this led us to continuous growth.

Voting process in the Linz group. Picture by Davorin David Barudzija.

How exactly do we search for the next topic?

  • We ask people to share their ideas on what we could do the next time. If there are no immediate ideas we throw in some. Everyone gives a title and describes the idea with only a couple of words.
  • Then we hold a vote, up to 2 rounds. In the first one  everyone can vote for any topic. If there is a tie after this round, there will be a second one, where we have a run-off between the remaining options.
  • This always leads to a winning topic. As a direct result we ask the person, that suggested the topic, if he or she wants to organize the next event.

This fairly simple approach engages people to commit more and take responsibility.

What impact did it have?

You may ask yourself now what has changed since we’ve implemented this new approach? The main impacts of this feedback loop inherent into our events were as following:

  • People are already a part of creating the next talkin’ event – it’s an implicit invitation to be there. Maybe you can compare it to the IKEA Effect. People are not only bystanders anymore, they actively create and work on its improvement
  • Soon after introducing the “topic hunt” it became clear that the participants should not only decide the next topic. No, they should run the whole event! So we changed our organization structure to be an “amateur” event. Everyone was invited to host the evenings .. with great success!
  • This led to another interesting development: People invite other people if they are reponsible for the event. It’s a very personal way of getting new people there and to raise more awareness
  • There is complete transparency into the thought process of the participants. The feedback they give us shows what they are thinking of our “product”.
talkin'

Facts

  • founded 2006, at the TU Wien, AT
  • 2nd group 2014: Linz, AT
  • 3rd group 2015: Vienna, AT
  • 4th group 2017: Berlin, DE
  • 5th group 2018: Cardiff, GB

Every group organizes 8-12 events per year, with 10-40 participants each.

Result of the voting at talkin’vienna, September 2017 voting. Picture by me.

You can also use this approach  to “manipulate”, to change the status quo, as we did. A couple of years ago we struggled with having an almost male-only group at our events. We were aware that we needed to change something, our goal was to have both genders equally represented.

The organizers  were more than 5 (male!) people there, so we had enough “votes” to manipulate a decision. We decided to go for the ideas, that were suggested by females, so it was more likely they would organize the next event. We did this a couple of  times, and quickly realized  that the female participants rose on our events, because the female hosts took their friends with them. After a couple of talkin’s only organized by females we succeeded in getting them back into our events.

My personal conclusion – out of this and other experiences I made through my career: always ask your clients/participants for feedback. But don’t ask them “what was good or bad?”.  You want them to consider your position as well, so ask them “what would you change if you were in my/organizers/CEO’s position?”, or “what would you do different next time?” I’m sure you’ll get amazing information out of it, even if you don’t find a way to build that feedback loop inherently into your product.

You want to visit a Social Adventure?

Check out www.talkin.org.

You want to be part of our non-profit and help expand it?