Leveraging the Bond of Shared Experiences

We’ve all been to the standard events: happy hours, mixers, maybe with some free appetizers. When they’re close by, we can pull things together and go take a look at some local outcrops. The goal for young professionals’ events is always the same: we want to build a network of connections and get YPs excited about their careers and promote AAPG involvement.

So we start thinking outside the box. How do we make an exciting event that’s not just about mingling? How do we celebrate geology in an urban setting where there are no easily accessible outcrops? How do we create a meaningful common experience to really form those connections we’re seeking?

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We’ve all been to the standard events: happy hours, mixers, maybe with some free appetizers. When they’re close by, we can pull things together and go take a look at some local outcrops. The goal for young professionals’ events is always the same: we want to build a network of connections and get YPs excited about their careers and promote AAPG involvement.

So we start thinking outside the box. How do we make an exciting event that’s not just about mingling? How do we celebrate geology in an urban setting where there are no easily accessible outcrops? How do we create a meaningful common experience to really form those connections we’re seeking?

Sightseeing and Museum Tour

I can offer my experience in the AAPG Eastern Section as an example. In 2017, our meeting in Morgantown, W. Va. featured a brilliant YP event that took us on a gentle downhill group bike ride past outcrops and historic mining sites, eventually dropping us off outside the convention center. This was a collaboration between a local professor and the AAPG, and his favorite bike-ride became a very successful and low-cost event. This was the first time I’d seen the YPs really break the mold and start thinking beyond the usual happy hour networking event.

In 2018, the Eastern Section held a joint meeting with Society of Petroleum Engineers right in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh, with no easy access to outcrops. I knew our potential attendees would also include engineers as well as geoscientists, and one of the goals of a joint meeting is to encourage cross-disciplinary engagement, so perhaps outcrops wouldn’t have been the best idea anyway.

I wanted to leverage my beautiful hometown and so I organized a “Sightseeing and Museum Tour.”

First, we took advantage of the world-class collection at the Carnegie Natural History Museum. Not only does their collection feature priceless specimens from across the globe, but also features exhibits dedicated to historically important minerals to Pennsylvania’s long exploration history. The Hall of Gems and Minerals might be overlooked by a casual museum-goers as they rush to the monstrously impressive Hall of Dinosaurs next door. However, a group of professional geologists on a docent-guided tour can really crawl their way through, picking out all the carefully crafted details. Attendees shared stories of college courses while they looked at crystal structure exhibits, talked about their own collections while viewing the phosphorescent minerals in the dark, and yes – they eagerly rushed to see some dinosaurs before we had to get rolling back to the convention.

We followed up our museum tour with a sightseeing trolley trip around the University neighborhood, around downtown, and up to Mount Washington, once known as Coal Hill, to catch the classic view of downtown. While there are no longer any good coal outcrops, the view of downtown is certainly worth it.

Our guides had been tipped off that we were geologists and engineers, so they pulled out obscure history facts about the city’s industrial legacy in coal, steel, glass and aluminum. Even the locals were surprised to have learned so much geology from the event.

Lessons Learned

What I’ve learned about hosting events is that common experiences bond people together far better than mingling and small talk. A unique event is far more likely to spark those meaningful connections that we’re seeking from our involvement in the AAPG. If the goal of a YP-hosted event is to encourage networking and promote involvement in the organization, the event needs to be attractive and accessible to a wide audience. This includes YPs, but needs to extend to seasoned professionals who want to be involved and part of that energy we’re bringing to the organization. An event needs to respect attendees’ schedules and should be convenient to attend. Pick locations and themes that will stimulate conversation. And finally, when you don’t have outcrops nearby, dig around for some less obvious “local gems” for your next event.

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