How do you organise conference dinner seating for a hundred people, so they end up on tables with others of like interest? That's the sort of problem that can land you with lots of rather tedious organising and agonising just when you should be hosting and socialising.
Last week Drew Mackie and I helped out the organisers of a conference where we were running a workshop. Our solutions - bring on the flags.
The event was the annual conference of Enquire, the Scottish Advice Service for Additional Support for Learning, where I was also presenting a keynote. We mentioned to organiser Charlotte Richards that we had a speedy way of creating instant communities of interest ... and she thought we should give it a go at the pre-dinner drinks reception.
The props were simple - sticky badges, and flags ably made by Charlotte from card and sticks. Everyone was asked to write on their badges two or three topics of interest to them, then wander about and find kindred spirits. Four others and they could claim a flag, write on their interest, and rally up to nine people to fill a table. It worked almost too well. Everyone set to with enthusiasm, and with 10 minutes reception time still to go flocked off to the restaurant brandishing their flags. Note to conference organisers: this can also cut your drinks bill.