Biznik is "an urban tribe for business, a supportive business network that encourages creativity, radical thinking, and community" ... The BalMar brings "cocktails, conversation and comfort" together in "a unique space with exceptional service and adventurous food and drink" ... It's hard to imagine a group or place that could be better aligned with the mission of Interrelativity, which is "helping people relate" by using technology to bring the best of online communities into physical spaces.
I first met Biznik co-founder Dan McComb through a comment exchange on a blog post about Social Networks and Emergent, Ad Hoc Collaborations by our mutual friend, Shelly Farnham. Soon afterward, Dan and I had lunch, and discovered many mutual passions, perspectives and principles, and I was excited about checking out his (and co-founder Lara Feltin's) new business networking group. I joined Biznik, but until recently, my participation was restricted to the Biznik blog, where Dan regularly posts fabulous profiles about members, and other gems of interest and relevance to a progressive businessperson. I finally got to last month's Biznik Happy Hour (an event to encourage conversations about "combining business with pleasure in a way that's profitable and fun") -- at the BalMar lounge -- but due to other events I was attending that night (including the Dorkbot Seattle Movie Night), did not stay long. But I was there long enough to confirm that bizniks embody the Biznik philosophy (i.e., they are creative, radical-thinking and community-oriented) ... and that the BalMar is, as advertised, a unique space for cocktails, conversation and comfort.
I had an additional motivation for attending that particular Biznik Happy Hour: I really wanted to meet Andrea Martin, co-owner of the BalMar and founder of Space City Mixer, "a Seattle social and networking club that plans fun and engaging events for its [12,000] members" (Dan had mentioned Andrea and Space City Mixer in a blog post about BalMar is so Biznik a couple of weeks earlier). As synchronicity would have it, Andrea was not at the BalMar that night, but I sent her an email, and we were able to get together the next night to talk about our mutual passions, perspectives and principles ... and as with Dan and Biznik, I felt I had found another kindred spirit in Andrea and Space City Mixer ... and the Balmar (which was reinforced during my experience of the Space City Mixer Lock and Key event I attended a short time later).
So, on Sunday night, when I first read that this month's Biznik Happy Hour was coming up on Wednesday, and being held at the Balmar again, I sent an email to Dan and Andrea about deploying a proactive display at the event, and both were very supportive. After verifying that my friend, Scott Axworthy, would be available to help out again, and visiting the BalMar Tuesday night to verify the wireless network connectivity, we made it a definite plan ... with less lead time (20 hours) than any previous event.
Last month's Biznik Happy Hour was held the back area of the upper level of the BalMar (shown above). One of the biggest challenges we face in each deployment is where to place the proactive display, and its associated radio frequency identification (RFID) antennas, so that we can find a balance between being in the flow of people without interfering with that flow. We decided to set things up against the back wall, with the display in the middle, and the antennas in each corner.
Over the course of the evening, I estimate there were about 40 bizniks who attended the event, 32 of whom created Interrelativity profiles. It seemed like the proactive display was having a positive impact, but I also think that bizniks are generally very effective networkers, and so I'm not sure how much room there was for improvement. One of the Biznik mantras is radical self-promotion, and so the proactive display -- which provides a new channel for self-promotion by showing contents from a person's online profile on a large plasma display when that person is detected nearby (using RFID tags associated with those profiles inserted into name badges) -- was well received.
Bizniks are very open and candid about providing feedback, so we learned a lot about people's experiences with the proactive display, and the registration process, during the event. We'll be conducting a followup survey so that we can better assess the impact the technology had on the people and their interactions, and identify areas for ongoing improvement ... and I'm looking forward to continuing the conversation(s) with Andrea, Dan and other bizniks about possible ways that this kind of social technology can lead to both fun and profit!