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Reflections on the HIT conference extreme networking session

21 August 2017

Trish Harding and Olly Watson of Bristol Health Partners reflect on the networking session they ran at this year’s Health Integration Team conference.

What were we aiming to do?

“Good way of ice-breaking and getting people talking.”
– session participant

This was definitely one of the things we were aiming to do with our version of ‘speed networking’ at this year’s Bristol Health Partners HIT conference. We hoped it would be an active and lively session, and an opportunity for everyone to learn about the work going on within Bristol Health Partners and around the region. This would include learning about the Health Integration Teams and other local services and projects. We hoped also to explore potential opportunities for integration and collaboration around health and wellbeing as this is something that Bristol Health Partners is trying to foster across the region.

Keeping about 60 people on the move per session was quite a challenge. We asked people to find a partner and speak to them for three minutes and then at the sound of the whistle, move on to find another partner.

We had prepared three questions to help focus the conversations:

  • What is your association with or interest in Bristol Health Partners?
  • What are you hoping to get out of today?
  • What projects are you working on that could help improve health and care in the region?

After their second conversation, we asked participants to write down on flipcharts any interesting things they had learnt about colleagues’ work. We thought the charts would be a concrete way of gathering a snapshot of this work and where there might be opportunities for collaboration. For each idea, they collected a piece of dried pasta. We repeated this again twice and at the end of the session awarded the person with the most pasta pieces a prize!

And so how did it go?

“Extreme networking only worked when we ignored the three minute limit”
– session participant

As we were running the session twice, we used our experience of the first session to review our plans and make one or two adjustments.

Delegates were reporting that collecting the tokens was distracting, so we decided to dispense with the pasta and let people get on with their conversations without the competition! We suggested that people write up their record of contacts and ideas at convenient times for them between conversations. Also, we were picking up from some participants that the speed was not working for them and they would like longer than three minutes to network with partners. We relaxed on the ‘extreme’ and ran fewer rounds of changing partners.

We estimate that at least 600 new conversations happened over the two sessions.

Sharing information about the work going on in our region

When we came to look at the charts after the conference, and the frequency of ideas, organisations and projects recorded on these, we could identify certain overlapping interests that may offer opportunities for collaboration. In at least two situations it appeared that people were planning to follow up with further contact after the conference.

A huge range of projects and organisations were recorded on the charts. From the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review to community music and sound therapy, we were struck by the huge variety of ways people in our region were working to improve health and care. We’ve collated these into groupings where there may be areas of common interest:

  • Promoting healthy communities and supporting people to live healthier lifestyles
  • Self-care and independence
  • Enhancing understanding of certain communities and health conditions
  • Collaborative work within the NHS

The wordle below gives a snapshot of the projects that came up:

See this Google document for the full list.

When reflecting on this session, we were struck by Bristol Health Partners’ capacity to bring together a wide range of people, including health workers, academics, and PPI specialists, from a range of health and wellbeing organisations across the local region, all keen to share information about their work.

If participants would like to follow up any contacts made during this session, please get in touch with Olly Watson or Trish Harding at Bristol Health Partners by emailing

Reflections on the HIT conference extreme networking session
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