After the first several Think Tanks I got some quality feedback from regular members. They pointed out that the larger events were useful from a networking standpoint, but the content itself was very general (i.e. we didn't dive into technical details about the various technologies so the talk would apply to everyone in the room).
I recently switched gears to start holding the events in smaller venues on a weekly basis, and have topics that focused exclusively on individual technologies or challenges. These have been working out quite well, and they're logistically much simpler to pull off (a fraction of the amount of time it takes to organize a larger event).
I bring a couple six-packs or bottles of wine for each event and kick each off by doing two things:
- Have everyone introduce themselves, myself going last so I can segue into the Think Tank and XPRIZE
- (using a whiteboard) Get talking points from the group by asking the question, "What are the biggest roadblocks facing this area of technology or global challenge?" (that usually gets us a dozen or so good jumping off points)
After we've done those two things, it's an open discussion. Usually the people most passionate about the topic at hand are the first to contribute, followed by everyone else. It's usually a pretty seamless transition between Step 2 above and the actual discussion, since we'll likely hit on a hot-button issue for someone halfway through the list and we'll just launch into a deeper dive.
Here are the topics that we've held TT's on so far, in case you want to use them for your own or try out this format:
- Drone Air Traffic Control
- Blockchain: The Commerce Infrastructure of the Future
- Smart Energy Grids
- Predictive Healthcare
- The Future of Data Ownership
- Let's Build a Technocharity
- Let's Build a Better Battery