Sunday, 8 March 2015

Coffee at Zimmerman's

Gottfried Zimmerman was an enlightened and clever businessman, and he knew exactly how to encourage the aspirant middle classes of early 18th century Leipzig into his coffeehouse.

He knew that his educated and discerning clientele would be attracted not only by the excellent coffee he sold but also by performances from the top musical artists of the day, so he arranged for a regular series of informal concerts to take place at his establishment.

Zimmerman took these informal performances very seriously, regularly providing twice-weekly, two-hour slots and even going to the expense of buying expensive musical instruments for the musicians to play. Importantly, he encouraged top composers such as Telemann and J.S. Bach to compose and perform new works.

The informality of these gatherings encouraged people to relax and chat about the music being performed and enabled composers and performers to ‘compare notes’, learn from one another and gain immediate feedback from their audience.

In addition to being informal, these gathering also had the following very specific characteristics:

  • Refreshments were on hand to keep people happy and alert.
  • The gatherings were regular and frequent.
  • They were aimed at a particular type of clientele.
  • They took place in a fashionable and accessible part of town within which the target clientele felt comfortable.
  • They took place at a convenient time.
  • They took place within a defined time period.
  • The audience was encouraged and indeed expected to comment upon, discuss and no doubt sometimes play a part in the performance of the music.
  • They were well resourced. The accommodation was comfortable and good quality instruments were available to help ensure high-class performances.
  • The concerts offered a programme of music that was new, interesting and innovative.

The timeless principles contained within the above list form a useful checklist that we can still use today when planning and delivering problem solving workshops and networking events. The next time you need to arrange such a workshop consider the following questions:

  • How can you encourage informality and help people feel relaxed?
  • What refreshments and amenities will ensure people’s comfort and encourage them to feel positive about the workshop?
  • How are you and/or your organisation going to demonstrate your commitment to the workshop or workshops?
  • Who needs to attend for the workshop to be a success?
  • How are you going to make sure that the workshop is attractive and accessible to those people you really need to involve?
  • When is the best and most convenient time for the workshop?
  • What is the optimum duration for the workshop? For how long will participants be able to remain focused, alert and active?
  • How can you encourage people to discuss issues, share ideas and participate?
  • What equipment and resources do you need to ensure the workshop’s success?
  • What are the specific topics for discussion and exploration?
  • How are you going to ensure that the workshop’s topics stimulate participants’ interest?
  • What specifically do you need people to do for the workshop to be productive?

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