The Pac-Man Rule at Conferences

I firmly believe that conferences can provide a lot of value for people in an industry. Conferences allow people to create a network, which helps them feel integrated in a community and profession.

In order to build a network you need to meet other people at events, and for this to happen attendees need to feel empowered to reach out and connect to people they don’t already know. We do this by having specific events that encourage collaboration, but also by giving people explicit permission to meet other people.

Give people explicit permission to join groups

In the events that I help organize, I try to solve this problem by giving people explicit permission to join new groups of people. In the introduction of the event, I tell attendees their job is to meet people and make friends. They are supposed to join groups, battle past that awkward silence that occurs when they do, and have a great time with new people.

This solves one side of the equation, making a person feel empowered, and like they are doing the right thing by talking to new folks. There is a second part of this equation, which is the group of people a person joins, and that’s where the Pac-Man Rule comes in.

The Pac-Man Rule

The rule is quite simply stated:

When standing as a group of people, always leave room for 1 person to join your group.

More memorably, stand like Pac-Man!

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The new person, who has been given permission to join your group, will gather up the courage, and join you! Another important point, the group should now readjust to leave another space for a new person.

Leaving room for new people when standing in a group is a physical way to show an inclusive and welcoming environment. It reduces the feeling of there being cliques, and allows people to integrate themselves into the community.

Your mission

If you choose to accept it, is to try and build the largest Pac-Man in the room. Invite new people into your groups, make new friends, and build a community full of people who feel included. We all benefit.



Hey there. I'm Eric and I do consulting and provide other services around software documentation. Feel free to email me if you want to chat.