Matt Trinetti – Making An Event Out Of Connecting

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You’re here with me, Zeljko and our guest for this podcast, Matthew Trinetti, a Facilitator, writer, TEDx speaker, and Educational Designer. He is one of the people that enjoy being part of the coworking community. 

He is going to tell us about making an event out of connecting. How he managed to do it and his experiences in making it work. And how he helps people make connections.


What does a facilitator mean for making connections?

I was thinking about my experience and I think a few things, what could make a facilitator is the main job and it goes back to what words facilitate means -it means to make easy. 

And so, when you’re facilitating something whether it’s a course or training or a gathering, a dinner party. You’re making it easy and you as host you act more as host than a manager in a way and then what the host does is they’re responsible for making connections easy. Facilitating connection.

And I think there’s a, and usually through some sort of tool. And the tool that I talked about yesterday was a question. And that’s a really simple tool where you can just pose a question to a room, a group of people, and that becomes the tool to have some sort of connection, and depending on how deep that question goes the connection can go deeper.

 But the facilitator or a host uses their power as host or facilitator coworking space has, there’s a power there because you’re running the space, uses their power to make connections easy.


Matt online

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Zejiko Crnjakovic 00:04

Welcome to Coworking Values Podcast of the European coworking assembly. Each week we deep dive into one of the values of accessibility community openness, collaboration, and sustainability.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 0:15 

Hey guys, welcome to another Coworking Values Podcast show. My name Zejiko Crnjakovic for those who know me otherwise as Jack, I run a coworking space in Serbia, and I’m one of the co-hosts here at the Coworking Values Podcast in the past couple of episodes, so Today, I’m bringing you another interview from the coworking Co-living Conference of south-eastern Europe and talking to somebody who is basically within the coworking space as an organizer, as somebody who has a coworking space, but somebody who has been through so many coworking spaces and helped so many coworking spaces in his work as a user and a facilitator.

  I’m talking to Matthew Trinetti from the US. He’s based in the UK but he’s been a digital nomad for a long time and you’ll hear more about his story and how it connects to everything that we do towards the community towards facilitating events and moving people in order to, to basically not just get them to events, but actually get them to participate. So, enjoy the interview and I will see you soon. This episode is brought to you by cobot, a leading management software for coworking spaces, office hubs and flexible workspaces in the world. You know, one of the best things about cobot is that it is produced by people who manage a coworking space and know the ins and outs of the main problems and issues, bugging coworking managers. So, if you want more time for your co-workers and community, check out cobot at and take your coworking management to the next level. Our guest today is Matthew Trinity is that thread? Yeah. Welcome to the show to the Coworking Values Podcast. Glad to have you here.

Matt Trinetti 2:28

Thank you for having me, it has been a lovely time in Belgrade.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 2:31

Okay, so and the core values podcast is right now recorded during the Coworking and co living conference South-eastern in Europe in Belgrade and we’re talking to very interesting people. So, Matthew, you are not from the Coworking kind of facilitator arena. You don’t own a coworking space. You’re not a community developer, as most of our guests usually are, but you’re very close knit, in the sense to the world of coworking being a coworker yourself. So, when did that start?

Matt Trinetti 3:04 

Oh, yeah, it started I was living in Chicago, I was working at IBM as a consultant and I didn’t want to do that any longer. It wasn’t sure what else to do, and so I ended up taking a sabbatical for about seven months from IBM, and on that sabbatical, I wanted to travel. And so that kind of started. I wanted to explore the whole I knew work was changing, and what it meant to be a worker was changing. And I wanted to use that space to, both travel, but also to explore if I were to be a digital nomad, what might I do and so and that’s when I started a blog called give live explore where I was just writing about my travels. And eventually just started writing about more philosophical pieces around work and life and career and all those things and That was my first experience inside a coworking space here in Belgrade.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 3:57

But I want to touch base on that because you just said you took a sabbatical and decided just to roam and change your environment. But at that time, actually, there were not too many coworking places or you didn’t know about coworking. And you were first experiencing some, you know, like standard nomads coffee shops working for free. I don’t know I mentioned benches.

Matt Trinetti 4:22

Yeah it actually started before I left IBM. This was about 2011. As a consultant at IBM, I would be on site at a client Monday to Thursday and then Fridays, I would be at home, and I would go to the local Starbucks or local cafes. And that’s when I started to notice that a lot of laptops kept popping up. This was in  2011, and actually the very first I had a feeling coworking was going to going to be a big deal, and I had this vision which I never actually did anything with, but people like you are doing something with but I imagine you know, what if there were coworking spaces as prevalent as Starbucks and you can just go and because Starbucks and coffee shops are great for activity and coffee. Not so great and  yeah expensive coffee, and here in Belgrade you know if you’re not a smoker you end up leaving smelling like smoke. Yeah, but anyway, it’s not great for any other, you know, charging Wi Fi you feel like you, you were You’re welcome. And so that was kind of the seed where I’m like, okay, things are definitely changing work is no longer a place it’s a thing that we can do, and internet was getting faster and start-ups were a thing And so anyway, that was my first kind of interest in Coworking is just kind of in my mind. I’m like, this is going to be a big deal.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 05:46

And you had your first experience here in Belgrade. Yeah, in SMART Office, and from that moment, what changed? What changed from you know, what did coworking mean for you?

Matt Trinetti 05:58

Yeah, so for me, I had been traveling for about five and a half months at this point and coffee shops, and that was mostly in northern and eastern Europe. So, I wanted to slow travel around Northern Eastern Europe. So, I spent a lot of time in places like Iceland first and then a lot of time in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, then down Poland, and eventually, Croatia and Serbia. By the time I got to Serbia, I wanted to stay put for a place long, longer than a week,  and so, I decided without before I came here with a friend who I’d met traveling as well, he was in Budapest and I was in Zadok, Croatia, and we just said, Let’s meet on November 1,  in Belgrade. We heard it’s an interesting place. We’ll get a place in apartment for a month, and so that was the first experience in Belgrade and then I actually didn’t sign up for a coworking space then, but when I came back a couple years later for a month, I wanted to basically I was tired of the coffee dreams. I like coffee dream. It’s a great chain, but I wanted, and I was I was a little lonely too. I needed because I wasn’t with my friend any longer and I just wanted a place and so I googled coworking spaces. I think there were two or three that came up. I visited two of them. One of them, there was no one and it wasn’t really it was more of a hot desk. Yeah, and then I came into SMART Office, there were people there. Misha was Yes, lovely, smiling person that he is and made me feel welcome, and I just said I’m Great, fantastic.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 7:33

So, and what did coworking give to you? So, what value Did you take from it? Yeah, well, I’m from my being alone and having a desk, I mean, I guess was there anything else at the beginning or was that the primary that was.

Matt Trinetti 7:49 

I mean, that was the primary was just and I want to be a part of this, yeah, that that was coworking. I had been thinking about it and like, I have never actually entered and paid for a coworking space., so, I wanted to experience it and yeah, I think it was that and honestly, I was in a point where I was there was some projects I was working on, and I just needed to be a little more productive too, and I met up if I pay for a desk. That’s a proxy for commitment.

Matt Trinetti 08:18 

 So, it’s kind of gave me it was a commitment to myself that these projects I was working on was enough that I was willing to pay for a desk to work on them instead of you know, trying to be frugal and you know, sip the one coffee for six hours.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 08:30

 Yeah, exactly. 

Zejiko Crnjakovic 08:31

And at that time, the Coworking spaces were basically as co or coworking spaces, poor businesses, renting desks, and not too much happening around the rent itself. So, the harbour the arena and then community gathering and educational stuff that We’re all doing right now, and thriving is came in a couple of years later. So, from the point that you went on from SMART Office and from Belgrade to other places. What did you find as the years passed? Change the most?

Matt Trinetti 9:13

Yeah. Well with coworking?

Zejiko Crnjakovic 9:20  

Yeah, yeah, we’re good. Yeah. And your experience?

Matt Trinetti 9:22  

Yeah. I think um, well, obviously just the volume of coworking spaces between then and I don’t know what your work was founded, but that had to come up that was on my radar. And then being in London, I that was a place where, because it’s a big city, things were happening. And as I was noticing, coworking spaces open opening, so that was changing and just and this is where my work over the last five years comes involved is that I went to London to work with a company called escape the city. I would escape the city was about was helping people find meaningful work, basically work on projects that matter to them, start their own businesses and leave for it. But that doesn’t have any purpose. And coworking is a part of that conversation. Because it’s a place when people leave organizations, where do they go? There’s no place to go. And a coworking is creating a space for people, whether they’re transitioning whether they need some sort of community because we’re working on projects. So, I the work with escape the city, I entered into that conversation around what is the future of work, and coworking obviously, is one of those trends that was happening.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 10:32.

 And that’s exactly a very nice intro into what you do, or what you did at that time. So how did you escape the city? You know, look, or how is it right now after five years?

Matt Trinetti 10:44  

Yeah, so and so I just want to be clear, too is that escape the city was started by two guys in London in 2009 and I had been following them since the since then. And then I’m on that same sabbatical that I came through Belgrade, I came through London. And that’s when I met these guys who are starting this website turned into a job board that you can apply to exciting jobs and opportunities. And then two years later,

Zejiko Crnjakovic 11:11

That sounds like a you know, a scam, and apply for interesting jobs.

Matt Trinetti 11:16

Well, it’s a job work basically. So as much as a job word is a scam.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 11:20 

What the decides what since? What is it?

Matt Trinetti 11:24 

Well, it was curated by the team. And basically it was there’s several categories one is generally around what people wanted if they wanted to escape their accounting job or their lawyer job or whatever, what were the things they were looking for, and usually they’re looking for something that had social impact. So, doing good non -profit work, something that was adventurous, so it could be going to run a farm in Mozambique, or leading something.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 11:52

Anybody applied for that?

Matt Trinetti 11:56

Yeah, I mean, thousands of people have gotten jobs through escape the city, it’s in London, it’s pretty, well known platform, and then the other two factors start up. So exciting brands start up, and then maybe those are the three, three big ones. And kind of everything in between. So, they curated it. So, the company would pay to post, they still do pay to post, and then they would make sure it doesn’t fit our criteria. And then then it would be released to the membership and saying, Okay, great, here’s some great opportunities and you can apply. And so that so they had been running. And where I came into the picture was, they were, it’s one thing to say, here’s a job opportunity. It’s another thing to help people transition. Whether you’re trying to change industries or careers, or you want to start your own thing. It takes time and effort and it can be a lonely journey. So that’s where I come into the picture, was a friend and I partnered with them to start escape school, or to, into basically create programs to help people transition. And so that’s when I moved to London. And then we started running these programs. And then they for the last five and a half years, the scape has continued to run these programs, to help people change careers, start businesses, or generally just enter a new world of work or reinvent themselves.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 13:22 

And let’s go deeper into that. So basically, that is the most difficult thing about changing jobs, about any change in anybody’s life is knowing and learning how to do it. So, anything that’s unknown is very scary. It’s very hard to even decide that you want to leap you know, you know, from tool or into an abyss where you don’t know what’s going on, right. You’re losing your ground on your feet. You know, I’m losing my wage I have no idea I’m going to become an entrepreneur or whatever. Or Alliance founder or something like that.

Matt Trinetti 14:00

Yeah. What do I call this line? Scarier than a line in there vs No, there’s a line in there. Yeah, this is the black hole it could be a line or it could be abyss.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 14:09 

So basically, how does escape schoolwork?

Matt Trinetti 14:11

Yeah. So, we and the way we started, we didn’t really know how to help people, we just knew that there was a need. So, what we decided to do first was just let’s bring these people together. Yeah. And we will, if we can get a group of people together. And if they would agree to pay a small fee, for a few months, we would open a space, a temporary pop up space. And in that space at night, we’ll bring in experts will bring in people who have made transitions and we’ll just ask them questions and we’ll try to learn how, how did they do it? And we’ll use inspiration from people who have done it, and then we’ll use community to basically just bring people together I’m a big believer that a burden shared is a burden haft. So, if you’re sharing Hey, I’m finding this difficult and you are to. Okay great. I’m not crazy. I’m not alone, we joke. Sometimes we call it escapes anonymous. Like alcoholics anonymous.

 Zejiko Crnjakovic 15:11

You sit down, sir. Yeah, we sit in a circle. Yeah, I have a problem. 

Matt Trinetti 15:17

Yeah, exactly, and because I think there’s cultural things too, but especially in London, if you don’t feel like you have a space where you can say, Hey, I’m successful. But why do I feel so miserable? I don’t understand this feeling so, we just bring people and we would talk about it, and, and so that’s how it started, and eventually, we kept. We’re like, Okay, this is actually working. It’s helping people, they’re making progress, they’re starting businesses, they’re leaving their jobs and they’re getting new jobs. And we eventually started to bring expect, more experts in and build a curriculum, and so we did it the very lean start up approach was, we kind of built it as we were going, but eventually that then, and because we’re the ones gathering them, we started to, to have to someone has to facilitate this group, and so that became me, that became some other people on the team. 

Matt Trinetti 16:15

That’s how over the last five years. I’ve somehow stumbled into this career of, of as a facilitator, which I didn’t really come to realize until about two years ago that this is actually Oh, this is a thing, this is a thing and maybe I could get paid to do this elsewhere to like, yeah, maybe if I if I market myself, I could pitch myself to deliver workshops, and through this experience learning I have been designing these programs and leading workshops and learning what it takes to become a facilitator of sort.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 16:46 

Yeah, and then this comes to the point of your yesterday’s talk about the difference between what is a manager and what is a facilitator. And that also plays into every coworking facilitators need, which is the point of this podcast to explain, say explain us the difference between a real facilitator and just a manager. That doesn’t mean Yeah, managers are bad. We don’t need them. I think that most people call themselves facilitators and then think about why are people not coming or not interacting or not? Why is there isn’t there more? Right, and they are not doing it?

Matt Trinetti 17:32

Yeah, and this is something I noticed, too, because a lot of these programs we, they take place in coworking spaces, and so, I get to know members, I get to the community managers, I get to spend a lot of time in these spaces. And I see people working in and it was, Oh, it’s sometimes it’s little questionable on are, are people connecting? And you know, is there is there a community here doesn’t need to be to the they want there to be. So, when I was preparing for this talk, I was thinking okay, how can I use my experience as a facilitator? And I made this connection? Well, there are community managers, but actually, it takes a different skill set to become to actually facilitate community isn’t because what I noticed is that community managers, sometimes they’re trying to wear all sort of hats  everything from the toilets broken to.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 18:25

Tell me about it.

Matt Trinetti 18:26

Yeah, that’s exactly

Zejiko Crnjakovic 18:28

Not because there are not too many. There are only so many people that are running around.

Matt Trinetti 18:33

 And the owners, especially when they’re starting out, they’re acting not only as is every owner, but community manager and it’s just not if you’re when you get to a point that you have a community and actually, if you do have a vibrant community, it can be the difference between attrition, low attrition and high attrition could be how people connect People feel and how long they want to become a stay a member. So anyway, I was thinking about my experience, and I think a few things.


Matt Trinetti 19:00

What could make a facilitator is, is the main job. And this goes back to what the word facilitate means. It’s it means to make easy. And so, when you’re facilitating something, whether it’s a course or a training or a gathering, a dinner party, you’re making it easy. And you as host, you act more as host than manager in a way and what the host does is, they’re responsible for making connection easy, facilitating connection. And I think there’s a and usually through some sort of tool. And the tool that I talked about yesterday was a question. And that’s a really simple tool where you can just pose a question to a room, a group of people, and that becomes the tool to have some sort of connection. And depending on how deep that question goes, the connection can go deeper. But the facilitator or a host uses their power as host or facilitator. Coworking space has there’s a power there because you’re running the space uses their power to make connection easy.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 20:15 

Yeah. And do you think that.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 20:17

 I’ve been to a lot of conferences in the, in the past few years, not coworking business conferences and stuff like that. So, and you always have those networking games, you know, like, yeah, you know, we everybody in the audience stand up, you know, look to the, to the, to the person next to you.

Matt Trinetti 20:34

 Stare into their eyes for five minutes.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 20:35

Yeah, Hug and kiss, or something like that. Something very uncomfortable. And a lot of lot of people within the audience, even though everybody’s, for example, always whining about I want more networking experience, you know, and I’m still, you know, only chatting to my own group, but you know, so That’s their own problem. I feel very apprehensive about these kind of networking games. So where is the line between, like, facilitation and making stuff easy? Versus that kind of forced? Like, everybody asked you know, somebody else a question.

Matt Trinetti 21:17 

Right. So that’s a great question because I mean, I’m also some I’m much better and much more facilitating being in the audience. So, I’m like, oh God. But you know, I think it’s more like it’s akin to a like a training coach, okay. It’s you could make something easier. In this is, you know, people say that they want connection, but it it’s uncomfortable to do the thing that drives connection. And so, I think as a facilitator, your job is to shoulder the fact that no one really wants to do it. But maybe they need, it’s something they potentially need. So you Yeah, so I think it’s more of his, his being a trainer and saying, I’m going to make this person, they don’t want to do this last push up or they don’t want but I know what they really want. 

Matt Trinetti 22:08 

They want to look good; they want to feel fit. And unfortunately, we have to do this really uncomfortable thing to drive some sort of connection and usually at the end of that you’re thankful. You might not be thankful in the moment, but you’re thankful because Okay, actually I yeah, this was uncomfortable, but I had I had some sort of connection here. Yeah. And maybe that becomes your friends.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 22:30

Yeah.  And allow a couple of minutes of talking everything dissipate.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 22:34

Yeah, I just wanted to make a connection between what you said facilitation means making something easier versus making people feel uncomfortable.

Matt Trinetti 22:45

 And I think it’s easier because if there’s no facilitation in a room, and let’s say people were just sitting around.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 22:51

Yeah, you wouldn’t ask

Matt Trinetti 22:53

 So, it takes somebody, and there was actually I was listening to the story of a professor, and the very first 5 -10 minutes at the very first class, it was around adaptive leadership. He sat at the front of the room and didn’t do anything. He just sat there. and then students would gather in they’d sit, and then eventually, everyone’s like, are we starting what’s happening here, and then people start talking to each other. And then it’s basically chaos.

Matt Trinetti 23:20

No one really knows what’s happening. And so, what the facilitator does is, if they choose to use that power to make something run smoother, it’s gonna make it easier, even though it’s still uncomfortable. But if left to a group’s own devices, you’re left to a few vocal individuals. And that’s actually another thing with workshops is if. If you really want everyone to get something out of it, you need to create, work, create questions, use tools that enable everyone to offer their opinion And not just the loudest and the most opinionated, and so or the most extroverted. And so, I think that’s what it makes easy. It makes it easy that connection, and just doing something otherwise a group is kind of left to its own device.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 24:08

Okay, so for kind of a last question, we’re winding down. Can you share some practical tips and tricks on facilitation for the listeners? So, if they want to do an exercise, what would you recommend except, you know, like, in the audience, imagine a small event in a coworking space with a local community that does not know each other. Yeah, small business. Whatever, huh?

Matt Trinetti 24:35

Yeah. Good question. I should have gotten these questions too. I think I need to create a whole resource.

Matt Trinetti 24:44

Or at least cure freebie.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 24:46

Yeah. I’m looking for a freebie exclusive for the listeners. One exercise

Matt Trinetti 24:52  

Yeah. So, let’s see.

Matt Trinetti 24:55

I mean, there’s so many like icebreaker exercises. I don’t want to necessarily suggest one, because it might not fit. But I think there’s a couple. So, I already talked about a question. Okay. And you can use any sort of question. The question I used yesterday was, tell me about in pairs just share what’s the place that has deep meaning for you, and why.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 25:19

Are you killed me with that question? 

Matt Trinetti 25 :21

 Yeah, Why?

Zejiko Crnjakovic 25:22

Because I had no answer. You didn’t have Yeah, I you killed me because I was wondering, oh, why do I have the answer?

Zejiko Crnjakovic 25:34 

So, about that? Like, okay, I’m not even minding my partner. So, you tell me and I’m, I’m worried about why I don’t have a deep meaning, what do you mean?

Matt Trinetti 25:40

And I guess that’s a question and that’s a valuable answer, in and of itself to say actually, I’m struggling to find an answer. Yes. Maybe I need to explore that. So, I think a simple question. 

Matt Trinetti 25:53 

I Have a friend in London, she runs a group called trigger conversations. Okay. And it’s basically she was sick of small talk at networking events. And so, what it is, is its basically just deep questions. And that’s how you meet people. So, it’s over deep questions. So, I think questions are a great one, it doesn’t really matter what it is, but it it’s a chance for to drive connection if people are able to do that. So, any sort of question we’ll do, it’s a really simple one. And then another thing that I think drives connection or could potentially be a facilitation technique that is in the design of a community is something I touched on yesterday is rituals and ritual could just be you know, every morning at 9:30 we just gather we just gather other in the work in the whatever the kitchen like the cafeteria, the main space, and we just share it. 

Matt Trinetti 26:45

These are the top three things I’m working on, or and or we share This is one thing I need help with. And then in the room, someone might say, Oh, actually, I did that last year, I can help you that Oh, I know, somebody’s just originally coming together.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 27:02

Just a ritual coming together at 9:30.

Matt Trinetti 27:06 

Yeah, just so many, but having a prompt that’s punchy, and it’s not like a status meeting. People want to go to it because it’s, it forms some sort of accountability, especially for lone Wolf’s like me freelancing in a coworking space. Actually, I just sometimes want to be because I want to be accountable to myself. It helps just to share with you yeah, hey, here are the three things I wanted to do today. Great. And now I get to check in at the end of the day and say I did these two but this last one, I didn’t finish them and workout tomorrow. It just creates a little accountability. So, I think some sort of ritual, that’s a check in check out. That drives accountability. I think that could be something you could facilitate, especially for the lone wolves out there.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 27:56  

 I think all these are fantastic exercise and we came to the end of the podcast. Matthew, thank you very much for been my guest.

Matt Trinetti 28:03  

Thank you so much. Thanks for questions.

Zejiko Crnjakovic 28:05  

Talk to you soon. Thank you


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