Format for speed dating

At Oregon State University we have begun using variations on the "speed dating" model (just another name for structured networking) in a wide variety of settings. Sessions in conferences and workshops, whether keynote addresses, panels, or town hall meetings, share a common characteristic: one person at a time speaks, and everyone else is expected to listen.After hours in that role, it is little wonder that participants pour out into breaks, hungry for conversation.

A more classic version of speed dating was used during the Farmer-Chef Connection, an educational event that seeks to foster better relationships between chefs and individual farmers.

The traditional format for this program was a mix of speeches, panels, and workshops, along with long breaks that featured outstanding food provided by the farmers and prepared by the chefs.

A panel of veteran market managers providing tips and suggestions has always been valuable, but it suffers from a format that is too similar to all the other sessions.

At the 2003 meeting, OFMA replaced the panel with "Speed Mentoring." The entire group divided itself into two categories--experienced managers and inexperienced managers.

Abstract Most Extension educators seek new ideas for organizing more exciting and animated workshops and conferences.

This article describes structured networking activities (also know as "speed dating") that succeed in enlivening meetings, strengthening networking, and improving learning.A show of hands revealed that all felt that they had made useful business contacts.No complaints were heard about being sleepy from the spectacular lunch.Instantly, the group of 28 managers who had listened attentively for nearly 2 hours to invited experts formed 14 pairs and went at it. It was a tremendous networking and shared learning opportunity.Furthermore, the change of pace played a valuable role in the day.(Some juggling had to be done to make the two groups of equal size.) Worksheets were passed out to serve as discussion starters.

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