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Admit it--you wish your workshops and conferences were livelier.
Often the most animated interactions and the most valuable learning take place during breaks, meals, and receptions.
The primary workshop goal of making new matches largely was accomplished during the breaks.
At the most recent conference, the organizers inserted a speed dating session in the dreaded after-lunch slot on the agenda.
Using the 8th grade dance model, the chefs line up against the wall, and the farmers went over and chose an initial "date." If it had been a smaller group (there were more than 80 participants), the chefs would have given a brief introduction so that farmers would have been better able to target their speed dates.
In introducing the speed dating session, we deliberately downplayed getting to actual deals and instead discussed these desired objectives/outcomes: As it turns out, the objectives were needlessly conservative.
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.
The inexperienced managers listed market management issues/problems they wanted to discuss.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.The experienced managers listed three significant lessons they had learned in managing markets. The experienced managers stayed put, while the inexperienced rotated one station.The experienced mangers lined up against one wall (think an 8 grade dance), and then the inexperience managers selected one for a conversation. Instructions were given to talk about either the same topics (since different people might have different views) or new ones. After a second period had passed, this conversation was closed, and the speed mentoring ended.