How to become a speed dating organizer

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Extending these unstructured networking periods provides one way to improve these events.But another, underutilized means for strengthening them is by carefully integrating structured networking periods into the conference schedule.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 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.Both groups were given worksheets that listed the types of information they might want to share.In advance, the chefs had been told to bring their menus, and the farmers instructed to bring their crop lists.

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(A simple "Google search" will uncover many examples.) The Oregon Farmers' Market Association (OFMA) holds an annual conference to educate market managers about current issues.

Participants had renewed energy to face the afternoon workshops. Participatory workshops: A sourcebook of 21 sets of ideas and activities.

These two examples demonstrate that pairing up people with a purpose can achieve excellent learning and networking results.

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.

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