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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.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.As an antidote, Robert Chambers, in his superb book Participatory Workshops, proposes the "buzz": "So easy. Invite participants to buzz with others next to them--about what has just been covered or done, an issue that has arisen, the agenda.The immediate wake-up often includes learning by talking." Speed dating takes these conversations a step further by focusing on a specific topic of interest and by recognizing that individuals fill different roles in many conversations.
(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.(Some juggling had to be done to make the two groups of equal size.) Worksheets were passed out to serve as discussion starters.