I admit it. When I read about the icebreaker at the recent SAQA conference I expressed scepticism and some disdain for the format. It was described as speed dating. We were each instructed to bring 50 business cards or postcards or pieces of fabric. It was clear that we would somehow be meeting new people and exchanging these tokens.
On the first night the room was set up with round tables with ten chairs at each. People were originally encouraged to sit with their regions. My table was the international hub. We had people from the following regions, Atlantic Canada, Central Canada, Western Canada, South and Central America and Mesico and the Caribbean, Africa, Oceania, and finally, Europe and the Middle East. All that and there were only ten people at the table!
We then received instructions and the 'dating' began. Each of us had 90 seconds to introduce ourselves to the others around the table. When it was my turn I was surprised by just how long the time seemed. When all the tables had completed a round of introductions, we were asked to go to another table where we knew no one. We repeated that a second time. Over the course of three rounds each of us met 27 new people. The familiar faces and the little bit of their story that we learned made a huge difference over the course of the next few days. I spent quite a lot of time with several of the people I met that night. And when I entered a room and didn't know anyone I would almost always see someone from speed dating. When I sat down beside them we were not strangers to one another and could do more than just exchange a polite smile.
I look forward to repeating the speed dating at the conference next year. And I recommend it to anyone who is organizing a multi-day event which includes many people who do not regularly meet one another.
Some of the people I met on that night:
Gillian Cooper, Scotland
Heather Dubreuil, Canada
Pat Pauly, New York
Delaney Cate, Maryland