IC Week: Robert Hoke on Amping-up Your Training with “Speed-Dating” Sessions

Greetings!  I am Robert Hoke, an independent evaluation consultant based in Indianapolis, Indiana and former chair of the Independent Consulting TIG.   I am a big proponent of shaking up the traditional conference session with a little “speed-dating.”

We have all sat through sessions in which presenters give a good presentation but then there is only time for one question.  (And usually the question is more likely a comment than a question.) All the audience members leave the room and move to the next session with no opportunity to meet the other audience members.   For the Independent Consulting TIG, our response has been to mix things up with one session that uses a fast-paced, more interactive, speed-dating approach.  (This technique is also known as SpeedGeeking.)

The Independent Consulting TIG has offered versions of this session nine times since Gail Barrington first shared the process in 2005.

The Format:

  • Tables of six to nine participants
  • Each table has a table leader/presenter. Each table leader presents on a different topic
  • Table leader presents their topic for 10-15 minutes. ½ of the time should be devoted to questions
  • Participants then move to another table
  • Repeat, Repeat, Speed Up, Repeat…..

The table leaders prepare a two-page summary of helpful hints and resources for the participants.  The written summary are very similar to the type of information included in the AEA365 blog:  best practices, helpful hints, key resources, etc.

What I like about “SpeedGeeking”:

  • Like a tapas restaurant, participants can “taste” a wild variety of topics in a short period.
  • The method allows for much more interaction between the participants and the speaker with each round being almost equally divided between presentation and questions.
  • Participants (especially introverts) are more likely to ask a question in a small group setting.
  • The opportunities for networking and information exchange are off the chart.

Hot Tips:

  • Avoid the temptation to make the session more “organized” by having the table-leaders move instead of the participants. The disorder of the transition between each round increases the energy and allows for participants to meet more people.
  • The length of each round can vary. For example, our sessions start with three fifteen minutes rounds and then four faster rounds of ten minutes.  The table-leaders become more comfortable with their topics and can move faster.
  • It is critical that the time-keeper is very firm about keeping things moving and also gives the table-leader a two-minute warning.

Rad Resources

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Independent Consulting TIG Week with our colleagues in the IC AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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