Configuring a room for a round robin activity at work
January 10, 2013 11:47 AM   Subscribe

I want to set up an activity for some people I work with. There will be about 15-20 of us and basically I want it to be like speed dating only in this case, every person talks to every other person in the room for a set period of time. How would I set this up around a large conference table to make it easy for everyone to know where to go from person to person?

I'm organizing a networking meeting at work where the idea is that we all chat with each other in an organized way to ensure everyone has a chance to participate.

If it were standard speed dating with half men and half women it seems fairly easy: all the men take a seat and the women rotate around the room until they've met each men. This does't work for my scenario since I want every person to have a chance to talk to every other person but I'm having a hard time figuring out an easy way to set it up so that it's clear where each person starts and where the subsequent moves are.

Complicating factors: We'll be in a large conference room with a one large table and tons of chairs and I don't want to move furniture around. The exact number of people who will show up is unknown.

Based on what I can figure out, I think the basic idea is the same as a round robin activity, right? How does it work in practice for something like this?
posted by otherwordlyglow to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Setup: Take half as many chairs as there are participants. Arrange those chairs around the table so they are facing out, away from the table. Arrange an equal number of chairs in an outer circle, facing the inner chairs.

Ask half the people to start out in the outer chairs and half in the inner chairs. Pairs talk for the allotted amount of time, then the people on the outside move one place to their left.

Here's the trick: designate one pair as the "revolving door." When people move, the inner and outer people of the "revolving door" pair change places. The new outer-circle person then moves one space to the left as usual.
posted by ottereroticist at 12:17 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is really simple, no? If you have 20 people around the table, hand out poker chips to every other one. If you hold a poker chip, when the bell dings, you get up and move to the next empty seat (which was just vacated by someone else with a poker chip.)
posted by DarlingBri at 12:20 PM on January 10, 2013

DarlingBri, the problem is not how to divide the participants in two groups -- it's ensuring that everyone talks to everyone else, including people in the same group. So in your example, how do people with a poker chip ever talk to each other?
posted by ottereroticist at 1:14 PM on January 10, 2013

Oh. Yes of course. Sorry. Hmm.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:36 PM on January 10, 2013

P.S. If not wanting to move furniture includes moving chairs around, you could push in the chairs and have everyone standing. Some people may not be physically comfortable standing that long, so remember to give them an option to sit.
posted by ottereroticist at 2:03 PM on January 10, 2013

Yeah I guess I need to do the revolving door approach and maybe just pair up all the chairs. I don't think standing will work. So if there are 20 people thus means we need to plan for 19 "sessions" if everyone meets everyone else. So if we have an hour this means 3 mins per session with a little left over for group discussion.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:24 PM on January 10, 2013

Three minutes per session leaves you only three minutes for instructions, debrief, and the inevitable chaos of people in groups.

I would go with two minutes 30 seconds max.
posted by ottereroticist at 3:47 PM on January 10, 2013

Try a scheduler program for rec sports. Like this free to try one. (You only need to use it once, right?) You can even assign "fields" as certain chairs if that brings more order to the proceedings.
posted by stevis23 at 5:10 PM on January 10, 2013

I think the revolving door happens every other round, and in a different seat each time.

To meet the person next to me (if I'm on the outer ring) I have to move from seat B6 to A6. He moves into B6.

But for my neighbor to meet HIS neighbor, he needs to move from B6 to B7 while I talk to his neighbor, then he moves from B7 to A7 (to be next to me again) and his neighbor is now his partner.

This way everyone in an A seat (or all but 1) spends time in B seats making the rounds.

You may have to be at the (moving) point of switchover to make it run smoothly.

Alternately, every participant gets a list of every other participant and self-polices for checking off all names/makes notes for all others.

Easier to grasp, but also increasingly chaotic as people seek out their final names late in the session.
posted by itesser at 6:16 PM on January 10, 2013

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