How to Set Up an Interdepartmental Speed Dating Event

by Julie Auger, ODL Consultant, MOD

Bulletin,  Organizational Development

Do you experience departmental “siloing”? Does one part of the organization not really know what the others do? Are relationships across teams not collaborative or even contentious? Do you see people in the halls and not know their names?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, interdepartmental speed dating might be right for you!

Everyone has heard of speed dating, but few are clear on how it can be applied in an organizational context. Not only do events like this build professional relationships, but they also contribute to building a high-trust culture. Oh, and they can be very fun, too!

What your organization will get:

1. A fast, fun, safe, and comfortable way to meet people from another department;

2. A chance to learn something new about your organization;

3. An enjoyable afternoon of conversation;

4. An opportunity to build stronger interdepartmental relationships;

5. An opportunity to expand your understanding of how your company operates and how your department contributes to the success of your organization.

Step 1

Create your questions for the event. Below are some suggestions, but you are not limited to these. Having people ask the right questions is key. The word “department” is interchangeable with team, work group, facility, site, and so forth.

What is your department’s biggest contribution to this organization?
What are you most proud of about your department?
How is your department sometimes misunderstood?
What do you wish everyone understood about your department?
What is the biggest obstacle to your department?
What is one request your department would have of the other parts of the organization?
What does a typical day look like in your department? Number of calls, emergencies, how you spend your time, etc.
In what ways does your department feel supported? In what ways does your department feel unsupported?
What do you want other departments to know about yours?
Step 2

Select the right venue for the size of group you want to mingle. Each pair of employees will need a place to sit, so a group of 20 would need 10 tables.

Step 3

Invite two departments at a time to connect in this fun, easy, fast-paced event. Decide how long each round will be. Example: If I sit with each person for only one minute, I can meet with eight people in eight minutes. If I sit with each person for two minutes, the event will be 16 minutes in length. The most well-known model is eight minutes.

Step 4

Advertise the event internally. Build anticipation; this is a chance to connect, to be understood, to brag about the great things coming out of your department. Use all media avenues you have available: flyers, e-blasts, staff meeting announcements, newsletters, social media sites, etc.

Step 5

Make name tags and print cards with the questions.

Step 6

Set up the venue. Usually, speed-dating events have a line of tables with a chair on either side. You will also need a bell or whistle to sound when the time per round has passed. Place a table by the entrance, with labels and question cards. If you are looking for ambiance, use table cloths and battery-operated votive candles.

Step 7

Greet each person at the door, asking for their name. Write this on a name tag for them to wear. Give each person a card and pen and allow them to relax until the event begins.

Step 8

Welcome everybody to the event and confirm that everybody is wearing a name tag. Explain that when the whistle/bell chimes, participants must move on to the next person to their left.

Step 9

Read one question at a time, which participants then discuss in their pairs. When the event is finished, encourage the guests to stay and enjoy themselves in the venue. Perhaps provide a light snack and sodas to get them to linger.

It has been shown that organizations who take time to develop strong relationships have an advantage over those that do not. This includes understanding and appreciating the whole system.

About the author
Julie Auger, ODL Consultant, MOD

Julie Auger is an Organizational Development and Leadership consultant with Employers Council. She has over 15 years of experience facilitating both large and small-scale change initiatives for a variety of organizations and communities. She finds great fulfillment in guiding teams and leadership programs, facilitating trainings, and mediating conflict situations.