Friendship is a valuable aspect of life, but as we transition from the friendship-incubator of college to the real world, it becomes increasingly challenging to meet new people outside our familiar circles. However, fear not! I am here to offer a refreshing solution: friend speed dating. This unique concept brings together incredible women who are seeking platonic friendships with like-minded individuals. Say goodbye to the awkwardness of traditional speed dating and instead, enjoy a delightful gathering filled with coffee, tea, cookies, doughnuts, and, most importantly, the prospect of finding lifelong friendships.
Unveiling the Process
As I organized this event, I sought inspiration from a librarian’s website. Her insightful explanation of how the event should flow proved to be invaluable in planning my own meetup. I made a few modifications, allowing each “couple” to engage in five-minute conversations. Looking back, if the group had been smaller (we had 16 participants), it would have been wonderful to extend the chatting time even further.
To facilitate conversations, I prepared icebreaker questions and placed them at each seat. These questions, sourced from various locations, served to spark meaningful discussions among the attendees. I utilized yellow sticky notes with arrows to guide people to their next destination after their allocated time had elapsed. Additionally, I printed out a star and an arrow for more complex movements (for detailed instructions, refer to the librarian’s website mentioned earlier). While the sticky notes and arrows didn’t prove as helpful as anticipated, standing by at the end of each chat to provide directions proved to be a beneficial practice.
In the case of an odd number of participants, I had a “craft station” where individuals could engage in drawing or writing letters. However, we didn’t end up utilizing this station. Instead, I stepped in temporarily to ensure an even number of participants until the latecomers arrived. Just a tip: if you do find yourself filling in, make sure to rotate like everyone else. I missed a couple rounds of rotation, which led to some challenges towards the end of the meetup.
Click here to find out more about this unique concept!
Nourishing Body and Soul
When organizing an event of this nature, it’s essential to take into account the diverse dietary preferences and requirements of the participants. As a gesture of goodwill, I provided my email address and inquired about any food allergies or preferences. This simple act of consideration went a long way in making everyone feel welcome. Although no one reached out about food allergies, I ensured there were options for everyone. Alongside a variety of treats such as fruit, gluten-free cookies, and chocolate, I brought along a dozen doughnuts, two muffins, and a cinnamon roll. To cater to the preferences of the group, I also provided tea instead of coffee. In collaboration with the coffee shop, we arranged for a gallon jug of hot water and an assortment of tea bags. Fruit, being a must-have for vegan and other dietary-restricted individuals, was also readily available.
At the end of the evening, we found ourselves with surplus treats: leftover fruit, a muffin, a cinnamon roll, and six doughnuts. Rather than letting them go to waste, I encouraged everyone to take some home. It’s always better to have too many treats than to fall short of expectations. In future events, I might consider focusing solely on doughnuts and omitting the cinnamon roll and muffins.
The Perfect Venue
Finding the ideal venue proved to be a challenging task. Initially, I reached out to numerous well-established restaurants and cafes, only to be met with exorbitant reservation fees, some amounting to thousands of dollars. This was simply not feasible for our purposes.
Feeling somewhat discouraged, I sought advice from an acquaintance who regularly hosts meetup.com groups attended by a sizable number of people. She recommended a new coffee shop called Central Coffee Bar, and it turned out to be a perfect match. The service was exceptional, and the staff went above and beyond to accommodate our needs. I’ve discovered that partnering with new establishments can be advantageous, as they are eager to create buzz around their venture and foster relationships within the community. Central Coffee Bar will undoubtedly be my go-to choice for future events.
When selecting a venue for friend speed dating, it is crucial to consider two factors: a relatively quiet setting and ample space to accommodate a large group. The last thing you want is to have to shout over the noise or struggle to find room to rotate when time is up.
Mastering the Art of Marketing
Marketing posed the most significant challenge throughout the entire process. Traditional methods such as printing posters and distributing them in the neighborhood proved to be ineffective. Most places refused to display the posters, and the few that did promptly took them down within a few days, resulting in a wasted investment.
In my next attempt, I explored Facebook’s paid advertising. However, unless you’re willing to invest a substantial sum, exceeding $50, the returns are minimal. Despite paying the minimum amount of $16, no one reported seeing the event on their Facebook feed. While I valued the comprehensive coverage, I don’t believe it significantly contributed to the event’s success.
The platform that garnered the most sign-ups was Eventbrite. Creating an account is effortless and free. I shared the event page with local listserves, blogs, and relied on my friends to spread the word through their social media channels and workplaces. This grassroots approach proved to be the most fruitful. I must express my gratitude to my wonderful friends who graciously supported and promoted the event. Their participation did not result in the event being saturated with familiar faces, as only two of my friends attended, and interestingly enough, they were from different social circles and had never met before.
Additionally, I invested in a meetup group, which only yielded two sign-ups. However, I believe it will prove to be a worthwhile investment for future events. Through this group, all participants from friend speed dating can remain connected and receive updates about upcoming gatherings. Currently, the meetup group boasts just under 100 members, which may prove to be a valuable asset for my next marketing endeavor.
To create buzz around the event, I employed a free photo from Unsplash. I diligently searched for an image that depicted a diverse group of people, recognizing the importance of inclusivity.
Lessons Learned and A Flourishing Success
Undoubtedly, hosting friend speed dating brought immense joy to everyone involved. Attendees expressed their delight and shared stories of the new friendships they formed during the event. It was, without a doubt, a resounding success, leaving all with big smiles.
Reflecting on the experience, my most significant takeaway is the realization that not everyone is as meticulously organized as I am. Most participants signed up within the last three days leading up to the event. The initial count of five participants swiftly grew to 16, with one person even signing up on the day itself. Therefore, if you find yourself worried about having “enough” participants a week ahead of time, take solace in the understanding that people often operate on a more spontaneous schedule. Additionally, many blogs prefer to promote events closer to the date, which may explain the surge in sign-ups during the final days.
In a similar vein, I discovered that obsessing over achieving perfection is unnecessary. While several attendees complimented the organization of the event, minor mishaps were met with understanding and adaptability. When the time came for me to pay the bill, I approached an attendee and asked them to take charge of timing the event. To my relief, they gladly accepted the responsibility. Thus, I encourage future event organizers to embrace a more relaxed approach and worry less, allowing the natural flow of events to dictate the course.
In conclusion, friend speed dating presents a unique opportunity to forge meaningful connections and create lifelong friendships. By implementing careful planning, catering to dietary preferences, selecting the ideal venue, and employing grassroots marketing efforts, this event has the potential to shape a vibrant community of like-minded individuals. So take a deep breath, worry less, and embark on your journey to make new friends.