[NOTE: I was a little off on my original budget for the night. We actually had $1,200 to work with (not $2,500) and ending up spending around $1,500. Not too bad for entertaining 600 people.]
We had eight staff members volunteer to serve as coordinators for the CeLIBration event ( see intro, part1 ). I was paired with the ever c ourteous, super stylish, ultra-disarming Julie Griffin to handle the Speed Dating activity. One of the most common complaints about GT is that there are not enough single girls. So we did our part to help address this need on campus. Speed Dating is VERY popular and some club, group, or organization has already done it at your school. And I’m sure that someone from some library in New York will probably post a message saying they’ve been doing speed dating for years now. Yeah, yeah and those people in Belgium . The point was not about trying to be fresh, but rather to test it out and to gauge student interest. Results: they’re definitely interested!
Background & Setup
We knew CeLIBration would be noisy and our goal was to create separate zones around the library. We decided to offer speed dating on our second floor, away from everything else. We liked this space because it gave us a private cozy defined area to work with.
We pushed several long tables out of the way and setup 10 smaller tables in a circle, with two chairs at each. The plan was to have the females sit in the middle and let the guys rotate around them. The premise is that they’d spend 2-4 minutes with each person and write down the number (each person had a number rather than name) of people they were interested in. Afterwards, we’d look for matches and notify the females via email. (Although theoretically, they could just use Facebook to track down a person.)
We killed the lights because they didn’t fit our mood. We taped pink paper over a security/emergency light to create a softer tone. (Thanks Katie!) Additionally, we purchased floating candles to add a touch of class. We also considered tablecloths and small flowers, but decided against both. Musically, we talked about playing romantic jazz, but wisely opted for a more contemporary pop and rock mix (Thanks Charlene!)
Another item we questioned was attire. Originally we talked about dressing up, but then I got on a Brooke Burke & Dave Navarro kick. We settled somewhere in the middle. Ultimately it didn’t matter. They could care less about us. It was all about them, as it should be.
Doors opened at 7 and we had planned to do two sessions, starting at eight and another at nine. 8pm rolls around and we had 3 girls. Hmmm, looked like the whole thing was busted. We made an announcement over the intercom (Thanks Charlene!) and told the eagerly waiting guys to ‘go get us some ladies’ and by 8:20 we had 11 willing female participants. Once things got started, it ran smoothly, although the music wasn’t loud enough and we needed a bell or whistle to indicate that it was time to change partners. A BIG thanks to Mr. Terrence Hines who turned out to be ideal for crowd management and a “rotation” director. Once things got going, other students dropped by and signed up for the later session. We had 16 girls interested and scrambled to find chairs and tables to accommodate the extra students.
A total of 54 students participated in two sessions. We thought about doing a third, but needed to help out with other activities. However, Julie and I both felt that there was sincere interest and we hope to offer another speed dating event sometime in the Fall semester.
Supplies and Cost
- 10 tables, 20 chairs (but ended up needing more)
- Candles and holders – $13
- Name Tags
- Match Sheets (see pic)
Lessons Learned / Recommendations
- Don’t try and make it too romantic, that’s cheesy. The darkened room with candles seemed about right.
- Don’t play ‘romantic’ music. These people are looking for dates. That type of music is better suited for when you have someone and you’re trying to set the mood. Play something fun and upbeat.
- It gets loud! Once 20 or more people start talking, it’s hard to speak over them. Use a bell, horn, or whistle to indicate their time is up. We’d talked about this, but didn’t follow through.
- Host it somewhere visual, but with a little privacy. If we had been on the main floor, we easily could have doubled our numbers. However, you don’t want it to be too open. You don’t want too many gawkers, which could make participants uncomfortable. We put up a table barrier so others could see, but not listen. We also ran into a timing problem because people were waiting in line for food or checking out other activities. If you do a big event, space it out or have a sign-up sheet near the door with someone pulling people in.
- Plan for it to take longer than you expect.
- Use FaceBook to directly market to your audience. We created a FB event (Thanks Bonnie!) and invited all single freshmen who were interested in dating. We only had a few people express interest online, however it helps to get the word out there. My goal is to build the impression that the library is dynamic, whether we’re offering a class on LaTeX or hooking people up, we’re doing something to enhance their experience at Tech.
- Figure out what to do when you have more people than you expected. We probably should have capped each session at 20 (10 girls, 10 guys), but I wanted to be accommodating. Have a backup plan. There were no solo single females; they all came together in pairs or small groups. Keep that in mind.
- Print tons of extra match sheets! And have tons of pencils.
- Make sure you push out info to the RAs. They interact with your students more than you do.
- Offer prizes/gifts. We wanted to give them a ‘your first date’ type experience. Tickets to movies, sporting events, Atlanta attractions, or local restaurants. We ran out of time to pull this together, but whether or not they actually used them for the date, as opposed to just going with friends, it’s the thought that counts. It would add a little class or incentive.
- Regarding ‘name’ tags—make sure they write their number! This seemed to be a confusing concept for them.
- While people are signing up, the area can get crowded. I thought about separating the genders. This would also allow for a better way to explain the speed dating process, rather than continuously repeating instructions. Additionally, a small handout, with maybe three bullet points explaining the process would have been helpful. Next time, I’ll probably seat the women right away and make the guys wait around the corner. Julie could talk with the females, explaining everything, while I did the same for the fellas. Then we bring them together and get out of the way.
- Host it regularly. I like that we had a successful welcome event, and hope we maintain our momentum. It would be ideal if once a month we did a small scale version of this. Brand the event. Build our reputation.