Years ago, I got paid $10 an hour to eavesdrop. It was even more awkward than it sounds. Roaming around the room listening to dozens of people on first dates. It felt like the conversations would never end, but in reality, each date was only three minutes long. Over and over. I thought picking up a part-time job hosting Speed Dating events would be so fun. I was going to help people fall in love! But instead, I popped from table to table listening to people essentially conducting job interviews. I wanted to plop down at the table and get them talking about something, anything but what they were talking about.
What was your best Halloween costume? Which Golden Girl are you? What’s on your bucket list? But I didn’t, and they left feeling frustrated because they “didn’t meet anyone”. Instead, I chatted with people after the event and basically told them to be more interesting. Of course, I said it nicer than that, but that was at the core of my message.
I also started subtly prepping people before the event while they were signing in to set them up for success without freaking them out by making it obvious that I was giving them tips. I encouraged them to also ask questions that make the other person more interesting. You have three minutes. What is your elevator speech? They looked at me like I was crazy for mixing networking with speed dating, but years later that’s exactly what we ended up doing. Speed Networking at my full-time job and Speed Dating at my part-time job, and it was the same concept, the same rules. Build relationships by telling your story.
When you’re in a speed dating or speed networking situation, it helps to just be yourself to show your personality. One question I ask people whether I’m on a date or conducting an interview is, what did you want to be when you were a kid? Like, what did you really want to be? Me? Janet Jackson’s back-up dancer. People then ask me why I didn’t want to be Janet, which opens up a huge story about the person I used to be and who I am today. In addition to opening people up, it can also show who isn’t able to be themselves, like a guy I interviewed in the late 2000’s when I worked at Northwestern University. When I asked him what he wanted to be when he was a kid, he said a social media manager at a Big Ten school. No, this wasn’t Mark Zuckerberg, so I was pretty sure this now 23-year-old wasn’t taking selfies at his Little League game dreaming of places to post these online.
So how happy was I when Bumble released Bumble Bizz today? I’ve loved online dating sites and apps because of the opportunities they create to meet new people, not just the assist they gave me for getting dates, but meeting people in general. Similar to the Bumble BFF, which makes it easier to make new friends, Bumble Bizz helps you make new business connections around town. I’ve been finding my own friend dates for years in an effort to build a Wolfpack as friends began dropping off after getting married and/or having kids, so Bumble is making the app a one-stop shop to build every part of my network. I’ve told people that I want to run an event where you can learn how to network for a date, network to make friends and network to find colleagues because there are so many similarities among all three. They laughed because crossing single people with those in a relationship was risky. Single people are scary!
But they are missing the point. Regardless of the situation, we are telling our same story, it’s just different ways to actually tell it. Being able to practice with these three different angles has to make it impossible not to figure out how to be your most-interesting self, and how to do it so it comes naturally. Discovering who you are through these different conversations builds the confidence we need to talk to anyone at any given time. Will you start swiping if you’re in a relationship? Will you freak out if your significant other gets on Bumble Bizz?