February 14, 2024

Speed Friending - Anti Valentine's Day Program

February 13th is "Pal-entine's Day" and also "Gal-entine's Day." Both are an anti-Valentine's Day kind of celebration. All about platonic love. For our friends and for our girl-friends, respectively. I decided to try a new program: Speed Friending. Details and free resources below!


The program was for adults only. Most of the folks who attended were in the 30 to 45 range. Although it was open to any adults.


Speed Friending is a speed networking style event. Similar to speed dating, but the focus is on making friends. Rapid fire rounds that encourage each participant to meet with all other participants. 


I scheduled the event for a weekday evening. Fortunately was able to have it on February 13th. Our library is open until 7pm during the week, so I scheduled the program from 5:30 to 6:30. We actually went over and were going until 7 on the dot!


I used our largest meeting room in a building separate from the main library. This allowed me to set things up ahead of time, but also to allow for noise. I created a Spotify playlist and played at a low volume for the event. (Playlist available here).


I set up two long rows of tables, 20 seats in each row (10 per side). Seating for 40 total. This was my first program like this, so I needed to figure out how many seats to do and this allowed us to easily pull over more chairs if needed.
Conversation Starter Cards

On each table, I had markers, pencils, and Conversation Starter cards (link to make a copy and print here). I spread these down the table, so each seat would have easy access. There are several pages of Conversation Starter cards. I'd recommend printing one-sided and laying them face up on the table. Our folks kept finding new questions to ask each other all through the evening.
Friend Bingo Card

At each seat, I placed a "Hello my name is" name tag and a Bingo sheet (link to make a copy and print here). The Bingo sheets encouraged conversation, as the participants were motivated to get a bingo. Since we had a smaller group, one participant could be used for multiple spots on the card.

We went with one fixed seat that did not rotate and then all other seats rotated clockwise. This got every participant to meet everyone else. A bigger group using both rows of tables would have also worked that way with one fixed seat, it would just need a little more direction. I had arrows printed out on each table to show the direction for rotation. These are the arrows I used.

It was helpful to announce when the rotation would be happening about 1 minute before the actual rotation. This allowed folks to wrap up their current conversation rather than abruptly move. Since we had a smaller group, we were able to have 10-minute rotations. I'd recommend not using a timer on a big screen because then you don't have room to make adjustments if needed. By being the timekeeper, I was able to lengthen or shorten rounds as needed. 

I had one table set up with a curated book selection. Subjects such as finding friends, being a better friend, overcoming loneliness etc. Also a table with light refreshments. Coffee, water, and cookies.

Debrief & Hindsight:

I think this program was a lot of fun. The group we had turned out, were naturals. The Bingo card helped a lot with the conversation but also the personalities meshed really really well. In the future, I'd make a few adjustments to help it flow better and help the turnout be larger. I plan to have a book display up within the library for 2 weeks prior to the event with a flyer announcing and describing the event to create interest.

Also, for the social media posts I'm going to ask our marketing team to go with an actual photo rather than using a clipart-style graphic. I think seeing actual real faces in the post will help folks connect more personally and be more interested in attending. I may also attempt a straight networking style program in the fall, with a focus on career but with a very similar setup. Overall I feel the program was successful. Our folks lingered after I wrapped up the program and everyone had rotated, just to chat!

Have you ever hosted a speed friending program? Any tips for others?

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