How to host speed dating

The moment of truth was the sound of the bell, like the “ring for assistance” chime in hotel lobbies.

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This was a best-case scenario: a speed-dating match—and a job well done.

When the bell tolled for me—that is, my stint as a speed-dating event coordinator ended—I wistfully packed up the vestiges of the tumultuous relationship in a cardboard box.

The speed dating company had requested their stuff back when I informed them it “just wasn’t working out.” I layered colored folders labeled “Dating Cards,” “Seating Assignments,” and “Welcome Posters” upon each other, slid them lovingly into the black canvas briefcase branded “8minute Dating,” and sighed. Sure, it felt a bit petty to me that after all we’ve been through in the last eight months, that they’d make a stink over a stapler, some folders, and an electronic timer that malfunctioned from the get-go.

I will grant them, however, the black canvas briefcase—that was pretty sweet.

But frankly, I had no use for the Valentine-red baby doll T-shirt they sent me with “Single? I may have been too emotionally involved for the job, too eager to see love blossom.

Every speed-dating event I hosted was like sending my kids off to the junior prom. To me, they were all princes and princesses arriving at the ball, but with name tags and cocktails. A Night of Latin Passion My first event, geared to the 30-something crowd, was at a hot Latin restaurant, known for its authentic dishes and outrageous salsa parties.Plus, single myself at the time, I saw this as more than a professional development experience; it was a promising way to meet men and get paid for it. Registrations filtered in slowly, but by event day I had booked a perfect 16 men to 16 women ratio.Headquarters had suggested I bring a generic Bingo-style ice-breaker for folks, so I created my own: I e-mailed participants ahead of time, requesting “factoids” about their lives.The responses not only reflected an amazing group of individuals, but proved the point that participants are not as odd or desperate as speed-dating critics or Hollywood directors might portray them.Any single who’s snubbed a speed-dating event may have missed the opportunity to chat with a woman who spent a week at wilderness survival school, someone who has seen the world’s three biggest barrier reefs, a Habitat for Humanity devotee, or a man who had a one-on-one lunch with Bill Gates.One guy had “two black belts, acted on TV for the History Channel, and trained in massage,” and another “can crack two eggs in one hand—no shells!