As I was having a drinks-n-dinner meeting with a writing partner at a bar in Los Angeles last night, I stood witness to something truly awful to behold. The place was packed but I wasn't paying much attention until an insistent bell began ringing every few minutes. Each time the bell rang, half of everyone in the place got up, shifted to the next seat over and sat down. "Speed dating?" I asked my writing partner. "Are people still speed dating?" "Only if they've gotten very progressive", he said, pointing out there were not just men chatting with women, but men on men and women on women. And none dressed to kill -- they were all dressed for business.
Here it was. A phenomenon borne of something that should have been allowed to die a quiet death -- Speed Dating -- is now being broached across the land. Regular networking is desperate enough but add the element of speed and it takes on a whole new aspect. Business cards fluttering, drinks clinking, the decibel level of the chatter is almost deafening. To which the organizers of this particular event had added loud club music, making it necessary for the participants to yell at each other.
At one point the action got so frenetic that even we were approached to "Jump in!" by one of the organizers, who breathlessly was trying to explain the concept as she waved her card around wanting one of us to take it and relieve her of her businessly burden. (It took three polite deflections and a final forceful "NO" to get her to leave the table.)
With the economy wavering in PREcession mode, it's plain that desperate times are calling for desperate measures. But can any good truly come of frantically pressing flesh, trading cards and fever pitching your wares to a barful of strangers? More likely it's a way to beg the worst in people to come out quick, rather than a solution to the challenge of finding new opportunities.
Even for those who might not have been drinking last night, speed networking seemed like a guarantee of waking up with a hangover this morning: out of sorts, uncertain of what happened and with a firm resolve to never do it again.
— Marc Hershon