I was doing some number crunching the other day for tax purposes, updating my totals for the Minglers [events I throw out of my home as a way for people to expand their networks – social, romantic, professional; the one caveat is that everyone comes solo].
It was interesting to look back to the very first one, June of 2007, and see how far they’ve come and how different they are. The first two years, they weren’t actually Mac ‘n Cheese Minglers, they were Mac ‘n Cheese Dinner Parties. I kept the invite list to seven or eight guests, and served a full meal. We’d socialize for a bit, sit down for dinner and conversation, and then bust out the board games. While I enjoyed the intimate nature of the evening, I decided to tweak the format at bit for a few reasons:
- When I first started the dinners, I knew everyone signing up, so I could choose guests based on personalities and who I thought would hit if off. As word of mouth spread and I got some press, I no longer knew everyone and thus could only use what little info I knew. Age became my main selection parameter. This resulted in some dinners where people didn’t really mesh, and in such a small group, that can be awkward. And disappointing both for me and the guests.
- Because only seven to eight people could come at a time, people were on the wait list FOREVER. Some people had to wait months.
- Cooking a full meal for seven to eight people is a lot of work. Planning the menu, shopping, cooking, cleaning. Not to mention expensive. I spent too much time in the kitchen, when I wanted to be interacting with the guests.
- The price of the dinner parties was $40, plus a bottle of wine or an appetizer/dessert. While I think that was reasonable for a meal and an evening out, events that are $20 or less are more up my alley when I’m a paying patron, and I would’ve liked the dinner parties to be in that realm so that cost was never an issue in someone deciding whether or not to participate.
- I’m an ok cook. Some dishes come out amazing, some like poo. Regardless, I realized, guests were not coming for my food. Some activities out there, like the underground supper clubs that are all the rage right now, you go to for the eats. Guests came to the dinner parties to meet new people.
So taking all this into consideration, I changed the format:
- The dinner parties became minglers.
- The ideal attendee number is twenty to thirty, though I have gone as low as eight and as high as fifty.
- Cost is $15 plus a drink or snack to share.
- At first, the evenings consisted of informal chatting and board games played in teams, where you rotated every twenty minutes or so to another game, playing another team. Because people were only really able to chat with their teammates, there were often many guests that didn’t interact at all. And while great team spirit formed, the constant game playing didn’t lend itself to conversation; guests got to see how each other gave clues and drew pictures, but didn’t learn much about each other beyond that. So I tweaked them again.
- The current structure is informal chatting followed by a big group activity so that everyone hears a few things about everyone else. Then, to get that intimate feeling that makes for such a homey, comfortable vibe, guests are broken into small groups. To help facilitate discussion, a few questions are provided. Everyone in a group shares their answers with one another, and eventually we come back together as a large group and share. Informal mingling happens again, sometimes just conversation, sometimes people pull out board games. Often, when I [niecly!] kick people out around 1AM, a group of them head out to a nearby watering hole for some post-Mingler action.
About 100 people passed through my doors the first two years, in the dinner party phase. About 700 people have Mingled in the past year and a half. Overall, everything is going along swimmingly. Friends have been made, significant others begotten, jobs procured, resources exchanged, unique, affordable and fun experiences had. The one constant hurdle though has been the female to male ratio.
While the Minglers are not a dating service, though yes people do get dates out of them, I like to keep the gender numbers balanced for the dynamic it creates. It’s weird when there’s twenty females and two males. But I can’t keep up with the number of female sign-ups. My database is, and has been since Day 1, about thirty to one, female to male.
Why more men don’t attend has become a hot topic at recent Minglers. The guys who come often come over and over; they seem to have a good time. So why is there such a disparity? Guests cite that most of the activities they go to, especially if they’re in the meet-new-people vein, are female-heavy; based on the bulk of activities I’ve gone to in the past few years, I would concur.
I learned recently when I heard the founder talk at a conference that 77% of Groupon users are female.
A female Mingler guest, who has been to about four or five Minglers, recently recapped her experience at an event where people sign up for a meal at a restaurant and are seated with other individuals who’ve signed up: The makeup was good — everyone came solo, and I felt totally comfortable going solo. One amusing thing was that the ratio was 3 guys, 5 girls (pretty good). But two of the guys were in relationships…as were several of the women. It launched us into a discussion about why guys do or don’t sign up for thinks like this, Minglers, etc. — the guy’s take was that women are just more interested in “meeting people” in general, and guys just don’t want to work as hard at it. or plan ahead.
Where are all the men? Why don’t more of them attend Minglers and similar activities? I can’t believe they’re all stereotypically in bars or on their couches watching football and drinking beer. I can’t believe they’re not interested in meeting new people. I can’t believe they’d rather the traditional stuffy networking events or Match.com over couches, flip-flops, and Taboo. Sports leagues, improv, guitar class – these all seem to be male-dominated. I know I joined all three of them with the main goals of meeting new people and having new experiences, not necessarily to hone skills. Wonder if the guys were there to work on their spiral throws, object work, and bar chords, new people be damned.
A million dollars* to anyone who can shed some light on this topic.
*”a million dollars” is code for “immense gratitude from females near and far”