Making Fast Friends
By Kristen Kubilus | June 13, 2011 |Bloomfield Patch
Last Tuesday, the New Jersey Young Professionals organization held a "Girl's Night Out" event at the Senoritas Mexican Restaurant in Bloomfield.
If you like the idea of meeting a multitude of people in a matter of minutes, but speed dating seems a bit out of your element, then perhaps you ought to give speed friending a try. On Tuesday, June 7, single and married New Jersey women gathered at Señoritas Mexican Grill in Bloomfield for a quick bite, a beverage, and a few new bonds.
New Jersey Young Professionals (NJYP), the sponsor of the event, is a social networking organization that caters strictly to professionals who are 21-39 years old. The group’s slogan, “Get out. Make friends,” is simply what it’s all about. NJYP hosts between 20-30 events a month, at anywhere from coffee houses, to comedy clubs, to the great outdoors.
While speed friending might seem like a new concept to some, NJYP has already organized a whopping 53 of the events since Laura Occhipinti, the network’s owner, started hosting them in June 2006.
“We would do speed dating events and it made me think how great it would be to apply the same concept to help people make friends,” Occhipinti said. “Sure, people can make friends at one of our Happy Hours, but you can't really meet and exchange info with 10 to 20 people unless it is structured. It's not for everyone, but those who attend tend to love it.”
Anne Marie Saada, a senior software engineer, admitted to feeling hesitant to take part in the event initially, but in the end, she was happy she did.
Saada said, “I wanted to meet more people in the area. I was very nervous coming into it, but it went a lot better than I expected.”
At every NJYP speed friending event, two-seater tables are arranged in a circle: sitters on the outside, movers on the inside. At the end of each four-minute period, a bell rings and the movers shift to their next potential pal. Prior to the first rotation, all speed frienders are given a sheet with the first and last names, e-mail addresses, hometowns, hobbies, and job titles of the women they will be meeting.
Occhipinti believes that sharing contact information is key to getting the most out of your speed friending experience.
“I have seen that after these events, one of the women who attended, (there is always a natural leader), would reach out to all the other women via email and bring them together for reunion-type events,” Occhipinti said. “This is how close friendships are born. It’s about what happens after the speed event. I just help by making all the introductions and sharing all the information.”
Like Saada, many of the other attendees noted that they were pleasantly surprised with just how much they enjoyed themselves.
“I felt weird going on my own, but after being there, I realized that it wasn’t bad at all,” Cathy Maslowski, a system engineer, said. “I wanted to meet more women, considering there aren’t many in my field. I would definitely like to attend another event.”
Annie Tasker, a graduate student and Florida native, joined NJYP after making the move to New Jersey to aid her in expanding her social network.
“It’s a great group of people,” Tasker said. “I didn’t meet anyone tonight that I didn’t like.”
But just what is it that makes these girls nights out so successful? After close social examination, Occhipinti has formulated her theory:
“It seems to me that women love meeting other women when no men are around,” she said. “I have observed this at any all-women events and even on the line for the women's room. But during these random occasions I've never seen women take the next step and exchange information so a real friendship could form. I think speed friending takes away that awkwardness and allows for women to become real friends, after the initial meeting.”
If you are interested in attending a speed friending event or any other NJYP affair, visit the calendar at njyp.org.