Meet People Chicago: How It All Started
In the last blog, I wrote about how I started the International Party. I knew people would like my story but the interest has been amazing! So far in just a few days, we already have over 500 views!
So, due to all the interest, I've decided to make a blog series about the most common questions asked. Next to "How I started International Party" the other most common question I get is "How did you start Meet People Chicago?". Let me take you back a few years...
In one crisp, spring evening of 2014, I was living with a friend and roommate at my Mayfair brick bungalow. Chad and I would go out about once a week back then but otherwise we stayed home and watched sports and talked about life (I know I sound very cool). Besides Chad and a couple other friends, most of my friends were married with kids. So the days of me going out and painting the town seemed ages ago. So in a moment of levity about our lack of social life, I asked Chad, "How do we meet more people?", specifically people like us.
Chad pondered for a few long seconds and said:
"Yeah, it would be nice to meet new people. Like people our age range. Something 20s and 30s or early 40s. Professionals. Busy, but looking to go out and meet new people. At a bar. But not every week...every week would be too much. But also not once a month. Otherwise people lose interest and forget. Every 2 weeks would be good. And it'd be cool if it's at a new bar too. That way, there is something to look forward to. A new bar meeting new people every two weeks."
By the time Chad finished his thoughts, a feeling of a singular, though micro, moment of epiphany came to me. Yes, it was Chad's words and his idea, but the strikingly simpleness of it all on how to meet people struck me like a splash of cold refreshing water to my head.
"That's a great idea!" I exclaimed to him. Excited and feeling proactive, I decided at that moment to start a social group modeled on Chad's idea: "New Bar Meet Friends Every Two Weeks". Doesn't get more simple than that, right?
I created a social group and in the days and weeks following, people started RSVP'ing. I knew it was time for fight or flight. Flight, by walking away from this because I was nervous to actually go through with meeting new people (and hosting) at a new bar (that I had to find every two weeks), or fight as in commit myself to meeting awesome people but also to connect them in a way that has really never happened before on a large scale. Basically I would be committing myself to a social experiment.
With a deep breath, I decided to do it.
One month in to the creation of the social group, I had my first event posted at a bar called Public House. It was a happy hour. No specials. No theme. Just a happy hour. Now one thing about me is I hate failure. Not that I haven't failed before, of course I have, but because of my fear of failure, it drives me like a combustion engine. The worst thing that could've happened in this first event was that only a few people would show up or worse, no one would have fun. But I was determined, absolutely determined, not to let that happen.
So, I emailed my new members about how excited I was that they joined. I promised them that we would be different than other social groups. That if they come to my events, they would meet people like them. That yes we were strangers but at the end or even at the event, we would become friends. That at the minimum, they would have fun. And with these bold, strong ideals, I added humor and wit to my correspondences.
Talk about setting yourself up for large expectations (and failure!).
The happy hour came. 5:30pm on a Thursday night. Everyone was new, with the exception of my friend and co-worker Nick, who I had to beg to come with me. You know, just in case my event failed spectacularly, I would have someone to drink my sorrows with! One by one as a new face appeared, I smiled and introduced myself and began talking to them like they were already my friends.
By the time 7 PM rolled around, there were already 35 of us. By 8 PM, 50 showed. The room where we were at was packed. And by that time, I had talked to every single person who walked in, sometimes multiple times. I was too busy in my own zone to contemplate what was happening as everything was moving so swiftly, but if there was a slow motion camera, it would have captured everyone talking, smiling, laughing and having a great time.
So much so that when 10:30 PM hit, most people were still there. By then I was feeling very happy from the alcohol and the high from fun-ness of it all, but unfortunately, work beckoned the next day. We said our goodbyes happily and I knew, everyone knew, that the night was a great success. How successful? To this day people who met at my first event are still friends. To this day, many are still members. And thousands of more members have been spawned from the first 50 that showed. Some who are now married.
I didn't know it at the time, but the first event was a model for every event I would do afterwards. I didn't know it at the time but a social experiment was formed. I didn't know it at the time, but a social phenomenon was born and has been growing ever since.
If you read my "Creating a Phenomenon" blog, you will understand our philosophy. Our mission. And why we do what we do. And why so many members have their life changed. See you at our next party!