As we enter The Shelter, a new creative, community workspace in Al Quoz, the first thing we see is two rows of empty red chairs. Although we’re clued in to the general concept, we’re not really sure how this is going to work. In a matter of moments, those chairs will be filled with people looking for their perfect match – and we’re not talking romance. This is a speed networking event for arts professionals. Called, appropriately, Match!, the aim is to find like-minded matches across the creative arts. A magazine editor might be looking for a contributor, a company might find a new web designer... you get the picture. And after the success of the first event held in July, this second Match! event is set to be busy.
We go in search of the organisers, Sonia Brewin and Laura Trelford. They tell us that they came up with the concept after realising that at most social events, conversation is superficial and people don’t really get to know one another or what they do. ‘We thought of applying a speed concept to networking, where one person can quickly download information to the other and vice versa,’ says Brewin. Brewin and Trelford suggested their idea to friends Simone Sebastian and Saadia Zahid, and they became the final members of the organising quartet. Within a month of the four getting together, Match! was a reality.
There will be 20 participants today. Sebastian and Zahid explain that they’ve admitted less people than last time to make it logistically simpler. Keeping the numbers down has not been easy. There’s such a deluge of applications for this that Brewin, Trelford, Sebastian and Zahid go through each form carefully, picking and choosing people who have a higher chance of finding their match in each other. But don’t be dismayed if you apply and are not invited to an event. Brewin explains: ‘We only turn people down if they’re not relevant to the event as we want people to try and find a match. Those excluded from one session could be invited to a later one.’ But she does admit that Match! caters exclusively to the creative world. ‘If someone is in banking or HR, sorry, we’re not here to expose them to a new job market. We’re here to give creative people a chance to swap ideas or find jobs with each other.’
Each pair has two minutes to talk before a buzzer signals that it’s time to move on. That should be enough time to figure out if you’re a match – or a mismatch. ‘It would help in real life situations too if you’re constantly saved by the bell!’ Sebastian jokes. When the first buzzer sounds, the room is filled with a flurry of conversation. Later, Allison Barnett, a digital project manager in advertising, admits she felt nervous talking about herself. ‘I wonder if I’m boring people, but it’s good fun at the end of it,’ she says. We encounter a mix of creatives, ranging from one looking to open a studio gallery with a space for art enthusiasts to draw in Dubai, to a designer/photographer who is planning to host a charity event and is in need of a sponsor.
Brewin emphasises the particular relevance of Match! in light of the economic downturn. People are more willing than ever to explore collaborations and find new clients. Feedback from attendees of the first Match! has been positive, and quite of few of them are in talks to take their matches further. And even though all four organisers agree that launching this event in summer seems a bit odd – it’s the time of year that most people escape Dubai, after all – they have been surprised and overwhelmed by the response. There are big plans for Match! Trelford tells Time Out: ‘The possibilities are endless. In the short term, we’re looking at taking it to Abu Dhabi and in the longer term, internationally.’ Zahid adds that this will help Match! to make more and more connections around the world.
Trelford sums up the concept well: ‘We know so many interesting people, but do they know each other?’ Thanks to Match! it looks like they will.
For more about the next Match! event, email email@example.com. Info on The Shelter at www.shelter.ae