CBS Radio Interview with Donna Briggs and Michael Karlan by CBS Radio
Donna Briggs: Hold the line this is Donna Briggs and you’re with me on Life talk. Thanks for joining us I hope you had a wonderful week. And I am so proud to have on my show Michael Karlan President and Founder of Professionals in the City a socializing network organization that offers professionals a major major networking opportunity in all cities across the US to unwind have fun and meet people that share their interests. How you doin Michael?
Michael: Hi Donna thanks for having us here tonight.
Donna: I’m really excited about this. I stumbled upon your site. Actually a friend of mine went to an event at an embassy. Saudi embassy. . You have those…
Michael: Oh we host Embassy events once a month
Donna: Ok once a month. And I thought that was interesting and I said you know I’m gonna get this guy on my show. This is very exciting. What made you get into doing this? What did you do prior to your networking site?
Michael: Sure. I moved down to Washington DC from NYC about 20 years ago. And I was a lawyer originally. Yeah I worked for a large law firm here in Washington DC. And then I was w/ Government for a little while. And then I started this company. And basically when I moved to DC I didn’t know anybody, not a single person. And I found it tough to meet people at first. I use to go to the nightclubs and go to bars and it was a lot of work. And once I got to know people I realized if I could make it easier for people to meet there would be a lot of demand for that. SO that’s what gave me the idea for starting this. And I started hosting parties and they got bigger and bigger. And then one day I left law and just started doing this full time.
Donna: So you did parties at clubs at first or?
Michael: Yeah. I started out doing happy hours for free and then I would do parties like on a Sunday night I would rent out like a restaurant and we would do a party with dancing and music. And I did those for free and I started getting 400 or 500 people. And then I started charging $10 once I had a big following. And I did that for a couple of years and then in 1999 I decided to leave law I left the law firm and started doing this full time.
Donna: So what made you say you know what I could actually turn this into a business?
Michael: I saw an opportunity. It was right when the internet was taking off. So it was a new way of promoting and it was a lot easier to get the word out. And I just saw an opportunity to create a way for people to meet. I started out in the 90s doing a lot of night club promotions. And I saw that there were a lot of people hitting that demographic for people ages 21-24. And what would happen is someone would start a night club and it would be super-hot and then 6 or 12 months later it would go out of business.
Donna: It’s trendy. Like oh this is the hottest club and then next thing you know no one wants to go there anymore.
Michael: Right. And I started out doing nightclub promotions for fun. And I saw what happened that it was something you could do for a little while but then it fizzled out. But I realized Starting at about age 25 there’s not a whole lot for people.
Donna: No because it’s not like you want to sit at a club
Michael: Right it’s too loud you can’t talk. And people just burn out on that. So I had the idea that this group I built up coming to night clubs that was beginning to get older as I was would be interested in other opportunities besides nightclubs. So then I started offering for that group various parties, and then I added seminars and then I added embassy events and I started adding different activities to the mix. Basically from age 25 up.
Donna: So the determining factor in starting the whole business was you didn’t know anybody so you figured other people were in the same situation you were in.
Michael: Yes by the time I started I knew a lot of people. But when I moved here I didn’t know anybody and that’s what gave me the idea because it was so much work for me to meet a lot of people. That once I knew a lot of people I thought it shouldn’t have to be this hard for everybody. Not everybody would want to go through what I did.
Donna: No it’s just terrible. And it’s funny we were talking off the air about being older and harder to meet people. Because I mean you’re working or you’re busy you have a life. And it’s easier to go online and you check the boxes or whatever you do. And you can meet a person like that
Michael: Well when I started this online was just starting out so there wasn’t much with that anyway. Then online definitely got a big surge for example dating online. But now we’re seeing a little bit of back lash from that. Because one of the issues with attraction is attraction is all an emotional response it’s not a logical one. You can have a list of characteristics of who you like and I can provide you someone with those list of characteristics And you’d be like oh he’s great but I just didn’t feel that click.
Donna: Yeah the chemistry wasn’t there. He’s everything I thought he would be but he’s not the person.
Michael: Exactly. Because people make decisions emotionally and then they use logic to backwards justify their reasoning
Donna: Oh OK.
Michael: I know it’s interesting. But that’s why I love for people to meet face to face. Because you can tell very quickly whether you think there’s potential or there’s not
Donna: That’s true that’s true. You can get a feel for a person like ah I really don’t think I want to go out with this person anymore
Michael: You can tell really quickly. Or you might sense someone is creepy. I mean all sorts of things.
Donna: And you can’t do that online. You can’t tell creepy online.
Michael: Well sometimes you can but a lot of times you can’t because part if is pictures can be out of date. But a bigger part is someone might be very funny and witty online. But it could be their whole office writing the email.
Donna: Oh you’re right, I didn’t think about that
Michael: Yeah, face to face you really can’t fake it it’s who you are.
Donna: That’s true that’s a good point. And I noticed that for me I did that before. I got online and I met people. And it was interesting that they are not the same person you meet online as they are in real life. They’re usually shyer or like you said I think people are writing their scripts or something for them or I don’t know they usin old pictures. It’s just interesting!
Michael: Right or they look at other peoples profiles and find someone else’s description who’s funny and post that there. But face to face you’re seeing things that are going to matter you much more which is the kind of impression a person gives off face to face.
Donna: My question to you is it true that for every 10 women there is 1 guy. I mean is that true or not true?
Michael: It’s funny. This is one of those sort of stories that is leftover form WW2 and people still think about it. If you look at the demographics the US census figures. There are more women than men in DC but that’s including the nursing homes.
Donna: Oh, well they date! (Laughter)
Michael: (Laughter) Yeah. I mean women live longer than men. But when you start breaking it down by age you see very different figures. Especially when you break down single vs. married because women marry at a younger age then men do on average. So for 20 somethings in DC there’s more single men then single women. For 30 somethings there’s more single men then single women. It’s about age 36 or 37 you see a changeover and then you start to seeing more..
Donna: Because they’re getting divorces and they’re getting their trophy wives.
Michael: Because men marry the younger women
Donna: They’re trading in their older wife
Michael: Well, look at it this way if men marry younger women it means there’s too many single women at the upper age ranges. But mathematically that also means there are too many single men at the lower ones. People don’t realize that that could be the second half of that equation.
Donna: Hmm I didn’t think about that. That’s true. So my question is what’s a great place to meet people?
Michael: It’s good to try different things. If you’re in your early 20s go to the clubs definitely try it out. People get sick of the clubs pretty quickly because they find you can’t talk it’s all about looks. But then once you try to talk to the person you can find you have nothing in common there’s no real attraction there.
Donna: Yeah like I kinda like this guy! Pff.
Michael: My whole point with getting to know people is that you need to talk to each other and then you can see who you hit it off with. We offer speed datings in addition to our other events we offer speed datings 7 days a week and we offer them specialized by ethnicity, by age, ya know every age range we offer from twenties to baby boomers and the whole focus is you talk to someone for 4 minutes then you rotate. And you can tell very quickly you can rule out a lot of people and tell who you’re not interested in and then see who’s left. But I love the idea of just getting you talking to a lot of people.
Michael: Because when you talk to people, say you walk into a room and say you see 100 guys there. There might be 10 that you know you want to meet 10 that you know you’d never be interested in.
Donna: You can’t tell by looking at a person!
Michael: You can tell certain people you’d never be interested in.
Donna: Really? See I can’t do that.
Michael: (Laughter) OK
Donna: Because physically I don’t really go about what the physical look like. Because you don’t really get to know the real person.
Michael: Mmhmm. Well I was getting to that anyway. For a lot of people there’s going to be 10 they’d never be interested in and 10 they definitely want to meet. And you get to meet those 10 you definitely want to meet. But the other part is these 80 in between which is I think a little bit more that you were alluded to. These 80 in between were basic ally invisible to you and when you start talking them one after another after another some of these you’ll find you like that you didn’t even noticed before.
Donna: Like wait I didn’t even notice you were here?!
Michael: Right because you noticed the 10 that everyone else I the room noticed. But these other 80 that were perfectly good people that you just didn’t even notice. And that’s what I love about getting people talking to people talking to a lot of people. You get to meet the one you really wanted to meet beforehand. But all these others that maybe you didn’t notice and that once you talk to them you’re like Wow this is really someone who is a good match for you.
Donna: So speed dating how does that work just in case the audience doesn’t know? What exactly does that consist of?
Michael: Sure. We sit down the men and the women. On weeknights we usually get about 30 people 30-50. On weekends we usually get about 50-80 people and evenly split.
Donna: Wow that’s a lot of people.
Michael: Yeah it is a lot. And we seat the men and the women. The women stay in their same seats. The men we have rotate in a circle every 4 minutes so every man meets every woman. You take notes on who you meet. you take the sheets home with you. You can log into our website the next day. You can send messages to anyone from the event that was at the event you were at. We don’t reveal any last names. We don’t reveal any email addresses. As a woman you get to protect your anonymity. All a guy knows is your first name. As a guy you get to contact the women because you can do it through the website.
Donna: Do you ever find that in some of your events, you do different events I know, but do you find the same people at the different events?
Michael: Well we host 1000 events a year. We host more than 365 speed datings a year. Certainly some people repeat. It’s unlikely that if you came to a few you’d see the same person because we offer them every day.
Donna: That’s what I was thinking.
Michael: Right. No, because it’s so large and we have 200,000 members in DC. So it’s unlikely that you’d see more than maybe one person you’d seen before. One of my key marketing focuses is every event it’s more than half the people’s first event. That way it’s always fresh new people that keep it exciting. That keeps it interesting.
Donna: Oh that sounds good. Now where do you find the people? Or do they just jump into your site, or referrals? Like me I just bumped into your site.
Michael: Initially I started it through word of mouth hosting the parties. Initially I kept it kind of secret in my group and we got a big following when they were free events and it had this cache to it. As we grew we became more commercial so we don’t’ do that anymore. But that was how we initially got the following just through word of mouth. Then I started getting out a lot to other places collecting emails telling people about us. Then we started doing a lot of Search Engine Optimization. Ya know if you do a Google search on speed dating dc we come up first.
Donna: Oh OK. Good
Michael: Yeah. Then we started doing things like we do a lot of targeted events and if we do a target event we’ll promote that event to other groups that focus on that target group. For example if we do an Asian event we’ll also have Asian groups help promote the event.
Donna: Oh that sounds good.
Michael: And we do that for every kind of event we do and all these things help feed into the main group.
Donna: So it’s an international dating site? I mean you have all different types of nationalities, and religions and all types of things.
Michael: Oh yes we have everything. And as we’ve gotten larger it’s definitely gotten incredibly diverse.
Donna: It’s in different states too. I noticed. It’s like all over the place!
Michael: Yeah we’re in 6 cities but we’re based in DC and we’re the largest by far in DC. This is where I’m based this is where the company is based so this is where our focus is.
Donna: OK. Now what about the stigma of dating online? Do they still have that? Or?
Michael: There is still stigma to it but again that’s all in people’s minds. Because a lot of people think oh you should meet someone naturally and when you’re in school that’s fine but the problem is once you get out of school it gets harder. So you really need to take control over your own life.
Donna: Yes! And you’re with me Donna Briggs on Life Talk! And we’ll be back once we hear from our sponsor. Thanks for joining us!
Donna: And we’re back with Michael Karlan, President and Founder of Professionals in the City. How ya doin Michael?
Michael: Doin well.
Donna: I love this topic. Professionals in the City is an interactive website that helps Professionals find dates, or go on dates, or just someone you can talk to for coffee, dinner, lunch. What are some key elements of a good date? Five key elements that you can give us maybe.
Michael: Ya know it’s an interesting question because we teach a lot of dating seminars and years ago we use to have therapists and counselors teach them and we don’t allow them to teach our seminars anymore.
Donna: Any reason?
Michael: Because everything they teach tends to be wrong. The things they teach tend to be when you’re in a relationship. Ya know about being honest, sharing your feelings. Which is great once you’re in a relationship. But what we’re focusing on is when you first meet someone generating attraction. And a lot of times when you first meet someone you might feel very strong feelings of attraction but it’s really infatuation. And if you express those to someone else, a lot of times you’re more likely to scare them away.
Donna: You may be coming off as needy.
Michael: Exactly. So, in fact, when people say what’s the most important thing I say don’t be needy. To give more specifics, a lot of times when you’re a guy and you think you really like a girl but what you’ve always been taught is bring her flowers take her to a movie.
Donna: I like that! Yea!
Michael: There ya go. Take her to a really romantic restaurant. The problem is if the woman already likes you she likes you anyway. But let’s she’s on the fence or she’s not sure and is just giving you a chance, if you do all of these things it’s going to make her feel a lot of pressure. And it makes her think..
Donna: Well not me!
Michael: Well there ya go.
Donna: (Laughter) I like it!
Michael: Ya know this really expensive restaurant and the woman could be thinking, “Well I just sort of gave him a chance, but ya know he has all of these expectations, ya know what is he expecting out of it. He seems like a nice guy. But I’m just not sure.” It’s much better to be sort of casual and fun and light about it because the whole point is to not make the person feel pressure. And if you feel nervous as well, you’re going to make the other person feel nervous. You need to be comfortable with yourself. You need to be in an environment you’re comfortable in. So, I think first dates it’s really nice to do something casual. Like for me, when I like a woman I like to go to a hotel lounge in DC. Something quiet, low key.
Donna: The Four Seasons is nice. That’s a nice lounge.
Michael: The Four Seasons is nice. I usually go for smaller places like Tavern Inn, Topaz. Just cause, ya know they’re small, there’s not a lot of people there. I’ll meet someone for a drink, if we have a nice time maybe we’ll order some food. But it’s just very casual because I never want the woman to feel pressured. A lot of times, the women I feel pressured by have these expectations. Because, if the guy is spending a lot and doing things like that it makes her feel like he has these expectations and she has to make a decision quicker. Another analogy and this is also true for a night club or any other sort of scene. Attraction is sort of like a light switch. If I come up to you and I’m like, ya know, you’re really beautiful will you go out with me? You have to instantly decide if you’re interested or not and you’re probably going to decide no. If I’m really good looking you’ll say yes, but most of the time you’re going to say no when you’re put on the spot. But if I come up to you and I’m asking you about your radio show and we’re talking for a while and then after talking for 20 or 30 minutes and I say hey we should go out for a drink sometime.
Donna: I’d be like oh ok sure!
Michael: Right. You’re making a decision based on me and the point is you try to delay the flicking of that attraction switch. The decision, “do I like this person or not.” And when you put a lot of pressure up front the person has to decide very quickly. If you take it more casually, the person has more time to decide. Also, the person gets in their head a little bit. Are they interested in me? Are they not? And you can call it game playing but really it’s just enabling the person to think themselves whether they’re interested rather than just focusing on who they are.
Donna: So what are some mistakes that you know of that men make? Like 5 mistakes that they make?
Michael: Sure. 5 mistakes men make. Let’s see. A big one is trying to impress the women. I call it qualifying yourself. A lot of times a guy, like if he’s not into a woman its fine. But if he meets a woman he really likes he feels like he needs to say things to impress her. Ya know, where he went to school, his job, some sort of accomplishments. And the problem with that is that it’s not ethical issue, it just doesn’t work. And the reason it doesn’t work is if I’m trying to impress you, what I’m transmitting subconsciously is t you’re better than me. I need to say things to push myself up to your level.
Donna: They make you feel good about going out with me.
Michael: Right and you can sense that. Even if you can’t verbalize it, you sense that on some level and it makes me lower value in your mind.
Donna: That’s interesting I never thought about that.
Michael: Yeah, one of the biggest issues a guy makes is trying to impress the women. Ya know, that just doesn’t work. Don’t be needy. You might feel strong or have strong attraction, but being needy, that’s a big mistake men make. Complimenting too much can be a problem.
Donna: It’s annoying.
Michael: Right, it’s annoying.
Donna: Like me. That’s annoying to me. To hear that so much, it gets old. Not saying that I’m vain or anything. If you hear something so much, it gets to be like oh my God. Here we go again.
Michael: Unearned compliments. Ya know. Like telling a woman who’s 40, oh are you 22 is offensive.
Donna: (Laughter) What if she looks 22?
Michael: But even then, complimenting a woman on her looks is usually a dangerous thing because she gets it all the time. Better to compliment her on something she earns. Like being funny or saying something intelligent so she knows you value her as a person and not just that you see her as this little Barbie doll.
Donna: That’s true, that’s true. That’s a good point. I never thought about that.
Michael: So those are some of the common mistakes that men make.
Donna: So what about the women? What mistakes do the women make?
Michael: OK. Common mistakes that women make are trying to take things too fast relationship wise.
Donna: And what is too fast?
Michael: Women, they might meet a guy and be like; look I’m looking for a serious relationship. I wanna have children. I’m not looking for someone to waste my time. Maybe not that direct, but.
Donna: But you know what’s funny? This is another site, J date. And I hear that a lot of women on there are like that. Soon as you meet them, I have a lot of friends who are Jewish and they go on JDate, guys that I know. And as soon as you meet them the lady is like “Look, I wanna get married and for 2 months I wanna do this and they’re setting up the wedding plans as soon as you meet the guy!
Michael: Right, because they don’t want to date a guy that’s going to waste their time. But the problem with that is that there are plenty of guys who are looking for a serious relationship, but they’re looking for a serious relationship with someone they genuinely like. And you don’t know right away whether you like someone. And that takes time. And for someone to put that pressure in your mind right away..
Donna: It turns a lot of people off.
Michael: It turns you off. And if you’re a good guy and someone is saying is this going to get serious a lot of times they’ll say I don’t know. The guys that’ll say yea I do are the guys that are willing to say anything. That’s the point. So you have to let things proceed naturally. And to try to take it too fast just doesn’t work because the guy needs to get to know you, you need to get to know him. So you need to see first, before you can marry him, do I enjoy having a meal with this person? Can I go to a movie with this person?
Donna: Can I be stranded in the house with this person? It was a snow storm and I had just started going out with this guy. And we were stranded in that big snow storm. And that was a good test. Because we were trapped in the house for over a week. And I couldn’t get out we were trapped, snowed in. That’s when I was like wow I guess you’re a keeper. I was just trapped in the house for a week with you. You know I was like, that was a good test!
Michael: Right. It’s a question of whether you want to be married or whether you want to be happily married. Ya know and if you’re looking for a good marriage after you get to know someone first it’s not just enough that someone’s willing to commit.
Donna: And going out on dates and a person doing things. You have to be able to be with a person, from what I find, just hanging out with them doing nothing.
Donna: Not like oh we’re going here, we’re going there. But like, can you just sit on a bench and just talk?
Michael: You have to feel a genuine connection. You need attraction, but then you also need comfort, you need rapport. And these are things that you need time to see if you have a genuine connection. Because early on what you feel is attraction most of the time.
Donna: But you have to get to know the person.
Donna: And another thing. What are the other things that women do to turn men off?
Michael: Like in DC, a big one is being too business like. Ya know, just like the women want the men to be men. They want the men to decide where to go and things like that. The guys want the women to be women. They don’t want the women to wear the same thing on the date that she would wear to work.
Donna: OK. Be a little sexy or something!
Michael: Yeah. And they want the woman to let a guy be in charge in terms of things with the events. They don’t want the woman to be emasculating the man a lot of the time.
Donna: That’s interesting. And you hear that a lot, that a lot of women act too bossy or try to be in charge or be the man of the relationship.
Michael: You hear that, and also I’ll get the complaint that a woman will say I’m a partner in my law firm. I’m smart. I’m successful. Why aren’t guys interested in me? Because they’re looking for someone who is a little more nurturing, they’re looking for someone to support them.
Donna: Not a man!
Michael: Support them emotionally, Right. And you know there are more traits that they’re looking for in a man. And you can find a relationship like that but if you do with a woman like that you’re not going to be the one in control. So if you want to be in a controlled relationship then you can go into dating that way but if you’re looking for a situation where you are really wanting the man to be the man in the relationship then you have to sort of let the man do that.
Donna: Now on your site there are different trips you can take. You can go abroad you can go local. What are the most exciting trips or the most popular trips that you have on your website.
Michael: Sure. We do one or two international trips a month and incidentally not all of our events are only for singles. We get singles and couples at our events. Our speed datings are all singles but other events like our trips are two thirds singles maybe one third couples, our most popular trips. Iceland, we go to the Air Waves Festival.
Donna: Oh that sounds exciting. I want to go.
Michael: Yeah that’s a fun one. And there’s a direct flight from Dulles so that’s nice. Um, Brazil for carnival that’s a really popular trip.
Donna: My grandmothers Brazilian.
Michael: Yeah, so those are 2 of our most popular ones. Croatia is popular. We do some trips to Cuba now. So it’s a wide variety of trips.
Donna: That sounds exciting. So, once you started this site, as a founder, have you met so many different types of people that it benefits you starting this site? Or are you just meeting so many people you can’t even think, you can’t even choose anybody. It’s so many people.
Michael: It’s benefited me. I’ve made a lot of friends. I’ve met a lot of women though it. What happened to me for a while was I began to see that there were so many options that after a long time I was like I don’t want to settle down, ya know?
Donna: Yeah you have so many options! That’s funny.
Michael: Now I’m beginning to think a little differently because I’ve done it for so long. But that’s part of the mindset I see with people. Like a lot of times guys will come up to me and be like “Oh, I really need a girlfriend.” And then they’ll come to a few events and be like, “Oh I don’t want a girlfriend. I just want to have fun.” But I’d rather have people have a lot of options and have a lot of fun with it and then decide when they want to have a girlfriend it’s they genuinely want one. Rather than have someone be with someone because they think there’s no one else out there.
Donna: Or obligated
Michael: Right. Because I don’t want people doing things out of scarcity because then you’re doing things out of fear which is always the wrong decision.
Donna: Yes and I always thought that was a bad idea for people to marry their high school sweetheart. I mean I know that sounds bad but to me, how do you know what you like if you never had anyone else?
Michael: And that’s the thing, and a lot of people get afraid.
Donna: You don’t even know! You never even dated anyone else! You don’t even know!
Michael: It comes down to things happening naturally. When people say I want things to happen naturally they stick with people that maybe they’re not that happy with but they feel like they’re resigned to this person. This is all they can get. And that’s why I think it’s good for people to come out and try different things, just so that they can try it. And they’re taking control over their own destiny. And if they try it and hate it then don’t come back its $30, ya know. But at least they’re giving it the opportunity.
Donna: And you can’t lose with that.
Michael: You really can’t. I mean even if you’re not interested in someone you’ll meet a lot of neat, interesting people.
Donna: That’s true. And you’re with me Donna Briggs on Life Talk and we’ll be right back from word from our Sponsor. Thanks for joining us.
Donna: And we’re back and I’m here with Michael Karlan President and founder of Professionals in the City, a socializing and networking organization that offers professionals in major cities an opportunity to unwind, have fun and meet people! Thanks for joining us Michael.
Michael: Thank you Donna.
Donna: What are the determining factors of someone saying, you know what hey I’m going to go to this website and I’m going to meet people?
Michael: Well ya know, people they just, a lot of times people say when, when you mentioned the stigmatizing, that they would never do speed dating. And what happens is, at some point, ya know they just realize they’re not meeting enough people and they figure well I’ll try something. And it’s interesting because they come in sometimes thinking they’re going to hate it and then they come out having a great time partially because their expectations are so low. And they go. And my whole point is making these fun. It’s been very fun, casual events. Generally you’re not meeting anyone horrible, you might meet a few people who you think maybe you find a little boring or something like that but they’re usually nice people and its only 4 minutes. I mean if you’re there 4 minutes with someone just be like, “Tell me about your career” and you can run out the clock. But you’ll also meet some people you really like. Like on average each person meets one or two people that they match with after an event. So it really does work. But it’s usually just people who realize that they’re not meeting people naturally and decide if they try it they have nothing to lose. It’s just $30 so it’s not a lot of money.
Donna: You can’t beat that! What is your website?
Michael: Our website is www.prosinthecity.com it’s short for Professionals in the City.
Donna: Ok and what about your Twitter?
Donna: I think I’m on your twitter.
Michael: Oh OK! (Laughter)
Donna: OK now what are the number one specialized events that you offer?
Michael: Sure. The most popular ones are the age based ones. Our thirtysomething ones are huge, our twentysomething ones are huge. Also a lot of our older events are huge. We also do baby boomers events and those get a big following. So the various age based ones are really popular. The ethnicity ones are really popular. We do black ones, we do Asian ones, we do Indian ones, we do Hispanic ones, we do Jewish ones. Those are popular as well because again that sort of thing it’s either not at all important to you or it’s very important to you and if it’s very important to you it’s great to meet a lot of people that fit your criteria.
Donna: Yes and that’s great. Now I like the Professionals in the City because it’s hard to find professionals unless you’re in your work environment and a lot of times in your work environment you don’t want to date someone you’re working with.
Michael: Well that’s the whole demographic and that’s why we’re not Singles in the City, we’re Professionals in the City because you meet other professionals. It’s not ya know only singles events, for example the Embassy events we do, and we do other events that aren’t just singles things. But the point is to meet other professionals networking style events and we do some business networking events but the focus is more on the social aspect. It’s not just about finding a date it’s a good way of meeting new friends as well.
Donna: I noticed people who go on the site. They become professional daters. Do you find that often people get so caught up in this meeting all these different people and they become professional daters. I’ve met guys like that. And they just keep dating and dating because they have so many people to date.
Michael: Yeah. That happens. Because again we have more than 200,000 members. Every event is more than half of the people’s first event. Some people, especially guys, do become a little bit addicted to it. Because it’s like a kid in a candy store and they date a lot, but what happens is they date a lot and then they meet someone they really like or they move on from it. But at least they’re doing it, again, from a position of abundance from a position of choice. As opposed to the opposite extreme when people meet someone and are afraid to let go of them.
Donna: Because they’re afraid they might not meet anyone else, or like I said before, you meet one person you’ve been with them you’re whole life and you don’t know anything different.
Donna: So it’s like well how do you know you really like this person because you’ve never dated anything else besides what you know.
Michael: Right and better to do that when you’re single then to be married and wondering what you’re missing out on.
Donna: And then you notice that too, a lot of people who are married, and they’re like oh you’re so lucky. You actually know who you like.
Donna: Because you didn’t jump in and get married and now you’re sitting around with this person who you’re like I don’t even really like this person. I don’t have anything in common with them or whatever.
Michael: And it’s a good way to date outside of your comfort zone because you can come to these events you can meet a wide variety of people. They’re all professionals but it’s a lot of people that you might not have considered previously. So you’re at least giving them a chance. And at least if you find you’re not interested in them, at least you know you’ve made an informed choice as opposed to some preconceived notion you’ve held over since childhood.
Donna: Oh OK. Now what are the percentages of marriages, just curious, from your site? I mean a lot of people want to be in serious relationships or they want to be in couple’s kind of thing.
Michael: Sure. We’ve had hundreds of marriages through our events. We don’t have exact numbers because again, we don’t ask for those numbers and people don’t want to admit they meet at the events. But I can say, from every event, on average most people pair or match with at least one other person.
Donna: That’s great!
Michael: Yeah so people do meet people. They go on subsequent dates. Again, we lost touch after a while we hear about marriages frequently but ya know again, a lot of times people meet at an event and then they move on from there so we don’t hear about it.
Donna: That’s great though. But I noticed also, when you’re doing the dating and you’re going out, it’s hard to find someone with the same interests and that’s what made me call you and say I’ve gotta get this guy on my show. Because you have specialized events for what you’re interested in.
Michael: We do do ones based on interest. We do travel lovers, we do food lovers, we do music lovers. But it’s interesting because when you asked me what the best datings were, you know I said ones based on age, based on race or religion. What I find with interest is it’s not as important as people think. You’re looking for people you feel a connection with.
Michael: And there’s certain things for you that are very important. For example age is important for a lot of people so we offer a lot of age based ones. But a lot of times people think interest is important but it’s really not quite so important. Unless you’re really into a specific interest. You can always find friends who are into that interest. My focus is more finding someone who you feel a genuine connection with.
Donna: And like you said before, it’s a switch usually. You meet a person and you’re like, well I guess I like this person but really I don’t know. It depends on the chemistry.
Michael: Right. Online people use things like interest to rule people out but I’ve just found in practice it’s not so important of an issue in real life.
Donna: So, in your own personal experience do you find this has helped you have more insight on relationships? I’m guessing that it has.
Michael: It’s given me immense insight on relationships. I was trained initially in school as an accountant and as a lawyer.
Donna: Not as an accountant! You seem too fun to be an accountant!
Michael: And that’s the thing. So I understood things very well but not people. People were more like a black box to me. And in doing this year after year and I begin to see people follow rules just as you see in accounting and law but they’re just rules that you don’t necessarily know about. And that’s why I stopped letting therapists teach seminars.
Donna: Social Rules
Michael: Social rules. And again, the whole point that people are governed by their emotions not their logic. And just seeing how it effects people’s interactions.
Donna: That’s so funny. You would never think that you were an accountant. You seem fun and, not that all accountants aren’t that way, but the ones I know seem more straight laced and ya know not so exciting. But it’s funny, you can’t judge a person based on what they did or their career. And I would do that.
Michael: Well I think I want to do something more social as well so I figured I’d get that background and it’d be useful background for doing something else and I think having a background like that has enabled me to grow this so large to the point where we do so many events now, having that kind of a business background.
Donna: Ok. So you started the company Professionals in the City, and what was your feedback from your friends and family. Just curious. I mean what did they say. “Oh you’re crazy don’t do that!”
Michael: When I started this, nothing like this existed. So it was hard for people to understand what I did. I mean people would be like, “Are you a caterer?” That was kind of the thoughts that they could most closely relate to. Which is so distant from what it is I actually do and nothing like this existed. Now there are more social groups out there but they tend to be very specialized. You certainly have church groups and temple groups or things like that or groups out rock climbing, ya know very specialized groups. But just sort of general groups for professionals, I mean, we’ve gotten so big that it definitely gives us a big edge over things just because you come and the events are large. A lot of times people try to start up groups like this and they’re just tiny and they tend to fizzle out. And when I started this nothing like this existed so there was a space for it but I had to explain to everyone what it was and that’s why I started out with things more traditional like night clubs.
Donna: So your friends and family, they were supportive I guess or they just thought “Oh he’s on his new things he’s doing.”
Michael: Well, what I was I was a lawyer. I was a 6 year associate at a large law firm here in DC. And so I made myself very marketable as a lawyer. SO I left to start this with the idea that I could do this, say I failed after a year or two, I was marketable enough as lawyer that I could of gone back to law.
Donna: OK so it wasn’t a big deal.
Michael: Right. So people were supportive. I mean they thought I was kind of crazy. They’re like it’s a good way to meet women, a stupid career move. But the fact that I was already marketable as a lawyer meant I could do this and if I failed I could go back to law so that was the thing.
Donna: That was your Plan B.
Michael: People didn’t think it would really succeed because nothing like this existed. But I had a vision for it.
Donna: I think with you coming from New York. Most people from New York think outside the box. And here most people don’t think so outside the box and that’s why you were able to start this company and be so successful with it.
Michael: Well right. DC was a very good city for this. It’s a very transient city you have a lot of young people here you have a lot of single people here they don’t know anyone. So when I moved here from NY, I loved DC. One concern I had was there was a lot more going on in NY then in DC and that’s why I had the idea well why don’t I create this so that there’s a lot going on in DC as well. And that’s why now we host events 365 days a year.
Michael: Every day.
Donna: Wow that’s something. I didn’t know that. Now, are holidays hard? Do you have holiday events? Because a lot of single people are lonely on the holidays. What do you do for something like that?
Michael: Yeah, holidays we do events. And it’s neat because holiday weekends we’re frequently the only game in town. Because the city is empty so we’ll have an event and there’ll be bunch of people at that and everything else in the city is pretty empty. Our biggest night of the year in fact is New Year’s Eve. We have 3,000 people coming to that.
Donna: Wow where is that going to be located?
Michael: That’s at the Capital Hilton on 16th and K Street, 2 blocks from the White House.
Donna: That’s a nice place too.
Michael: It is a nice hotel.
Donna: So is what you’re going to have is it black tie? Is it gowns? Or what is it?
Michael: its black tie optional and we’ve rented out the whole hotel. Every ball room we’ve got a different activity going on. So you can go from activity to activity all night. Ya know kind of like Disneyworld you just go to different activities.
Donna: That sounds like a lot of fun!
Michael: It’s a lot of fun.
Donna: So there’ll be like a band and different..
Michael: We’ve got several bands; we’ve got several DJs, in one room we have speed dating all night. So you can come, you can speed date for an hour and then you can walk around and you’ll know all of these people at the party already.
Donna: Oh that sounds fun!
Michael: It’s fun. For couples we give them red bracelets and for singles we give them green bracelets. So that way you can tell instantly who’s part of a couple who’s not. That means if you bring a date you don’t have to worry about people hitting on your date. We have dance lessons for couples we have comedians, we have a hypnotist, we have karaoke. So the point is all night you just go from room to room and do different activities.
Donna: That sounds like a lot of fun!
Michael: It’s a lot of fun
Donna: Is there a dinner served to?
Michael: There’s a dinner. We serve dinner from 9:00-10:30. We also offer a lower priced option beginning at 10:30 that does not include food for people who are more cost sensitive.
Donna: So what time does it start?
Donna: 9:00 OK. And you get reservations online?
Michael: You have to purchase tickets online. Purchase them at prosinthecity.com. And the price does go up at the very end so I’d recommend you buy now.
Donna: Of course. Hurry up and get your tickets! I’m excited about this whole thing. When did you actually start doing the holiday events then? You said there was nothing really going on in the city for the holidays.
Michael: Well, I started the company in 1999. We started doing New Year’s Eve December 31, 1999.
Donna: Ok so it was as soon as you started.
Michael: But it was just about 5 years ago that we started doing events routinely on holiday weekends because I always thought of those as slower times because the city is pretty empty. But we had reached a sized by then that I realized even though the city was empty it was an opportunity for people to do things when there’s nothing else going on.
Donna: That’s true
Michael: It’s really us or nothing. Same thing for Sunday nights. We use to never do anything Sunday but now it’s great because like I said you could come to our event Sunday night or you can stay home. There’s not a lot else going on these days on a Sunday.
Donna: Now most of these events I guess you wear business attire.
Michael: Um, business casual. New Year’s Eve is black tie optional but most things business casual. I mean something you’d be comfortable in you could wear business attire, jeans or khakis, just whatever you’re comfortable in really.
Donna: Ok. And you’re with me Donna Briggs on Life Talk.
Donna: And we’re back. I’m here with Michael Karlan President and founder of Professionals in the City, a website that helps singles or people who just want to meet people get together in Washington DC. How ya doin Michael?
Michael: Doin well, you?
Donna: I’m doing great! I stumbled upon this website from a friend of mine and they have these wonderful events every month at the Embassies. And my friend went to the Saudi Arabian embassy and he had a great time and he’s like oh, here’s this website! It’s great! You should check it out! And I thought, I’m going to call up Michael Karlan and he’s going to be on my show so he’s here right now it’s great. My question to you would be, where do you have your singles events and what locations are the most popular?
Michael: We do the most events in Washington DC. Close to Metro Center, like Finn and Porter is this restaurant we use downtown right by Metro Center and we’re there a lot. But we use a lot of different venues because different venues appeal to different people in different areas. We do a lot in Arlington as well that’s real popular. Then we do things in the surrounding suburbs. As we go further out from DC ages do tend to get older when we do things in Fairfax, in Reston or in Columbia, or Bethesda or Rockville. But we do do things in the suburbs as well but the most popular events are in DC or Arlington.
Donna: Oh OK great! Now, you were talking previously about your seminars and I thought that was exciting. What are some different seminars that you give?
Michael: Sure, we offer seminars about once a week. One of the best seminars we offer is a Body Language seminar. Those are a lot of fun on how to read people and also what messages you might in variably be sending off through your body language.
Donna: Wow, that’s heavy.
Michael: It’s really interested actually.
Donna: So do they do like a back and forth skit kind of thing. Like a person does something and this person says well this is the body language that says it’s negative or positive or.
Michael: Well they just show you little subconscious things like I’ll give you an example. Say I’m talking to you and a guy comes up to me and is like “Hey Michael it’s great to see you, it’s a really nice event” but his feet are pointed towards you, even though he’s talking to me. He’s approaching with the idea that he wants to talk to you and he’s using me as a pivot to get to you. So like if you’re with a girlfriend and a guy comes up and approaches the two of you look at who his feet are pointing at rather than at who he’s talking to because a savvy guy will first approach the one he’s not interested in and talk to her but people’s usually aren’t aware of their feet because it’s so far away from their head. Basically they’re aware of their hands and their face.
Donna: Now I also read too that if you’re sitting with a person and its 3 people and all 3 of you are in conversation and you cross your legs, that’s the person that they really want to be talking to, towards the person.
Michael: Any one thing doesn’t mean anything. You have to look for patterns but you can also be aware with yourself the messages you’re sending out. So it’s useful in that regard. But it’s a bad sign if someone is crossing their leg away from you because say you’re with your girlfriend and I approach you and you don’t really want me in, subconsciously you’ll cross your legs away from me because you’re trying to shut me out where as if you did want me in you’d do the opposite.
Donna: Yeah. Well I had read that.
Michael: Any one thing doesn’t mean anything but you start looking at things and you see patterns and also you look at yourself because you think of the message you’re sending out to other people whether you mean it or not.
Donna: Mmhmm that’s true and sometimes people don’t realize the body language is so strong and people don’t realize that. It’s funny I was in an office building and a friend of mine owns the company and I was saying people’s body language here is just so odd. And he’s like what are you talking about. I’m like, I could just tell from the body language that people weren’t happy or they just weren’t, something wasn’t right in the office.
Michael: Right and with women a lot of times they might be shy but the message they’re sending is that they’re uninterested when really it’s just they’re a little uncomfortable but they’re shy.
Donna: Right their arms are crossed or you’re looking funny or your legs are a certain way. People don’t realize that they give out a lot of strong messages.
Michael: So we teach them things like that like holding your drink to your side rather than holding your drink front of your body because in front of your body it’s like a shield. If it’s to your side it’s not, you’re more open.
Donna: Hmm I didn’t know that, that’s interesting. Now, on first dates what topics should men avoid talking about when they’re going out on a date?
Michael: On first dates, or on speed dates for that matter, bad topics..
Donna: For men.
Michael: Right. OK one thing I see is people get in these resume fights. Like if someone tries to say something to impress you, the best thing to do if someone starts talking about their accomplishments, is to say oh wow that’s really impressive but invariably what I see a lot of is that people do in DC more so than other cities is ya know well I went to school here and another person says well I went to school here and suddenly they’re in sort of this competitive..
Donna: Like I went to a better school. No I went to a better school.
Michael: Right this kind of resume sort of fight and you just can’t win and if you win you lose. So the point is if someone starts down that road just be like, “Wow that’s so impressive” and let it drop. But guys invariably fall into the pattern of then trying to one up them. Another thing is trying to change someone’s mind. It’s sort of like you see it on Facebook people get in these political arguments and you’re not going to change anyone’s mind and you know the point is what do you want to get out of the date? Are you trying to find someone to see if you’re compatible with or are you trying to win an argument because you can win the argument but you’re going to lose the date.
Donna: That’s true, that’s true. And a lot of times I think too, for first dates, topics of conversation you should avoid politics.
Donna: I mean, it seems like it’s just. I don’t know
Michael: I mean avoid them unless you share similar views. If you share similar views its fine. The problem is when you have different views and you can usually get some idea from it if someone has a different view than yours. Just let it drop; don’t belittle their point of view because it doesn’t serve a productive purpose.
Donna: That’s true. And what about women?
Michael: Women certainly similar things for those. I’d also say with women don’t talk about past dates, ya know past boyfriends, things like that. Guys want to have a certain image, especially in the very beginning, and if you start talking about that I think it sends a different kind of image. Again, you can eventually, but it generally is not going to serve your interest.
Donna: No, OK. Now when you started this company did you ever sit in and listen to what people were doing or did you let them just go on their own? Just curious.
Michael: I mean, I hear what people are doing. I mean I’ve hosted more than 5,000 events so I’ve seen it all at this point. Ya know you asked me some of the things not to talk about, let me bring up some of the things you maybe some of the things to talk about?
Donna: Yes! We should do that.
Michael: Well a common thing people always ask is what do you do? And people are like Oh don’t ask that. Ya know its fine to ask that but after you ask someone what do you do? Ask, how do you like it? Because the whole point is you want to get people talking about feelings. Because if you do what you do and they say and start asking technically questions about it, it’s like a job interview. But if you say how you do like it you’re getting into emotions and you really want people talking about emotions. And say they pause before they answer, then your next question should be Oh I noticed you paused, what would you do if you could do anything you want? The whole point is then you get to talk about hopes and dreams. You want people talking about emotions and feelings. You don’t want them talking about logical things, that’s the point. You also want to change topics a lot. If I love motorcycles and you love motorcycles we could talk about motorcycles for hours but then all I am is motorcycle guy to you. You need to change topics because that’s how you draw a connection. Another thing is tell a story about yourself and then ask a question. One big mistake guys make is they machine gun women with questions. They think they’re being sensitive asking question after question but really, especially in the very beginning, tell a little bit about yourself and then ask question. Don’t only talk about yourself. It’s good in the beginning to give a little more actually than you’re asking ya know, asking in terms of questions. Because too many questions just makes somebody feel uncomfortable.
Donna: That’s true. It makes them feel like, “Am I being drilled on an interview or something?”
Donna: (Laughter) And it’s funny. People don’t realize, what turns people off until after the fact. Like I went out with this guy one time and he just kept talking about his ex, or he starts talking about one person or what they do. It’s like they never were interested in what I like to do, or ya know it was just all about them. And I think a lot of people don’t realize that.
Michael: You see two extremes. One is just talking about themselves the other is just asking you question after question without even listening to the answer
they’re sort of just waiting for the next question to ask, rather than listening to the answer. That’s why I like with the job question you can ask ya know “How do you like it?” and then if they pause, “What would you do if you could do anything you want?” Because you’re getting into, well I’m listening to your answer and you’re getting into the emotional connection.
Donna: Or you find that a person asks you a question but they don’t answer any questions.
Michael: Well that’s sort of weird.
Donna: What’s the reason why? I mean do you find it’s because they’re just shy or they don’t want to disclose anything or they just want you to be an open book?
Michael: Sometimes they don’t want to be all vulnerable; they’re not really available for a relationship. Sometimes they’re just a little bit shy in the beginning and sometimes they’re just socially awkward. But what I’m trying to convey to people is ways to make someone feel more comfortable in a one on one interaction.
Donna: Oh OK. Now my question to you would be as a professional dater and owner of Professionals in the City, what suggestions would you give a person who is kind of leery about doing the online dating thing. How would you get them to say, you know what, I’m going to take charge of my life and I’m going to go on there. I mean how would you suggest them to do that?
Michael: I mean, you try something, if you don’t like it you can stop. You know, like is said with an event its $30. You can come, you can meet 15 people in a night which is more than you meet in a year and look if you don’t like it you can always leave afterwards. At least you know that you tried. Same thing online dating. You can try it. You know you can see what you think of it. Do it for one month. Don’t do something where you have to put a lot of money into it up front. But just do something where it’s not going to cost you a lot of money.
Donna: That’s true. A lot of the dating sites you have to put up thousands of dollars and you may meet somebody and like you said it’s online, you really don’t know what kind of person you’re getting.
Michael: Anything where you’re putting a lot of money up front I think is a dangerous thing. I think it’s something to be wary of. Like with us, ya know, we offer trips that are two three thousand dollars but you can come to a couple of $30 events first and see if you like it before you commit to some very expensive event. But when you’re paying for some sort of a service, two three thousand dollars, be very wary because once you’ve paid you’ve paid. With us, like I said, come $30 you don’t like it you don’t like it, don’t come back. Or online dating, if you could do something, sign up for 1 month initially. If you don’t like it don’t keep renewing.
Donna: That’s true. Now, your overseas trips, they sound very exciting, how is that set up? Is it set up for singles mostly or is it a mix?
Michael: It’s usually about 2/3rds singles. We usually get a few couples on some of the trips. Some are more singles oriented like the Iceland Air Waves festival or the Rio Carnival trip because they’re big parties. Others are a little more coupley ya know if you’re going somewhere really far away couples are more apt to do it. Like our trip to China or something. It’s just a much further trip so. We get singles and couples though.
Donna: Do you share a room or is it optional?
Michael: You get a double, you can always upgrade to a single. It costs a little bit more but we offer that option as well.
Donna: So they have the same events on the cruise ship or on the trip as you would here?
Michael: Well, I mean when you go on a trip you’re going to see the country. So it’s not the same events we have here but it’s an opportunity to go with a group. For trips like Iceland or Rio we’re in one city the whole time so you can spend time with the group or go off on your own as you see fit. For trips like China where we’re going to multiple cities it’s more of a traditional trip where you’re with a group the whole time you don’t have the option of separating yourself that much because we’re changing cities every couple of days.
Donna: That sounds exciting. Now I’m trying to figure out, how do you decide what places to go on your overseas trips? How do you figure that out?
Michael: It’s pretty much the same with what we do with our events. Which is we’ve been doing this for 13 years so it’s a lot of repeating. How well a trip sells determines how often we repeat it. And things that do well we repeat a lot. Again our website is www.prosinthecity.com and we’re Professionals in the City.
Donna: And thanks for joining us with Life Talk. You’re with me Donna Briggs and Michael Karlan, President and Founder of Professionals in the City. Thanks for joining us and have a great day!