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The Short Version: Lock and Key® offers singles events with fun atmospheres and compelling icebreakers that often aren’t found at standard mixers. At a Lock and Key event, women wear locks around their necks and men are given a key to open one of the locks. The activity of matching keys to locks provides singles a low-pressure way to get to know one another. Even shyer singles don’t have to stress about approaching with the perfect opening line — as event coordinators can help introduce them to others who might become friends or romantic partners.
If you’ve ever been paralyzed by anxiety during an attempt to meet new people, as 16 million Americans experience, you already know that traditional mixers or happy hour meetups might not be the best venue for you.
Not only is it nerve-racking to muster up the courage needed to approach a single woman or man, but coming up with an engaging opening line can be equally as stressful.
Wouldn’t it be easier to connect with someone at an event where everyone wore a suggested ice breaker?
That’s exactly the concept behind Lock and Key. Singles at these events meet each other as they search for matching keys to locks. When women arrive at an event, they’re given small locks to wear around their necks, while men are given keys.
The shared incentive gets singles talking to one another, not only to try out their keys but also to strike up conversations. While some paired lock-and-key holders do hit it off, the focus of the event isn’t to pair off with the person who opens your lock. Instead, Sandy Daigneau, the company’s HR Manager and Event Coordinator, said the lock-and-key search serves as a playful icebreaker.
“One of my favorite success stories is of a big, shy teddy bear,” she said. “He ended up eyeing a woman from across the room and asked, ‘Can I see if my key can fit your lock?’ The lock didn’t fit, but she was the only person he talked to all night.”
Singles who attend these events find that participating in this simple, key-finds-lock activity works, which is why Lock and Key has exploded in popularity since its start in 2001. While Lock and Key kicked off as a way for South Florida singles to meet and mingle, the company has expanded to over 38 cities across the country with events in mid- to large-sized cities occurring as often as every month.
Singles turn to Lock and Key events because of the unique premise that helps them work the room with more confidence. The built-in ice breaker helps lessen the often overwhelming and intimidating feelings that come with meeting new people, especially in a setting aimed at striking up romance.
To further encourage singles to mingle, the events offer raffle tickets to those who find a matching lock-and-key pair. The tickets can win attendees prizes like gift cards to local restaurants, which are typically donated by community businesses, for new couples to use on their first dates. Sandy said that local businesses get a lot out of participating in the events through gift card donations.
Event coordinators also play an important role in bringing couples together by making these events stress-free.
“Successful event coordinators really are from different walks of life, but they tend to be nurturing and customer service-oriented people,” Sandy says. “If a potential guest calls them and says they don’t know anybody, our people will say, ‘I’ll be here to check you in and show you how it works.’”
Event coordinators know that even for confident daters, walking into a room of 50 strangers is intimidating. “It takes a lot of courage for some to sign up and come into that room,” Sandy said. So, it’s important for event coordinators to help boost everyone’s confidence by explaining the premise of the event and how it works right away. And, because first-time guests usually want to know that someone will be at the event to help introduce them to other attendees, event coordinators usually end up playing matchmaker throughout the evening, she said.
Every Lock and Key event sees several dozen singles looking to make new friends or find romantic partners. At mid-sized cities, events can draw as many as 75 attendees while larger cities may see up to 100 guests at a single event.
With so many attendees, Lock and Key events end up attracting singles from their mid-20s to their mid-50s.
“I have a lot of people who are older and want to date younger, and vice versa,” Sandy explains.
“That’s another great feature — you can come to these events and meet people of any age range. So it works for, say, people who are 30 but maybe want to date a little older.”
As you comb through the crowd to find a match for your lock or key, you’ll get a lot of practice introducing yourself to strangers. While most attendees dream of finding their perfect match at a Lock and Key event, the confidence that comes from meeting dozens of new people in a single evening can be an important takeaway for many.
Sandy shared the story of a guest who, while she didn’t meet her partner at a Lock and Key event, credits her romantic success to participating. “She told me that going to our events helped her build her confidence and make her own way.”
Because Lock and Key events help attendees feel more comfortable meeting strangers, Sandy said they usually find it becomes easier to connect with people throughout their everyday lives.
“Those are success stories, too.”
After 15 years in the business, Lock and Key still looks forward to planning and getting singles excited about its biggest events. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, and the busiest season for love, the company hosts huge events from late January through early February. Lock and Key knows Valentine’s Day can be a difficult time for singles, which is why it focuses so heavily on ensuring there are enough fun meetups planned. To that end, the company is also working to add more cities to its already expansive list of locations as well as further developing the market for singles in the cities where these events are already popular.
The more connections Lock and Key can make in a city, the more enjoyable the events will be, so the company seeks fun venues that ensures singles and new couples can hang out in an interesting setting with an engaging atmosphere.
“We love using venues that have a DJ or band or some kind of entertainment after the event,” Sandy said. “You may see a couple who stays to enjoy the music or you might see a group get along and stay to dance together.”
In addition to finding romantic partnerships, many people who attend Lock and Key events also end up with new friendships because of the encouraging icebreaker central to these events. While Sandy has seen many couples meet at her events, she was most inspired by the story of a couple who not only found one another at one of her Lock and Key events but also found their core group of friends.
“I went to the wedding of one of my success stories,” Sandy said. “And, at the wedding, there were people who met and became friends by coming to my events. They were a couple but also had developed these other relationships and friendships.”
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