Sometimes skeptical events are social events, such as the loosely organized “Skeptics in the Pub,” who meet to hang out and chit chat and drink social beverages. People show up at social environments ready to socialize and make friends. Doesn’t it sound like fun? It is fun! And it’s in such fun environments that some long-term relationships begin. But for some reason, which I’m sure you can elucidate, some people treat all skeptical events as social opportunities first, even when their stated agenda is to actually promote awareness of skeptical issues. Some skeptical events are monthly meetings, in which the local group gathers to discuss content for the newsletter, how to promote critical thinking in the local schools, what letters to write to an editor regarding a topical concern, or hear an invited guest talk about an area of expertise. These are business meetings. Sometimes these events are large, regional or national affairs, often set at hotels, places many people associate with vacations and fun. These are also business meetings, even if they are punctuated by social events that occur between the start and end times of the business meeting. Do not treat business meetings like social events.
People who attend these meetings are interested in the business of skepticism. It’s much easier to get business done, of course, when people are friendly to each other, which is why business meetings of relative strangers often have ice-breaking receptions and breakout sessions to help people feel less like strangers. Strangers who don’t know each others’ names do not make good idea generators, and it is harder to get business done when people are shy about speaking up. Receptions and breakout sessions serve the business meeting, even though they have in common with social events things like cookies or coffee. People often hit it off during business meetings and business interludes, too, and decide to attend social events together later–actual social events that are not labeled “reception following” or “meet ‘n greet.”
Do not ask women out on dates during business meetings. They are there to learn about skepticism and not to socialize beyond the requirements for interaction to accomplish the skeptical task at hand–a skeptical task they value highly enough to use their free time to attend the meeting and to work later on smaller steps to achieve a larger goal. They might have traveled several hours to attend the meeting, or spent a lot of money to get a pass to hear the keynote speaker. They may have even had to enlist the help of other people to walk their dog or water their plants while they were out of town so they could learn from prominent skeptics about how to use skepticism to make a better world. They are not coming to skeptical events to make it easier for you to meet and date women who share your beliefs. The chance to meet women is not a “perk” of your attendance. Unwanted romantic propositioning, in fact, is a real drawback to theirs. Why would they spend money and travel when they can get hit on by people who don’t care about their thoughts at home for free? If they stop coming to skeptical business meetings, you lose an ally for your cause. Aren’t allies more important than dates?
If you are singling out women at skeptical business meetings to talk to them, make sure you are talking about skepticism. That is what they are interested in. When they want to socialize, they will attend social events.