Do you go to speed dating events? Have you ever? Have you thought about it?
If it appeals to you, even the littlest bit, I certainly hope you'll try it, because they can be a lot of fun, but there are a few things you need to know that they never tell you.
Let's start at the beginning: What is speed dating? It's a dating event where single (presumably) people get together and play a sort of musical chairs, getting about five minutes to talk to a prospective date before getting up and moving to the next one. At the end of the evening, you'll have had a bunch if mini-dates, and a list of names. Typically, you go home, enter your matches into the organizer's web site, and if the people who you picked also picked you, you get the contact info and you can contact them and get to know them even better. Simple enough. What else do you need to know? I've got a few pointers!
Honestly, it takes a few experiences of these kinds of events to figure out the ground rules. I've been to a few, and I want to share with you what I've learned.
If you go in with the right attitude, it can be a great party, but with the wrong approach it's like a dozen job interviews in a row, and that's not fun.
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
Be open minded! Give people a chance. The biggest mistake that most people make, women especially, when going to a speed dating event is that they're too narrow in their criteria. If you haven't been meeting the kind of people you want to meet in other parts of your life, it may be that you've been limiting yourself in every area. You have the opportunity to meet a lot of different kinds of people at this event. Use that opportunity to your advantage!
Men, on the other hand, usually go in without any kind of criteria or expectations at all. Most of the men I see at these events have a sort of "deer in the headlights" look in their eyes, and no real plan at all.
Go in expecting to have a wonderful time. Think Dudley Moore in "Arthur" (just without the booze)--he had a great time everywhere he went, becasue he wanted to. The people you meet at these events want to be positively impressed by you. Be the cause, not the effect (this is also great advice for life in general).
If nothing else, think of it as if it were a high-school lab class for social skills. You WILL improve your social skills with these kinds of events.
"You only have five seconds to make a good first impression," as they say, and nowhere is it more true than here. You will likely only get to talk to someone for a few minutes, so maximize what you're presenting. Dress well, and be aware of what you're conveying. You should wear clothes that you feel comfortable and natural in, but also that show you off the best. This is time to show off. Still, be natural, don't be too sloppy or too stiff, since it'll seem 10 times magnified to someone who only knows you for five minutes.
Presentation--what to talk about
Seriously, think about this before you go. The idea of preparing "material in advance" may seem counter to you're instincts, but you have so little time that you shouldn't waste it searching for something to say while you're sitting with a "date." I don't mean preparing a script, just be ready with a few fun topics that your date can relate to, and maybe that demonstrate what a nice person you are. Don't go into negative territory! Try not to let the conversation fall to job talk and the weather. That's boring, and you and I know you have some interesting stories to tell.
Prepare one or two stories about things you're passionate about, adventures or places or even movies.
Make sure you're stories are positive, and leave the "date" with a good feeling, since that's what they'll remember about you.
Don't get overly personal, don't gripe.
Ask questions: People LOVE to talk about themselves! Chances are, the person you're talking to also has a fascinating story to share. Ask them!
Ask people about their feelings, not facts! Men tend to get hung up on facts, but connections between people occur about their feelings. Ask about their feelings.
Show more energy than you might usually. Unless you're a very energetic person already, it doesn't hurt to amp up your intensity a bit. You only have a short time to make an impression. Strong impressions will leave them with strong memories.
Don't take it personally. Sometimes you just don't click with someone. It's OK, there are plenty more people to talk to. Very occasionally, you might meet someone who's just plain rude, or who comes there just to "pee in the punchbowl." Don't let them. DO tell the organizers, since they ruin it for everyone.
If you're brave, and you really like someone, ask for their contact info right there! You'd do it of you met them at a regular party, so why not now? Of course, don't take it personally if they say no. they might be shy with all those other people around.
AFTER THE EVENT
Be open minded and consider contacting people who might not have been exactly what you were looking for. Remember, you only got the slightest taste of the people you met, and sometimes people don't present themselves very well at first. Really consider giving people a second chance. I'm betting you have at least one friends who is close to you now, but whom you didn't much care for at first. Men, particularly, can be socially rather dense and don't show their better sides, while women can get overly demonstrative, and neither is an accurate representation of the person. If nothing else, some of these people might end up making great friends.
It's just a date. Too many people end up alone because they place too much emphasis on "a date." The first date you have with a person you meet will be the real chance to learn about them. Perhaps you were too impressed by her body to get to know the woman inside in just five minutes. Maybe the guy you thought you really liked at the event has nothing else to talk about but that one funny story. Five minutes is not enough time to really get to know a person! On the other hand, that guy or girl you just kinda liked might have needed more time to warm up and show their true greatness. Give 'em a chance, and have some fun! (Of course, be smart and safe, use reasonable common sense when meeting anyone).
Give it a try and let me know how it goes for you!
(c) 2009 Jeff Sauber