Your fingers might be tired from all that Tinder typing and swiping, or you might just want to mix things up and do a bit of IRL dating. Either way, there’s no quicker way to get yourself in front of potential matches than speed dating. While it can be daunting to get your head around, seeing and meeting others in the flesh definitely helps to cut out a lot of the initial back-and-forth that takes place with online dating, and you get the chance to make your mind up about someone much quicker.
Robert Ryall, who founded speed dating company Date in a Dash eight years ago, knows his stuff when it comes to speed dating, and he shares his top tips for getting it right.
The first tip to success at any speed dating event is to look sharp. For men in particular, it’s important to make an effort (girls generally do!) and look the part. Don’t come along wearing an old pair of trainers and a creased or baggy shirt – first impressions count. Go for a smart/casual look. Not only should you look good but you should also smell good, so spritz some aftershave and chew some gum. “It still amazes me when people turn up and they say to me: ‘I’m just popping out for a smoke’ or to grab some food before an event starts. Don’t do it,” says Rob. Also, avoid bringing any unnecessary items with you like bags or shopping: it’s just not cool to be moving from table to table carrying your work rucksack or lunch box!
Have no expectations
Speed dating is quite random and some events are much better than others. If you have high expectations that you’re going to meet ‘the one’ at your first speed dating event then you might be disappointed. “I would say treat it as a bit of fun, as a night out with friends with no expectations, and you might be pleasantly surprised” says Rob.
There is nothing worse than rushing from work, not knowing where you’re going and bursting into the room late. Plan your trip, and get there early to familiarise yourself with the venue. Have a drink at the bar to calm any nerves; go to the toilet if you need to; meet the host and get on friendly terms.
Chat before the event
“One of the biggest tips I can give is to try and talk to other guests before the event starts. Generally what happens is that men tend to gather on one side of the room and the women on the other. This can get awkward, especially if you’re the first guy in the room and there are already two or three girls sitting down. If you then proceed to pull your phone out and busy yourself on it, it makes you look shy and lacking confidence.
“The beauty about our events is that everyone has paid to be there and are looking to meet people so you have no reason to fear any sort of rejection by saying hello before the event starts. Not everyone will have the balls to do this but the ones that do get a big advantage as they get extra time talking to their dates and it gets them in a talkative state before the event,” adds Rob.
Work out dynamics
Quite a lot of the time, girls will come in small groups. Men tend to fly solo although they sometimes come with a friend. It’s important that you work out who is friends with who before you complete your scorecard. If you get to the event late then you might not be aware of the dynamics and could end up matching with two best friends who will ultimately discuss their matches and both decide not to respond. You could also land yourself in hot water if you start discussing potential dates with one of the girls’ male friends.
Equally, sometimes it’s actually better to attend these events on your own and not in large groups. It can be quite intimidating and actually difficult to speak to a girl who is part of a larger group, particularly if the other girls are not interested in staying after the event.
Don’t ask boring questions
Let’s be serious: people are looking to meet someone interesting. Avoid questions like: ‘what do you for work?’ like the plague. “Never ask if they’ve been speed dating before. If they ask you and you have, just say no! You don’t want them thinking you’re a serial speed dater right?” says Rob.
Be funny, topical, ask a few questions about your date and listen to their answers. Try and link responses into new questions to build rapport.. e.g. ‘Where are you from?’ If she says ‘France’ you could say…’Oh really, my favourite food is French cuisine. In fact, I am learning to cook…’ Try and stand out as much as you can from the crowd. Most people will ask the basic questions and it can turn into a bit of a job interview after a while.
“This is something that I really don’t see enough. Although three to four minutes is pretty quick it’s still enough time to use your flirting techniques” says Rob. If you like someone then give a compliment.
Don’t get blind drunk
It sounds obvious but there is nothing worse than someone knocking a drink over, being too loud, asking inappropriate questions or making a tit of themselves!
Complete the scorecard
“We use scorecards to match dates up, so make sure you follow the rules and complete it otherwise you won’t get any matches” explains Rob.
Stay on after the event
The real fun happens after the event ends; the ice is broken and everyone is relaxed. By this point you’ll know who you want to speak to more. Rob says: “I often find that the ones who stay afterwards generally have more success. The people that leave straight away and rely solely on the matching system can be forgotten.”
The following day when you receive your matches, follow up with anyone you are interested in and try and exchange numbers as quickly as possible. “Move from text to phone conversation within a day or two if you can, and arrange your first date within the first week,” Rob concludes.
Date in a Dash events take place in London every week. See the line up.