Writing this story about dating I realised how much of our lives revolve around being online, I mean for many singles the first interactions they have with a potential partner is through an online service, there are emails, that turn into instant messages, that move to SMS. Then and only then it might become a phone call, and oh my, the pain of actually having to meet someone!
Well, I’m guessing it’s the liberation of being face to face that keeps the speed daters dating.
When it comes to that special someone my view has always been – I’ll give everything a shot once. I mean let’s face it, if you’re even contemplating going speed dating then that means someone else out there just like you must be thinking the same or already doing it. I guess in the past there has been some stigma to online dating and dating events, but for the most part I’d say as a society we’re well beyond that – in fact the majority of my single friends engage in some sort of dating assistance – be it a match making services, online or speed dating.
So, back to the issues I see with online versus offline. I know in my general day to day dealings I’ll generally tackle an issue by email or some form of electronic means, most of generation x & y would use an actual phone call as a distant second choice, but online doesn’t require me to have to real-time interact, I can pre-think what I want to say.. but with dating there are other issues, I mean I’ve tried a ways of dating, and the first thing that struck me with online [specifically] instant messaging was the delay. I just assumed the girl of my dreams on the other end was chatting to 30 other wannabes, so she was jumping between chats… I remember one young lass even wrote a sentence that wasn’t meant for me… the person who was intended to receive that message clearly had a more advanced relationship with the girl than I.
So how do you meet someone if it’s not online? We’ll there’s the pub, nightclub and friends parties, but if you’re lucky you’ll blow a hundred bucks and maybe meet 1 interesting person and get 1 number.
There has to be a better way, right? When you lay it out like that speed dating makes sense. You pay the cash, which is cheaper than a Friday night out, you get 10 of the opposite sex to chat to, and here are the big wins if you ask me:
1. Everyone is genuinely single – I can’t count the number of times my friends or I have been chatting to a gorgeous someone, bought a few drinks and then found out towards the end of the night that they have a partner – this is by far the worst, you’ve blown cash and a large chunk of your social weekend on someone who only wanted an ego stroke! Painful!
2. It is safe – yep, as a I guy there is nothing worse than a female stalker – so I’m told. But for women it’s a safe environment and the host keeps everything flowing nicely. Let’s not forget it’s also a guaranteed way of meeting other singles who have a job (eg at least they had the cash to buy a ticket to the event).
3. No single friends required! Now this is something I learned by speaking to some single women, and I think it’s a biggie. Many women have seen their closest girlfriends hook up, get a long term boyfriend or get married and there are don’t have a single girlfriend to head out with on the weekends. The ‘hooked-up’ friends are more interested in a house warming party, or going out for dinner – they don’t want to hit the local bar and chat up some local talent. With speed dating you just show up on your own and away you go – simple! “Speed dating is actually a great way to find a girlfriend to go out with on a Friday night” said Candy – a speed dating host with Fast Impressions.
4. If you look at the champagne, finger food and 10+ dates you get across 3+ hours it’s actually a pretty economic way of meeting people – I did the sums and if you take away the cost of drinks and food, you’re paying between $10 and $15 an hour to be there depending on how much you drink – I mean for the most part it’s cheaper than the movies!
So I decided to grab a single friend, and give this a shot - we went with Fast Impressions – word of mouth works wonders and these guys have a great reputation, they have regular events (and most major cities around the country) and from what I can see the venues are all the types of places we’d normally visit for a catch up on a Friday night. This particular event took place at the Long Room on Collins Street in Melbourne’s CBD.
Now, there are obviously a number of different service providers out there, so how do you choose one? Besides doing a Google search for speed dating (which lets face it, probably not a bad start) how else can you find a good speed dating company?
After interviewing a number of speed daters, there were a few interesting things that came up.
Clare says “You need to think about the venue, I don’t want to be in the back of a pub, I want a classy venue, decent champagne and great food close to work and not too far to walk in heels”.
Debby pointed out that the price counts, “You need a price that isn’t the bottom of the market, but still represents value”. This is an interesting point, if the price is more than $50 but less than $100 then you can be fairly certain it’s going to attract a particular type of crowd – the same goes if you pay $20 for the night, it’s going to attract a completely different type of speed dater.
Melissa added that “I’m not going to lie, the person I’m dating, it matters that they can afford a decent event, it means they have a profession or skill that is valuable, plus that means they can also afford to take me out”.
Bruce said “The quality of the website made a difference, I figured if they invested in the website and the venues then they’re probably going to give you a superior experience”.
How do people find out about speed dating? It turns out that some of the speed dating firms also offer group singles parties – they’re slightly cheaper but again provide you with an environment to mingle and be social knowing that everyone is single. Single party goers are often offered cheaper ticketing and are exposed to the brand that way.
What types of people do speed dating?
Well I pretty much saw the whole gamut, I mean you go to these events to see diversity, have a conversation with someone you might not of otherwise had. So of course there might be 1 or 2 you’re not attracted to, but the point is if there are a few there you are attracted to then I’m prepared to say you’ve hit a home run!
Melissa pointed out that for really confident people they have no problems dating, “I mean they [confident] people don’t have an issue telling someone they like them, and strike a conversation, but if you’re a little reserved or worried about rejection then speed dating is soooo for you, speed dating is an equaliser”.
When you think about the fear we all have of rejection it makes a lot of sense that speed dating is a great way to break the ice – I have a few friends that if only someone could break the ice and get passed the first 15 seconds of fear and embarrasement then they’d find a genuine, honest awesome person.
For the confident person, rejection (being told to f’off) is simply their cue to talk to someone else, for many it can spell disaster.
Before the event do you get nervous?
The answer to this is yes – it’s not as bad as public speaking but my friend who went as a dating single required a few drinks before hand to calm the nerves.
I believe the nerves are a normal part of the process, the speed dating host for the night was Chris from Fast Impressions and he said depending on the crowd and venue (and who gets there first) there is generally a segregation of sexes, but by half time the segregation is gone and the mingle is on!
Something else that a few of the daters mentioned is that they feel the time pressure of speed dating ensures that there is no game playing. People are forced to converse within a time constraint, so you don’t get people playing head games, it’s an exchange of genuine body language and conversation.
Bruce said he has met same-sex friends at the events as well “I often get talking to a few of the guys before, during and after and you find you have a similar job, you’re both single and you end up heading out on a Friday night to give each other some backup”.
Bruce also said in the controlled environment of speed dating that he doesn’t feel like a drink supplier, the speed dating specialists ensure all the needs of both sexes are taken care of, which means he can focus on finding out more about the other person and doesn’t have to contend with the “is she using me as a drink supplier for the night, and keeping another man at home” situation.
So for my friend who attended, I guess you’re wondering how he went? Well firstly we had a beer after the event to debrief and it was hard to get him to talk about anything else, he was definitely on a high.
He said the cash for the event would have been the best spent money of the week, and this was a man who just a few short hours earlier thought it might be a waste of time.
Participants are given a binary scoring sheet (yes or no) and if two people tick yes to each other they’re emailed the next day with contact details of the other.
At the end of the speed dating everyone is encouraged to hang back and have a drink, talk a little more to those that interest them. It was at this point a few interesting methodologies came out to filling in the score cards – the women at the event tended to be pretty conservative, marking yes to a select few males. On the other hand the guys tended to be a little more liberal with yes votes, they tended to mark more than 50% of the women they dated as a ‘yes’.
As for my friend, he fancied a few of the girls and marked a number of yes votes, so now we wait and see if their feelings are mutual – I know he’s got his fingers crossed on a couple – you’ll be duly updated in a few days, I promise! Although I’m only going to track this to see if he gets a date or not, beyond that he’s on his own with the ladies – I don’t want to invade a potential blossoming relationship – ok, yes I do, but he doesn’t want me to hinder finding someone special.
Lastly, I’m going to end this story with a quote from one of the speed daters, which I think summed up the speed dating experience pretty well -
“Why try to catch fish in the ocean, when you can shoot them in a barrel!”
- Jenny September 2009.
To book your next speed dating adventure, we recommend www.fastimpressions.com.au
All the quotes above are real although the names of individuals has been altered to disguise their identity.
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