If the dating scene in your town has you and your single friends longing for the days of arranged marriages, or if you're happily attached and ready to take your matchmaking urges to the next level, it may be time to consider hosting a speed dating event.
Speed dating has been around since 1999, when Rabbi Yaacov Deyo and several of his single students put a new twist on the longstanding Jewish tradition of introducing young Jewish singles to one another at chaperoned gatherings. At a speed dating event, participants are paired up in a series of quick five- to seven-minute "dates." When the time is up, a bell or timer is rung, and participants move on to their next one-on-one conversation.
While seven minutes may not seem long enough to determine whether a new acquaintance is a potential match, Rabbi Deyo and other speed dating organizers have found that it gives participants plenty of time to gauge their level of interest or get a feeling that the other person is just not the right fit. As an added bonus, the round-robin setup enables participants to meet more potential matches in one evening than they might otherwise encounter in a month or more of traditional dating.
Speed dating services can be found in just about any major city, but there's no need to wait for the next scheduled meet-up in your area. Our tips for hosting a speed dating event will help you organize a gathering that's fun, relaxing and fruitful for participants while preserving your sanity at the same time.
Tips for Hosting a Speed Dating Event
- Make a List -- You'll probably want to start by making a list of all the single people you know. Don't worry if you don't have enough singles in your contacts list to fill the entire event; after all, if you did, you probably wouldn't need to speed date. Ask your friends (married friends, too!) to suggest single acquaintances or coworkers who might be interested. The more you're able to reach beyond your usual social circles, the better, since the whole idea is to give speed daters the chance to connect with someone new. Shoot for about 20 guests, with an even split between males and females. Too large a group makes for a long, unmanageable evening; too small and you're in for an awkward gathering with fewer possibilities for compatible pairings. If your own connections come up short, try posting a flyer at your church, workplace or gym, or creating a Facebook event and asking friends to spread the word.
- Pick a Venue -- The site of your speed dating event will help to set the tone, so be sure to choose wisely. Consider the noise factor and the ambiance, and avoid any place that's too loud, too bright, too dark, or likely to be deserted or overly crowded. At the same time, try to match your venue to your intended crowd. A swanky martini bar may appeal to established 30- or 40-something professionals, but the atmosphere (and the price!) could be a turnoff for recent college grads. Hosting the event at your home can help to keep costs down, but if you're participating as a dater or if you don't know all the guests, it's safer to meet everyone in a public, more neutral setting.
- Don't Forget the Basics -- In many ways, planning for a speed dating event is similar to planning for a cocktail party. If you plan to serve food, ask the restaurant or caterer to prepare simple appetizers that are easy to eat in small bites. Nothing too messy or awkward, and please, nothing with garlic! Keep cocktails light and sophisticated, and consider limiting the bar choices to beer and wine; this isn't the time for shots. Plan to provide enough for about two to three drinks per person -- enough to calm nerves or cut through the social anxiety, but not enough to lead to next-day regrets!
- Send Out Invitations -- You should try to do it at least three weeks before the event, and ask participants to RSVP so that you can get a head count. It's fine to charge a reasonable admission fee to cover your costs, and many online invitation sites allow you to collect the fee when guests RSVP; just make sure the invitation is clear about the cost of attending and whether food and drinks are included in the price.
More Tips to Make Your Event Run Smoothly
- Give 'Em Something to Talk About -- Before the event, come up with a few discussion topics and questions to get conversations flowing. (See our suggested questions on the next page!) You can hand out a short list of questions to each guest or leave a few conversation starters on index cards at every table. While you don't want participants to feel as though they're reading from a script, it can be helpful for daters to have a quick list to refer to if their nerves leave them tongue-tied.
- Sweat the Details -- Create spaces that are conducive to one-on-one conversations. Small bar tables or other two-person seating arrangements are ideal. Think about the logistics of moving speed daters from one conversation to the next. One possibility is to have the ladies stay put while gentlemen move up or down (table numbers may make this go more smoothly). Provide name tags for participants (first name only or first name and last initial), as well as clipboards, pens and comment cards so that daters can keep track of the people they meet. Comment cards should provide space for participants to list the name of each new acquaintance along with an answer to the question, "Would you like to see this person again?" Cards are kept anonymous and returned to you at the end of the event. If (and only if!) there is a mutual interest, you can then share contact information with the interested parties.
- Establish the Ground Rules -- Be sure participants know how long each conversation will be, what to do when the bell rings and what happens at the end of the speed dating session. If any questions or topics are off limits, be sure to say so. In the original speed dating program started by Rabbi Deyo, participants are instructed to stay away from any variation of, "What do you do?" or "Where do you live?"
- Let the Speed Dating Begin! -- Remember your timer, and keep dates to seven minutes each. Longer sessions slow down the flow of the event and increase the likelihood of awkward silences between daters. Take a 10-minute break halfway through the speed dating sessions, and allow a bit of time at the beginning and end of the event for guests to mingle. Most of all, have fun!
As promised, we have plenty of suggested speed dating questions on the next page to help you get things started.
Suggested Speed Dating Questions
As with any first date, the object of a speed date is to determine if the person sitting across from you is someone you'd like to know better. The difference is that you have just seven minutes to make that decision (and to make a good impression on your date), so start with the questions that matter most to you. We've included a few basics here, but you and the guests at your event might be better advised to skip the small talk and go right to the important stuff, like "What's your favorite breakfast cereal to eat for dinner?"
- What are your favorite hobbies/interests?
- Do you have any pets? Siblings? Roommates?
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
For a Little More Insight
- Are you an indoor person or an outdoor person? (Or a city person or a country person?)
- What would your dream vacation be?
- What's your favorite travel destination?
- What would your dream job be?
- What did you do last weekend?
- Are you a night owl or an early riser?
- What was the last book you read?
- What's your favorite Web site to waste time on?
- If they made a movie about your life, would it be a drama or a comedy?
- Who was your favorite superhero when you were little?
- Who is your favorite comedian?
- What is your favorite guilty-pleasure food (or music, or movie, or TV show)?
- What's the perfect midnight snack?
- Star Wars or Star Trek? The original Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, or the Johnny Depp remake? Sudoku or Words with Friends? Pirates or ninjas (and why)? Should brownies be made with nuts or without?
Questions to Avoid
- Anything too personal, including their address
- Anything too clichéd, especially, "So, what do you do?" If the question is allowed, everyone else will have already asked it, and some people find it rude, as though you're more interested in their status than in who they are as a person.
- Questions about salary or economic background
- Questions about past relationships
Of course, the most insightful questions will often be the ones your guests come up with on their own, so encourage them to be creative and ask questions that will help them get to the root of what's most important to them.
For more ideas about hosting a speed dating event, check out the resources on the next page.
- Abraham, Rakhi. "The 45 best speed dating questions you can ask a prospective date." (March 18, 2012) http://www.futurescopes.com/speed-dating/139/45-best-speed-dating-questions-you-can-ask-prospective-date
- Deyo, Sue and Yaacov Deyo. "SpeedDating Tip #3: Inappropriate Date Topics." (March 18, 2012) http://www.aish.com/d/w/48937777.html
- Ditch or Date. "How it Works." (March 18, 2012) http://www.ditchordate.com/how-it-works.php
- New York EasyDates. "Quirky Questions for a Memorable Date." Sept. 22, 2009. (March 18, 2012) http://www.nyeasydates.com/blog/speed_dating_tips_and_statistics/quirky_questions_for_a_memorable_date.html
- NPR.org. "Speed Dating with Yaacov and Sue Deyo." Aug. 17, 2005. (March 18, 2012) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4803880
- Original Dating. "The History of Speed Dating." (March 18, 2012) http://www.originaldating.com/HistoryofSpeeddating.htm
- Smart Dating UK. "Speed Dating Questions." (March 18, 2012) http://www.smartdatinguk.com/speed-dating-questions.asp