What Is Speed Dating

Men's Dating

What Is Speed Dating?

Amber Brooks

Written by: Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks is the Editor-in-Chief at DatingAdvice.com. When she was growing up, her family teased her for being "boy crazy," but she preferred to think of herself as a budding dating and relationship expert. As an English major at the University of Florida, Amber honed her communication skills to write clearly, knowledgeably, and passionately about a variety of subjects. Now with over 1,800 lifestyle articles to her name, Amber brings her tireless wit and relatable experiences to DatingAdvice.com. She has been quoted by the Washington Times, Cosmopolitan, The New York Post, and AskMen.

See full bio »

Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

Reviewed by: Jon McCallister

Jon McCallister

Jon came to DatingAdvice in 2016 with more than 15 years of editorial experience behind him. He has experience editing, writing, and designing at numerous publications, including the Gainesville Sun. Jon enjoys researching emerging trends and seeking out the companies, organizations, and individuals making an impact in the modern world of dating. He excels at working closely with writers and editors to improve the quality of online content.

Discuss This! Discuss This!

If you’re feeling a little burned out on dating sites and apps, you’re not alone. Time Magazine and other publications have reported that Gen Z singles are fleeing dating apps and sites in droves. Although plenty of online dating platforms are still going strong, there’s no question that a lot of young singles now prefer to meet in person. 

Enter speed dating, created by Rabbi Yaacov Deyo in the late 1990s. Speed dating brings a group of singles together in one place and lets them take turns going on mini-dates in a quick, orderly way. Instead of swiping through profiles, each participant spends a set amount of time — usually 10 minutes or less — talking to another participant, in the hopes of finding a romantic partner.

Dating sites and apps didn’t exist when speed dating came into the public consciousness, but it’s a viable alternative to finding love online. Some singles find themselves trapped in a loop of swiping, messaging, and ghosting that never seems to end, and speed dating speaks to their desire to get results. If you prefer to make first contact in person, it might be a good fit for you!

How It Works | Event Structure | Tips | History | Benefits | Challenges | Success Stories

How Speed Dating Works

Before you decide to jump into speed dating, it’s important to know how the events work and what to expect from your experience. A speed dating event can be a lot to take in! No one will expect you to be a pro the first time you attend, but you’ll be able to get the most out of each event if you have a little background knowledge and some realistic expectations.

Preparation is Key

It can be tempting to choose the first speed dating event you find and just show up, but to get the results you’re looking for you should do a little research and preparation first. A lot of different speed dating events exist out there – in fact, there’s an event for all personalities. Finding the right vibe will make a big difference in finding the right potential partners.

If you live in a major city, of course, you’ll have more options at your disposal. Smaller towns may have a few events per month, while cities like New York or Chicago boast more than one speed dating event somewhere in the city almost nightly. Eventbrite is an excellent resource for finding events in your area, wherever you are. You can also check community centers, bars and restaurants, and social media platforms to find the details on local events.

Eventbrite logo
Eventbrite lists many events where singles can mix and mingle.

The most common types of speed dating events are organized by age range and location. Professions and religion take a close second. If you have a particular hobby or interest, you can probably find an event catering to that. There are also speed dating events for neurodivergent people, LGBTQ+ speed dating nights, and even speed dating for charitable causes. 

Once you’ve found an event that appeals to you, it’s time to do a little digging. Although individual speed dating formats can vary a bit, there are some near-universal rules when it comes to rules and format. 

All speed dating events will have a set time limit for you to meet and chat up individual participants. The specific time limit may be 60 seconds, or it may be as much as 10 minutes. Part of getting ready for the event should include finding out that detail. 

You should also look for event-specific rules set by the organizer. There might be a dress code, or there might be particular things you’re supposed to avoid or highlight in your conversations with other participants. Check out the rules and make sure you understand them before the event.

The goal of speed dating is to meet several people in a short time and hopefully get at least one date, so you should plan to make the best first impression you can. That includes being all in! If the event has a particular theme, join in enthusiastically. You don’t have to get weird about it, but if you’re going to a costumed speed dating event, you should probably put some thought into your costume. 

If there’s no specific theme, your best bet is to choose a nice outfit, get dolled up a bit, and wear comfortable but presentable shoes, since you’re probably going to be moving around. Don’t get drunk beforehand, even if you feel the need for some liquid courage — nobody wants to spend even a few minutes chatting up someone who’s completely intoxicated.

Do your best to put your best foot forward because once your time with each participant is up, it’s up.

The Event Structure

The goal of speed dating parties is to help singles meet as many prospective partners as possible in a relatively short time. The format of a speed dating event is going to be the same no matter which one you go to, though you may encounter a few variations on the basic structure.

Rotating Tables

In some ways, speed dating is a little like musical chairs: The setup includes a pre-decided number of tables for two, which are ready to go before the event starts. Like musical chairs, participants move from one seat to another at predictable intervals. Unlike musical chairs, the emcee of the event doesn’t take any chairs away over the course of the event. There are a few possible variations on this particular theme, and in fact, a lot of speed dating events will use a musical cue to tell participants to change their seats.

Photo of Speed Dating
Every speed dating event is unique, but the structure is more or less the same for all of them.

To keep things orderly, usually one set of participants stays at the tables while the other set moves. For example, in some speed dating events, all of the women remain seated, while the men change tables at each interval. On the other hand, some events have everyone move seats, and the only rule is to make sure that you don’t end up with the same partner more than once. 

Not all speed dating events feature two-person tables — or even tables at all — but most organizers find that a set of two-top tables is an easy way to give every pair of participants enough privacy to have a quick chat, while also being simple to set up and break down. 

Whatever the specifics of the setup at your speed dating event, it’s a good idea to come prepared to move around the room over the course of the night.

Time Limits for Conversations

Another key feature of speed dating is a time limit. The whole point of speed dating is to make quick contact with several people over the course of the event. That means each conversation can only last for so long. The emcee will likely announce the time limit for each mini-date at the outset to make sure that everyone has clear expectations.

Although the amount of time you can talk to your potential partner can vary, it’s called speed dating for a reason! Expect to have between one and ten minutes to make your first impression and get a feel for your potential partner. You’re likely to get the lower end of that spectrum rather than the higher end, so keep that in mind while you’re mentally preparing for the event.

Scorecards and the Matching Process

A final key feature of speed dating is the use of some kind of scorecard. This can feel intimidating, but it isn’t an indication of your ultimate quality as a person. Some events will use a very simple scoring system to indicate romantic interest and nothing more. 

The matching process starts out being random. Many speed dating events assign each participant a random number and then pair numbers for the first round. From there, you might be told to move to your left at each interval, to your right at each interval, or some other method of keeping the flow of traffic fairly consistent while making sure everyone talks to everyone. 

At the end of the event, the organizers collect the scorecards and provide each participant with the contact details of any dates who liked them. The particular method varies from one event to another, but usually, you’ll get a phone number, email address, or some sort of contact information for your matches. You may also get a single final scorecard with a tally of your mutual matches. The emcee of the event will likely provide the details on what to expect.

Tips for Excelling on Speed Dates

The name of the game when it comes to speed dating is first impressions, and the best way to get the most out of your speed dates is to focus on putting your best foot forward. You won’t have a lot of time to get to know your fellow participants or to endear them to you, so you should put effort into practicing, preparing, and planning. Make sure you can get across what you’re looking for and who you are in a creative, engaging way. But keep it brief!

Break the Ice Without Making Things Awkward

The first skill you’ll want to brush up on before you plunge into your speed dating adventure is to break the ice without breaking the conversation. You want an icebreaker that will inspire a conversation. Reddit users have a lot of opinions on the topic, but we prefer to support icebreakers that are backed by behavioral science.

Photo of a handshake
Start your speed date with an original and thoughtful question to kick things off.

People enjoy talking about their passions, so icebreakers based on the other person’s interests, hobbies, lifestyle, or career can stimulate a quick bond. Of course, your quick bond is even more guaranteed when you find a shared interest! But even if your potential date-mate has very different interests, starting with that topic can open up a stimulating conversation.

You can also go for off-the-wall but intriguing questions: “What three wishes would you ask a genie for?” or “Would you rather sing or dance?” This type of icebreaker can give you insight into their personality. 

At minimum, make sure you have a thoughtful, interesting first conversational gambit to use, and practice before you get to the event. You don’t want to find yourself flustered and fumbling over “So, how are you tonight?” time and again, while your speed dating partners get bored.

Listen and Engage With Finesse and Distinction

Just as important as leading with the right first remarks is listening to the answers you receive. People like to feel heard, and in general, they like when someone else pays attention to them. Asking follow-up questions, paying attention to details, and otherwise demonstrating interest in what your speed dating partners have to say will increase your odds of finding a date.

Some tips and tricks can work for showing engagement and being a better listener, but the best tactic is to simply slow down. Yes, you’re on a time limit during each session, but you should treat each potential date with the respect and interest that you’d dedicate to a more standard first date. Keep aware of the time, but don’t let the clock spur you to dominate the conversation or interrupt your potential partner.

Manage Your Nerves and Anxiety The Right Way

It’s natural to feel nervous when going into a speed dating event, whether it’s your first or your fiftieth. After all, you’re essentially going on several auditions over the course of an hour or two—and even one would be cause for nerves. While it’s perfectly natural to get nervous, it’s important to manage your anxiety in a way that won’t harm your chances.

More than a few speed dating events take place at bars and clubs, so you might think the natural solution is to knock back a little liquid courage. It’s true that a drink or two can help you loosen up, but more than that and you’re likely to end up making yourself look bad on your speed dates. Staying sober will serve you better on your speed dating journey.

Photo of a date at a bar
Avoid excessive drinking when at a speed dating event.

A lot of the ways that people calm themselves down and settle their nerves before a first date work just as well for a speed dating event. Some basic ideas are pretty easy to implement. Prepare in advance of the event, including coming up with icebreakers and figuring out what kind of answers you would give to your own questions. Make sure your outfit for the event is comfortable and that you feel attractive in it.

Overall, remember to breathe, and keep in mind that everyone you’ll be talking to is there to meet new people, just like you are.

Benefits of Speed Dating

There are a lot of reasons why young singles are increasingly turning to in-person methods for meeting new people. It goes well beyond dating app fatigue. Speed dating comes with many potential perks, especially for busy people who might not have time to devote to finding the right partner. 

It’s Efficient

It’s a lot easier to find the right match if you meet several people at once, rather than going one by one. Speed dating gives you the opportunity to condense your first meetings with a group of people into an hour or two, instead of spreading those meetings out over the course of multiple weeks on more conventional first dates.

While the number of potential dates at any one speed dating event can vary, you’re still going to meet more people in a short time than you would have the opportunity to encounter in day-to-day life. So you’re more likely to find the right person quickly. And unlike dating sites and apps, the limit on the number of people at a given speed dating event means you’re less likely to encounter the problem of too many options.

Low Stakes

Speed dating keeps the stakes low when it comes to making first contact with potential partners. Unlike a blind date, you get a chance to mingle and see who you’ll be talking to before you sit down, and the structure of the event means that you’re not under pressure. After all, if it goes poorly with one participant, you’ll be done and moving on to your next date in a matter of minutes.

You don’t have to fill an hour or more of conversation with one person, and the scorecard system means that you don’t have to tell someone that you’re not interested — nor do you have to hear rejection from someone else’s lips. You can focus on getting to know each person without getting all in your head.

Handled by Pros

The people who organize speed dating events know what they’re doing, and that makes it a lot easier for the participants to relax and enjoy themselves. While not every speed dating event is organized by a dating expert, usually the same organization or group of people do events regularly, which helps things to move smoothly.

Photo of speed dating
The organizers of speed dating events handle the logistics for you.

Speed date events are organized with an emcee in control and usually a handful of volunteers running things behind the scenes. That means that you can relax. You’re not responsible for making sure things go well. All you have to do is meet the other participants, strike up a conversation, and do your best to make a good impression. Being able to focus on finding that spark makes it easier for everyone involved.

Challenges & Considerations

Although speed dating is an efficient method for finding love, there are still challenges and potential issues to take into consideration. If you want your speed dating experience to go smoothly, you have to keep these issues in mind, and make sure you’re OK with them before you dive into the sea of fast-paced conversations.

Time is of The Essence

It may seem obvious, but the key factor in successful speed dating is to get your personality across—and to get a feel for other people’s personalities—in a span of a few minutes. If you’re someone who likes to talk a lot, or if you suffer from time blindness, you might run into problems with your potential dates.

The easiest solution is to practice before you get to the event. Use the timer on your phone, and try to work on any issues you have dominating a conversation. With a little effort, this isn’t too difficult a problem to overcome, and you’ll probably reap the benefits in other areas of your life as well.

Rejection is Going to Happen

No matter how skilled you are at conversing with other people, you’re never going to impress 100% of the participants at a speed dating event. Speed dating may be difficult for you if you struggle to accept rejection.

Learning how to deal with rejection in a healthy way is an important skill, and one you’ll absolutely need if you want to get into speed dating. It’s not an easy skill to develop, but it’s one that will come in handy elsewhere in life. Manage your expectations, and keep in mind that you’re looking for the right date, not just any date.

Ages Skew Older

Although Gen Z singles are increasingly intrigued by in-person dating and matchmaking events, the majority of speed dating parties tend to cater to older singles. Church-sponsored speed dating events in particular tend to be filled with singles over the age of 40, in part due to the shifting demographics of church membership. 

“While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages.” — Pew Research Center

If you’re in your 20s, finding a speed dating event specifically for younger singles can be tricky. So you might have to adjust your expectations to dating slightly older people, especially if your goals are a long-term relationship rather than a casual date.

The Events Cannot Guarantee Matches

There are no guarantees in speed dating. No matter how big the event is, or how much you practice, there’s no telling if you’ll find the right person to date.

If you become frustrated easily, then speed dating may be a trigger for you. Even in a room with 50 other people, there may just not be someone with the right chemistry. Understanding that before you go into the event is crucial, and in fact it will help you to have more fun on your speed dating adventure. The only guarantee you can have in speed dating is that you’ll meet several people over the course of the event.

The History of Speed Dating

Rabbi Yaacov Deyo gets the credit for inventing speed dating in the late 1990s, but some earlier events followed a similar track. The 19th tradition of New Year’s Calling bears a striking resemblance to speed dating. Eligible bachelors would go around their social circles, visiting with eligible young ladies dressed to the nines. The visits would be brief, generally only a few minutes long. While it’s not exactly the same thing as everyone attending an event together, it’s not far off.

Social calls gradually lost favor with the advent of the telephone, so speed-dating functions went out of style as well. In a similar fashion, the initial boom of Rabbi Deyo’s speed dating concept went into a slump as online dating sites and apps made it easier to compare potential partners without ever meeting them.

But now, as young singles start to pull back from dating apps and sites, speed dating is taking off once more. New York City alone plays host to hundreds of speed dating events every week, organized by a variety of companies, churches, and companies, and nonprofit organizations.

Success Stories & Testimonials

It’s difficult to nail down a specific success rate for speed dating, since nobody is really keeping count of the overall numbers. There are just too many events, scattered around the world, to keep tabs on how many of those events result in successful matches. However, individuals and speed dating companies alike have success stories attesting to the fact that at least some participants find their match at these events.

Although Nika Kabiri at the Huffington Post didn’t find love at the speed dating event she attended, the process of meeting new people did give her insight into her experience as a single person. She had fun, met new people, and gained some perspective on romance and interacting with people, which is a benefit in and of itself.

Aaron and Ragna met through a 25Dates event, when Ragna took it upon herself to step in to participate because there was an uneven number of men to women. The pair eventually married and even had a child together as of the time of their testimonials.

Ditch or Date has a whole list of success stories from participants who found everything from a casual fling to a good time. There’s even one or two weddings!

Pre-Dating is a national speed dating service with tons of success.

Pre-Dating has a bevy of success stories from satisfied participants, including engaged and recently married couples who met through the company’s speed dating events. 

While there are no guarantees that speed dating will bring the person of your dreams into your life, the success stories indicate that it can work. If you put in the effort, you can walk away with a casual dating partner or perhaps even a lifelong love.

Speed Dating is Efficient, Proactive, & In Person

If you find yourself getting tired of online dating platforms, speed dating is an efficient alternative method to meet lots of potential partners at once in a low-pressure environment. The events are fun, simple, and high-energy, and you’ll have a better chance of assessing your chemistry than you would with a standard dating profile and a few text messages.

If you’re game to move around a room and meet a dozen people in one night, give speed dating a shot!