I POPPED MY VIRTUAL SPEED DATING CHERRY... AND IT WAS THOROUGHLY ENJOYABLE!
Hey everyone! How are we all doing? Hopefully my UK gang have stocked up on toilet roll seeing as we're now in national lockdown... 😬 And speaking of being in the comfort of our own homes, this is quite a timely post! Hopefully the next 10 minutes will give you a few laughs, valuable insight and perhaps lure you in to trying a bit of virtual speed dating yourself?
For reference, there is a lot of science that backs up speed dating (whether real life or online) as a great way of meeting lots of people in the most efficient way. Did you know it only takes us on average 7 seconds to decide if we like someone when we first meet them! Our brains intuitively know if the person in front of us is a ‘helllll nah’ or a ‘hmm maybe’.
SO HOW DID I END UP HERE?
Exactly! How did I end up being a participant of virtual speed dating? Well to be honest I've always wanted to try one of the face-to-face events so last year I signed myself and a friend up... only for them to back out last minute! Boooo! 🙄 I certainly wasn't going to attend alone which meant the idea was put on the back-burner until further notice. However just a few weeks ago, a fellow podcaster and friend (Brown Bear) suggested the idea of virtual speed dating. Firstly, I didn't even realise there was such a thing! Secondly, hell yes! Being quite an open-minded person the thought of trying something new, stepping out of my comfort zone filled me with so much excitement (and nerves). Needless to say, this kind of thing is awesome for blog fodder! 😉
WHO'S GOING POP MY CHERRY? Thank God for the dating & relationship IG community, I was able to look through my list of followers/followings as the first port of call to find some virtual speed dating companies. With a combination of Google research, reading reviews, checking out their websites and flicking through their social media channels, I narrowed it down to 3 companies and decided to go with Original Dating, my reasons being:
The website was easy to navigate around.
They're well established (running since 2003).
They had a very clear intro and a great FAQ section on Virtual Speed Dating.
They run various niche events, ie. city specific, older women, different ethnic groups.
They had suitable age brackets: 23-35, 25-45, 30-45 (my group 🙋🏻♀️), 30-50, 40-55
Lots of positive reviews.
Appeared 2nd and 3rd in my Google search results (nice one fellas!)
BEFORE THE EVENT I spoke to one of the team members from Original Dating through Instagram and was recommended a Thursday or Friday night (their busiest days), I opted for a Friday. Once you've signed up, you're sent a confirmation email with instructions about the event, timings, Zoom call details, as well as your auto-generated log in details for their website. You're asked to log in prior to the event and create a basic profile about yourself. The level of detail needed is similar to Tinder: a photo (only 1 required), name, age, profession (optional) and a couple of lines for your bio. This helps people remember you after the event, and improve your chances of getting matches. As a VSD (virtual speed dating) virgin, I didn't know what the hell to expect but knew I wanted to make the most of it. I spoke to Brown Bear (a much more seasoned virtual speed dater) and asked for tips and advice which was super helpful! Sometimes my very dramatic brain and obsession for being super organised can make me over prepare... on this occasion I went to the lengths of pulling together 6 "emergency" icebreakers... you know, just in case I'm stuck in a virtual room with a complete weirdo or a mute! I've shared them below in case you want to borrow them:
Are you a seasoned speed dater?
What is your guilty pleasure?
Show me your best party trick.
Describe yourself in one word.
What did you have for dinner?
Tea or coffee?
TIME TO SHINE BABY
Even if I'm virtually dating, first impressions are still important (don't forget the 7 second stat mentioned above!) I treated the evening as if I was heading out for drinks, so dolled myself up — hair, make-up, all the works, and opted for a smart/casual look. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous... even more so as I was waiting in suspense for the event to start! I joined a few minutes early with a glass of water, wine (which I didn't even drink by the way from the non-stop talking!) and my ice breakers. I allowed myself enough time to do all the audio checks, adjust the lighting in my room, have a final look in the camera, and get comfy...👸🏻
7:34pm... I was in! Eeeek! Suddenly I went from "Please wait, the meeting host will let you in soon" to seeing the whole damn host and a bunch of other people (men and women) along the top panel of my screen. I was rather surprised to see so many attendees... I honestly thought there'd be some last minute drop outs due to it being a Friday night and all that. Clearly this is where the party was at! So the first thing I did was have a quick scan of all the men (obvs!) ...I wanted to locate the eye-candies 👀 I spotted few anxious-looking people and a couple of nice looking guys. Heyyy! 👋🏼 Overall, it appeared that everyone went for the casual look (now feeling like a glamour puss). The host (Arthur) was really friendly, he introduced himself, welcomed new comers, explained the process, and assigned everyone a number before kicking off the event. Here were some of the key points:
We'd get 4 minutes with each person.
A notification would pop up at the last 30 seconds of each date.
If for any reason someone felt uncomfortable, you were able to call the host to pull you out of the "room".
We didn't need lift a finger throughout the process. When moving on to the next person, it was all automated/managed by Arthur.
On this occasion, there were more men than women, which meant the guys would find themselves in a "breakout area" every so often.
Generally I thought everyone was lovely, I had wayyy more fun than I had anticipated, I spoke to 19 guys in total! YES. 19 guys in one night! With so much to take in at once, there were bound to be a few silly moments, along with some noteworthy people. Here are my highlights:
Remember how I said we were all assigned a number at the start? My first virtual speed dating guy seemed cool, but I made the silly mistake of starting the conversation off with, "Hey! Whats your number?" LOL... he looked ever so slightly confused but laughed it off as I quickly told him I was referring to his VSD number NOT his mobile number 🤦🏻♀️😆
THE ELIGIBLE BACHELORS And now, it's time to really spill the tea on the most outstanding guys of the evening (in no particular order)...
One guy was evidently taking the dating stuff very seriously. I felt like I was being interviewed at some points. He was very direct, and didn't really have a sense of humour. He wasn't interested when I spoke about my day, however was much more engaged when I answered his questions like: "What are you looking for?", "Do you want to get married?", "Do you want children?" — I gathered he was in his 40s which would make sense I suppose... but woahhh, that was an intense 4 minutes!
The starsign guy. Any guesses to where this is leading? He was nice, we were very chatty... then he mentioned how much he was enjoying our 4 minute conversation, and asked me what my starsign was! 😩 I have no problem with people who believe in astrology (I personally don't care for any of it) but in the final 30 seconds, he basically said that we'd be a perfect match because I'm a Taurus and he's a Capricorn! According to the stars, we're very compatible.
Speaking of a perfect match... another guy decided to jump right in and ask me: "What qualities do you look for in a guy?" — oh Lord, here we go! I listed a few things like communication, respect, loyalty, ambition, sense of humour... at the same time, this dude was using his fingers almost like a check list, nodding along as I named each quality 🙈 then at the last 30 seconds, he said something like: "I definitely tick all your boxes, I'm a great communicator, I also listen well, I'm very respectful and loyal...", essentially justifying himself to me until he got cut off... 🙊 bless his heart!
Mr. Fancy Pants. I'm not sure if this guy purposely placed his beautiful, exquisite antiques and ornaments in the background but it was a good conversation starter. I immediately spotted a gold globe in the corner of his room and complimented it, to which he pulled it forward and explained how it also converts into a mini cocktail bar, and showed me a demo. Impressive! But I ended up pulling out my ice breakers after that...
Party trick guy. I used one of my ice breakers, purely for a laugh. He ended up grabbing 4 random items next to him and started juggling! Cool guy and very entertaining! Then he asked me for my trick... LOL, I was not prepared for this. I started showing him my double-joined fingers, demonstrating how far back they could bend!
Dinner guy. Definitely my favourite out of the 19 men. He was just about to order dinner as we were paired up, I told him not to stop on my behalf. So we spent the whole 4 minutes deciding what he was going to get! 🍽️ Together we chose a pepperoni pizza with chicken wings, potato wedges, cheesy jalapeño bites and a can of coke 🍕 He also shared best practice on how to re-heat a slice of pizza! 😂
The one that made lost for words. When you're on a speed date, the aim is to impress and have fun right? Once again, I resorted to my ice breaker for fun. I asked him, "What is your guilty pleasure?" — the dude said "masturbating". Masturbating! But not even in a jokey kinds of tone... I think he was being deadly serious. I mean I wasn't offended, I was just taken back a bit because I did not expect that answer... certainly not within the first 4 minutes of speaking to a stranger, and not during my first VSD event. So ermm... yeah, the next thing that came out of my mouth was: "Okay.... and... is this at work or......?" 😬
When the final date ends, everyone is regrouped. The host says thank you, explains what the next steps are and ends the event. At this point, (I'm dying for a sip of water) but you're now able to log in to the website and view the profiles of each person. Next to each name, there's a Yes", "No" or "Friend" check box (you can only check one) — and you get 24 to complete it. Your "match report" then comes through the next day. A LITTLE STROKE TO MY EGO I won't lie, getting 16 out of 19 matches on my report felt like passing an exam at school! I was pretty pleased with my results hahaha! On top of that, I checked 3 "Yes" boxes, to which I got 3 "Yeses" back! Woop woop! Come on!!!! 🕺🏻 One guy even found me on Facebook straight after the event and sent me a message saying: "Zero chance of me waiting until tomorrow. I enjoyed our 4 minutes more than anyone, not gonna lie!" — a bold move I must say!
Lockdown or no lockdown, I genuinely think virtual speed dating is a great way to meet new people. Whether you're looking for romance or friendship, it's the perfect and easy solution to connect with others. It also provides an opportunity to speak to those who you might not typically meet in your usual social circles. What makes it even more appealing is that it's in the comfort of your own home, it's safe and you needn't worry about commuting anywhere apart from walking to the kitchen for more wine and snacks! This was my first experience of VSD but generally I found the quality of people were better than many people I've met via dating apps. Of course not everyone will be to my taste, but the aspect of seeing someone virtually makes so much difference... the tone, the facial expressions, mannerisms, dress sense, the body language — I'd definitely say that you can get a better gauge on someone's personality in those 4 minutes, as opposed to spending days playing message ping pong on a dating app or WhatsApp.
4 minutes is more than enough time to get acquainted and figure out whether you'd get along with someone. Speed Dating takes the pain and awkwardness out of trying to figure out what you’re going to do to get out of a date you already know you never want to see again. By keeping things short and focused, you only have one decision to make: “Am I attracted and interested in them enough to want to keep talking?” Virtual speed dating in particular is efficient, fun and currently the only thing to do for now while there are no bars or restaurants open! So if I've convinced you enough to give it a go, here are my top tips:
Treat it like a normal date, make an effort and look presentable.
Spare a few minutes before the event starts to do some technical checks, ie. your Wi-Fi is stable, your laptop audio and camera works.
Choose a room with good lighting. FYI - one guy I spoke to was practicality sitting in the dark! I couldn't see shit...I had to ask him to turn on a lamp or something!
If you're more on the introvert/shy side, perhaps write down some fun ice breakers to help with conversation.
Don't take it too seriously, it's not an interview process.
Thank you to Original Dating for making that Friday evening so enjoyable, special shout out to Arthur for hosting! Really pleased I experienced by first VSD with this company — highly recommended! Also thank you to Brown Bear for suggesting the idea AND for bringing me back as a guest on your podcast show! If you want to listen to my account and deconstruction of the event... click here!
Thanks all! Much love x