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How to run a speed dating night

September 13, 2021

A speed dating night can be a fun and informal way to bring singles together. But organising this type of event can be stressful. After all, you’re not just planning a great party – you’re managing a room full of singles who all want to have a good night. Make sure you’re prepared for any speed dating disasters by following our top tips!

The history of speed dating

Speed dating was first created in 1999 as a Jewish matchmaking event. The concept involves a number of women sitting at tables, as an equal number of men rotate around the room. After a few minutes (typically between three and seven), the men move on and both parties mark on a sheet whether they’d like to see the other person again. At the end of the night, the host gathers up all sheets and then provides the contact details of each date to successful matches.

It’s a fun alternative to other dating methods, such as blind dating or dating apps. However, a speed dating night can be difficult to organise and must be expertly arranged to ensure the night is a success. 

Why does speed dating work?

Science says it takes just three seconds to decide if you’re attracted to someone. This bodes well for the concept of speed dating, where you are able to make a quick judgement on a date. It avoids awkwardly making excuses to leave and gives daters an opportunity to meet dozens of people in just one evening.

Speed dating isn’t cheap, averaging at around £20 per ticket. But when you consider how much it would cost to go on twenty individual dates, suddenly speed dating doesn’t seem so expensive.

According to the New York Times, speed daters match with 30% of people they meet. This is a much higher number than online daters, who match with just 1% of the profiles they see.

Creating an atmosphere

For a speed dating night to be successful, you will need to find the right venue. Book a private area in a restaurant or bar for a buzzing, casual atmosphere that allows daters to relax and enjoy a drink throughout the event. It’s not unheard of for speed dating events to happen in meeting rooms or community centres, but this may not attract as many daters. You could try a quirky setting such as a bookshop, theatre or sports club if you want your event to really stand out.

Your guests should be able to talk comfortably without raising their voice, so make sure your event is positioned in a quieter area away from the noise of other people in the venue. Keep the music lively but on a relatively low volume. Look for music around 80-100 beats per minute, or try a ready-made playlist such as Easy Listening Radio Tunes. This will encourage a relaxed atmosphere while filling any awkward silences with music most people can appreciate.

Try something different

Make your speed dating event stand out by trying a new theme, such as a masquerade ball or even fancy dress. You could create question cards to encourage guests to talk about a range of different topics. This avoids guests needing to discuss their job and hobbies with twenty different people. 

Getting the numbers right

Set boundaries from the get-go. You should know exactly what age range your speed dating event is for and what sexual orientation. Whilst you might not be able to ID everyone who comes to your event, if it’s obvious someone is much younger or older than your specified boundaries then you should challenge this. Otherwise, you could end up making another guest feel uncomfortable.

Research shows women are twice as choosy as men, though females are more likely to sign up for a speed dating night than men. This could be for a number of reasons –  women may feel speed dating offers a more social, safe and enjoyable experience than online dating.

Event organisers must make sure they have a viable balance between women and men, or risk an awkward evening where women or men are left alone for a few rotations. You can do this by capping the guest list at around 20 per group, so you don’t become oversubscribed. If you don’t get enough numbers to even things up, then you may need to consider cancelling your event or doing an extra marketing push to bring in more men or women.

Spread the word

You can advertise your speed dating event by putting up posters in your venue, or flyering, but social media is the best way to promote your event. Put some budget aside for paid ads. This will allow you to target single people of the right demographic looking to meet their match!

Offer Early Bird tickets, a referral discount or cheap ticket for returning guests to bring in even more people. Remember, it’s not best practice to offer cheaper tickets to people of a certain protected characteristic (i.e. to men or women). It is against the Equality Act 2010 and could anger your other guests if they find out!

Consider safety and security

You can’t vet every one of your guests, but you can set out some ground rules. This should include banning guests from swapping personal details or confidential information (they will be given details by the organiser at the end of the event if they’re a match, after all).

It’s the event host’s job to oversee proceedings. You should also arrange event security or work closely with your venue’s team to make sure security is standing by should you need it. If it looks as though one guest is making others uncomfortable, pull them out of the next rotation and ask them to address their behaviour. If they refuse, politely ask them to leave your event.

You’ll also need to consider event insurance for your speed dating night

If a guest is accidentally injured or falls ill as a result of your negligence, you’ll need Public Liability Insurance to cover you for any legal fees or settlement. You should also consider Event Equipment Insurance if you have brought a speaker system with you, or your own furniture/décor.

Are you employing staff or volunteers to help you with your event? You’ll need Employers’ Liability to cover your employees. You have a legal duty to keep your staff and members of the public safe and, if something goes wrong, you’ll need insurance in place to cover you.

For an extra bit of peace of mind, why not consider Event Cancellation Insurance too? It won’t cover you for poor ticket sales but, if your event has to be cancelled due to circumstances out of your control (such as a problem with the venue), then you’ll be reimbursed for any irrecoverable costs.

Don’t be complacent when it comes to insuring your event. You can arrange your insurance online in just a few moments, giving you more time to organise your speed dating night. Get in touch with our team for a quick quote.

Organise your speed dating night process

You need to get your speed dating admin in order! Decide how you are going to ask guests to select their matches. Print out lists, get plenty of pens at the ready and don’t forget name tags.

Give guests their name tag and “score sheet” when they first arrive. Note the number on their name tag and take down their email address and phone number. This will allow you to confidentially contact guests at the end of the event to let them know who they’ve matched with.

Make sure guests know the ground rules straightaway: who’ll be sitting down, who’ll be rotating round the room, how long each date will last and any further information they need to know.

Monitor alcohol intake

No-one wants to go on a drunk date, even if it’ll only last a few minutes. There are a number of ways to manage this. You can provide drinks yourself and include this in the ticket price, which allows you to limit the number of alcohol given to guests (maybe one welcome drink and an “interval” drink, with the option to mingle and purchase additional drinks after the event). If you are hosting your event in a bar, chances are you won’t be able to act as drinks monitor. Instead, ensure guests check in to your event in good time, ushering them into your private area of the bar early to prevent binge drinking beforehand. Give guests a short, timed break to allow for a top-up rather than a couple of cheeky rounds.

Keep an eye on intoxicated guests and, as you would in any normal bar situation, don’t be afraid to ask someone to leave if they are clearly drunk and making other guests feel uncomfortable.

Following up after a speed dating night

Try to send your guest’s match details within 48 hours. Follow up with guests to let them know about future events, and encourage them to tell you any of their speed dating successes! You can then use them for testimonials to promote your speed dating event to other singles.

We hope your speed dating event is a great success and your guests find their happy every after! For the latest event industry updates, follow us on Twitter.

Take a look at our interview with SpeedDater’s Sarah Payne for even more advice!

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