Speed Dating: Tips to Ensure a Fun Time

It has been a little over a year since I went speed dating for the first time. I was 28 years old and my friend talked me into joining her. It turned out to be an interesting experience and more fun than I imagined, so it might come as no surprise that I tried it two more times before the year was out. None of those outings led to anything serious, save for a friend of the female persuasion – we’re apt to take those new to Edmonton under our wings. Thus, I found myself thinking about the next step.

I’m now 29. I celebrated my champagne birthday in 2014. All of my friends know I’m single and willing to mingle, but here’s the problem: no one has single male friends to set me up with. The friend that dragged me along to speed dating has found someone for herself, so I’m feeling like a bit of a lone wolf. Now, I’m not saying that I must have a man in my life in order to be happy. On the contrary. But, hey, the notion of having a guy who’s there for me is still nice.

This led me to my latest attempt at the 5-minute date. I’m not saying it worked, but this was my one and only stab at it without a friendly sidekick.

Quite honestly, it had been a crazy week and I was running on fumes. However, I prettied myself up, put a smile on my face and headed to the venue. I couldn’t find the host when I arrived, so I grabbed a drink at the bar and then made fast friends with a couple of ladies that I quickly pinpointed as other attendees. Neither had ever gone speed dating before, so I talked to them about my previous experiences. Trying to dole out advice when you obviously haven’t had the best success yourself is kind of hard, yet people still want to know. I understand that mentality because I’ve learned from trial and error, and I know you can probably prep yourself for a better outcome.

Here are my tips for speed dating (some can even be applied to first dates in general):

1) Be yourself. You want the people you meet to like you for who you are, not who you’re pretending to be.

2) Don’t take things too seriously. This is a first meeting! Yes, you want to make a good impression, but you may come across as stiff and uptight if all you care about is finding “the one” and you don’t ease up a bit. In fact, you’ll probably scare the other person off.

3) Put some effort into your appearance, but refrain from looking like you’re extremely high maintenance. Keep things business casual in terms of dress.

4) Be polite. Shake the person’s hand and repeat his name when he introduces himself.

5) Smile because it’s more welcoming, and make eye contact.

6) Don’t be intimidated. This is especially the case when speed dating because you’re essentially seeing the rest of the competition. However, remember that you’re just as awesome as everyone else there and that you have a lot to offer as well.

7) Know that you will have to be “on” for probably two hours at speed dating, which can seem daunting. But, it goes by so much faster than you think it will, and you’ll find that the conversation and the laughs come fairly easily.

8) The speed dating company says to avoid asking what people do for a living. I understand their thinking. Not everyone is in love with their job. Yet, it seems to inevitably come up anyway, so just go with it. And, if you’re uncomfortable talking about it, try to steer the conversation elsewhere.

9) I never really do this, but maybe think of a couple of conversation starters beforehand. My go to topics are: where he’s from, where he’s traveled and probably something about food.

10) On the other side of that equation, do NOT come in with a script prepared. I’ve sat through a meeting like that and it was a very forced conversation. The guy was looking to check his boxes and that was about it. Conversation should feel natural.

11) Keep the conversation light. You have five to eight minutes to feel this person out. Try to get a sense of their personality.

12) If a couple of minutes go by and you’re not feeling that interested, DON’T zone out. It’s rude. Stay friendly, you’ll make it through. Also, concentrate on the conversation you’re having, not what those next to you are talking about.

13) Avoid getting your hopes up ahead of time. Keep expectations realistic. You might not meet your ideal soulmate and that’s okay.

14) View this as an opportunity to network and make friends.

15) Try not to divulge too much personal information to every single date. This is just for safety’s sake.

16) Sometimes it can get loud in the venue, especially when the space is small. You literally may have people sitting just inches away from you, so you’re going to have to speak up. Make sure to keep hydrated, so you don’t lose your voice.

17) Write the person’s name down on the card as soon as you meet. Make a few notes if you’re not certain they’re a “yes” or “no” for you and go back to those later. However, I’d suggest not leaving your decision too long because it’s easy to mix up names, faces and conversations when you’re meeting so many people (usually 10 to 12, but I’ve seen more) in one night.

18) You’re going to meet a lot of people – it’s like The Bachelorette during the first episode of the season – so you may need to step out of your comfort zone. If it eases the situation, bring a friend you know can reassure you.

19) I wasn’t always the most outgoing person, so these types of events aren’t necessarily my favourite. But, try going it alone at least once because it does push you to converse with others. It’s like dating practice and the confidence you’ll probably attain from making it through the situation will most likely help in other facets of your life.
I hope that these tips help in your dating endeavours. After all, if you’re going to put yourself out there, make the process as painless and entertaining as possible for yourself.

Looking to go speed dating? Check out these local organizers:

Fastlife – an international company that specializes in speed dating and singles events

Rendezvous Club – North America’s premier singles company

Troop of Foxes – Alberta based speed dating hosted at Red Star Pub. Watch their Twitter page (@troopoffoxes) for updates on their next event.

NYC Winter Wonderland: Photostream

Wow! My trip to NYC really crept up quickly this year. My friend and I booked it all the way back in March (see my April post about planning for our vacation) and, at the time, we were thinking it was forever and a day away. But, before we knew it, it was the end of November and we only had a few more days to prep for our holiday. If there’s nothing else I’ve learned with this trip, I will walk away with the knowledge that time sure slows down for no one as we get older. I mean, it’s already been three weeks since we returned home and I’m only just getting to this post.

Aside from my contemplation of the passage of time, this, my sixth visit to the Big Apple, proved to be as spectacular as ever. All of my vacations in 2013 sprung up as a result of a concert and this was no different. Shopping and shows was the name of the game, along with a bit of sightseeing and partying, lots of eating and getting into the Christmas spirit.

What never ceases to amaze me is how much of Manhattan you can cover in the span of a day. It is also an extremely walkable city. My friend’s wireless fitbit® surprised me by telling us that on Day 2 we took over 28,000 steps, climbed more than 40 flights of stairs, walked over 12 miles and burned over 2,000 calories, and I wasn’t even tired. That’s the thing with New York; it’s a little like Las Vegas where you don’t realize how long you’ve been awake or how much you’ve been doing until you get home and you’re completely burnt out and you need another vacation from your vacation. New York City is like this magical place where the atmosphere completely makes you forget that you require sleep to survive. New York City right before Christmas is like that times a hundred.

My photos are grouped into galleries by day and I’m going to let them do most of the talking, but I thought I’d give a little synopsis as well.

Day 1:

Compared to last December in New York City as well as what we left behind in Edmonton, Alberta, we were extremely lucky when it came to the weather. Goodbye -30 degrees Celsius! Hello +14! It was so nice outside that, unlike the rest of the New Yorkers and tourists we encountered, we walked around in just our sweaters and still felt warm. I certainly wasn’t complaining. After we checked into our hotel, 6 Columbus, we started off our first afternoon with a Japanese meal at Natsumi, a quick jaunt to Times Square and then followed up with a Broadway musical called First Date. We loved the show – it was a little clichéd, but so true and very funny – and we left the theatre with newfound crushes on Zachary Levi (@ZacharyLevi) whom I already was a fan of from NBC’s Chuck and Disney’s Tangled. I’m a bit sad to share the news that the show closes on January 5, 2014, so I’m glad that I had the chance to see it while I was there. The night ended with a trip to Whole Foods (please open up a location in Edmonton!) for sustenance to keep us energized for the rest of the trip.

Day 2:

The day started with one of my favourite meals ever. Norma’s Lox & Lox of Bagel and their Waz-Za Waffle. I sort of feel like it’s the quintessential breakfast place and if I’m going to eat anywhere whenever I visit New York, Norma’s is definitely going to make the list. Ever since my cousin took me there, I haven’t skipped it once on any subsequent trips. That breakfast powered us through a visit to Statue of Liberty Island, a shopping excursion to Century 21, a walk through St. Paul’s Chapel and an introspective look around the 9/11 Memorial site. That evening, we had a delicious Greek meal at Ethos Gallery, strolled along Fifth Avenue looking at the holiday window displays and made our way back to our hotel and another stop at Whole Foods (seriously, this place would make so much money from us if they opened in Edmonton).

Day 3:

After a couple of late nights staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning for no reason whatsoever, we started the day a bit later and headed over to one of the better rated sushi restaurants according to Yelp and Urbanspoon. Aoki provided us with a comfortable atmosphere and an affordable and tasty lunch of miso soup, assorted rolls and über fresh salmon sashimi. We took an express train to Brooklyn and got a little lost (we shouldn’t have been on the express), but we eventually made it to the borough where we met a couple of friends for dinner at The Burger Bistro, completely stuffing our faces with burgers, fries and sangria. Then we ventured to Barclays Center for the first Knicks vs. Nets game of the NBA season. Apparently both teams are doing abysmally this year, but I would say that the Knicks are doing better based on this particular game. Since we missed out on the tree lighting festivities the night before at Rockefeller Center, we went back to Manhattan and took pictures in front of the rink and the giant tree. It was so beautiful! As it lightly snowed we hopped onto a carriage and Benny the horse towed us over to the bar, so we could ring in our friend’s 30th birthday at midnight.

Day 4:

We slept in a bit and upon waking we headed to Central Park where we found the fabulous Columbus Circle Holiday Market, which had been set up for the Christmas season by UrbanSpace. Locally made gift items, Christmas ornaments and festive snacks and drinks to warm up customers really helped to bring out the cheerfulness of the season despite the rainy day. After browsing around for a little while, we made our way to Greenwich Village for a pre-booked dessert tour. Unfortunately, the guide did not show up to meet us, but thankfully, we were just a few steps away from Joe’s Pizza (even after a half dozen trips to New York, this was my first time enjoying a famous Big Apple slice) and numerous other food establishments where we decided to create a tour of our own. If plans don’t pan out, you just have to make the best of it! Since we had some time to kill upon finishing our impromptu meal, we ventured back to Fifth Avenue where we came across the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Afterwards we enjoyed supper at a cozy Italian restaurant in the lower east side called Grotto. And, last, but not least, we, again, met up with our friend to officially ring in her 30th birthday at Tao Downtown and then Le Souk.

Day 5:

I have to say this day was a bit of a write-off. We were at Le Souk until 5am and I was wired from the night out dancing. I didn’t sleep until we got onto an 8:30am shuttle bus to Woodbury Common Premium Outlets just outside of Manhattan. Dead tired, but determined, my friend and I were real troopers and pretty much got our shopping done within the first few hours. Maybe if we had more energy and it wasn’t so bitterly cold in contrast to the first few days of our trip, we may have walked around a bit more. But, after days of late nights and next to no sleep for at least 24 hours, we just couldn’t do it any more. Once we made our way back to the city, we went to Aoki for dinner (becoming regulars) and then I bought myself a last minute ticket from the TKTS Discount Booth in Times Square to see Big Fish at the Neil Simon Theatre, which I am, again, sad to say has ended its run as of December 29th due to poor sales. The night I attended, it was a packed house, probably with those wanting to catch the well-reviewed show before the curtains officially closed, but it was too little, too late.

Day 6:

This was another slightly late day where we worked our way to Murray Hill for lunch at S’MAC. The portion sizes of our mac and cheese dishes were massive and I only finished about half of mine. A walk to burn off the heavy meal led us to Grand Central Terminal and the MetLife Building and back to Fifth Avenue where we shopped at Saks and Bloomingdale’s before having our final three-course meal in New York at David Burke at Bloomingdale’s (delicious by the way!). A stroll back to the Columbus Circle Holiday Market for one last look around before it closed for the night and a quick stop at our hotel to drop-off of all our stuff from the day and we were off to Barclays Center to finally see what we had booked the trip for in the first place – P!nk’s The Truth About Love Tour! Let me just say that I have seen many concerts over the years and this one just blew me away. P!nk is a topnotch performer who entertained us with her acrobatics, dancing, and incredible voice, which, to my knowledge, was live and not recorded. She was everything I hoped and, honestly, her show was a perfect cap to our holiday. I left thinking that if I could still get just a single ticket to her sold out, but postponed Edmonton show on January 16, it would be worth it to see her one more time.

I really hope you enjoyed my adventure and that it inspires you to visit New York soon. Whether you go on your own, with family or friends, you’ll be sure to have a great time.

I thought I would leave you with some extra information that would be useful for your travels to New York or wherever your next trip finds you.

General travel tips:

– Use deal vouchers – Groupon and LivingSocial can save you a lot of money on what would be otherwise extravagant meals or shows!

– Prepay for what you can (it’ll help take the sting out of it come bill time if it’s all spread out). Although make sure you can cancel and get a refund in case plans go awry.

– Make reservations for restaurants that you really want to try out – many restaurants, in the States especially, use Opentable and it’s a great way to ensure you get a table.

– If you don’t have a particular show in mind and you’re willing to take a chance, get last minute discounted tickets – in NYC go to the TKTS locations to see what Broadway and Off-Broadway shows are available the day of.

– Check Booking.com for hotel deals – many of the hotels offer free cancellation up until just a few days before you are supposed to arrive. They also don’t charge booking fees and most hotels don’t require that you pay ahead of time, so you can keep a watch out for better deals in the meantime.

Tips for NYC in December:

– Layer – you never know if the weather will take a turn!

– Mix and match pieces, so that it looks like you’re wearing something different everyday even though you only brought a few things.

– Winter items are heavier, thus taking up more space, so re-wear items, such as pants, throughout the trip, but bring enough, so you can alternate.

– Bring an umbrella, a hat and gloves. While we were there, it was balmly (to us anyway), wet and snowy within the span of 6 days.

Things to check out in NYC in December:

– Rockefeller Center – the Christmas tree is a must see!

– Columbus Circle Holiday Market was lovely, especially if the weather is nice and you can take your time. Grand Central Terminal also had a market set up for Christmas and it’s indoors, so you can stay nice and warm.

– Fifth Avenue – Christmas displays at the department stores are quite exquisite. I didn’t even get inside Bergdorf Goodman, but the windows were beautiful!

Lastly, I wish I was going back to NYC in 2014. I want to see Neil Patrick Harris (@ActuallyNPH) kick serious ass in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway, which is playing a limited engagement run from the end of March through to almost the end of July 2014. I’m so jealous of anyone who is planning to see that. If you’re going, take me with you.

If you liked my photos, please follow me on Instagram @crystalcarwin.