The speed dating “experiment”

I tried speed dating. I’m not going to say exactly when/where or otherwise potentially reveal “too much” information. Nevertheless, I may “say” quite a bit. :-)

First of all, there are different companies/organizations that do speed dating events. I’d imagine that at least for the most part, they’re generally not all that different, though regardless, different companies/organizations, may also hold more specialized speed dating events. E.g. around type of common interests or orientation or whatever. I’ve not researched, but I’d guestimate most typically group by some age range, and presume very little beyond that.

Anyway, my particular experiences with it – first, more generally, and then more specifically to my personal experiences with it. I got there not at all late, in fact at least a bit early. Venue seemed quite fine – essentially a “bar” or “bar area” at a facility/venue – quite amplely suitable, in any case. So, by official start time, moderate number of folks had shown up, but a significant percentage hadn’t, or hadn’t yet shown up. Roughly 15 minutes later or so, more had shown up, but still a non-trivial percentage missing. Oh, and it was a prepaid event. Maybe they also do some other arrangements additionally, but at least for most all of us it was prepaid before arriving. I guess part of the prepaid – in general – is to cover expenses, and/or, in case of sponsoring company – well, to make them some money, of course. Additionally, it’s probably used to thin out some of the “noise” and/or have it be more so “serious professionals”, or something like that. In any case, the cost wasn’t particularly prohibitive (probably more than a restaurant economical good dinner for one, but less than a rather to quite nice restaurant dinner for two). It also probably helps serve to motivate those scheduled for it, to actually show – since they’ve already spent their (non-refundable) money on it. In any case, as time progressed and it was time to “get things moving”, still some no-shows, and also an imbalance in the M/F ratio (a count differing by 2).

Nevertheless, roughly 30 minutes after the official event start time, we started in earnest. Places were laid out, one gender sat in such places and remained there for the speed dates or whatever one wants to call them, while the other gender circulated, sequentially, among those locations, meeting for 5 minutes each, with each person. Based upon what I read on Wikipedia, I’m presuming 5 minutes is pretty typical – Wikipedia (presently) states “usually lasting from 3 to 8 minutes depending on the organization running the event.”. We were given some basic initial instructions and materials before starting. After that, we mostly just met sequentially, with a sounder to “call time” on each meeting, then same gender rotates again, to next locations. Exceptions of note – M/F ratio – there was a count differing by 2. So, one gender got to spend 2 “rotations” meeting with no one (relax, kick back, get another drink, whatever).
Count of folks there? Let’s say it was somewhat less than anticipated/”promised”. They did also insert one modest break (10 minutes or so?) in the middle (bathroom break, get another drink, generally socialize/rest/relax, but not do the “speed dating” thing). Total count (using some rough round numbers), was about 15% less than what was shown on the “RSVP” count or similar before the event. There was also a communication before the event, essentially mentioning expected turnout and about how many speed dates one would be going on at the event. That had a number yet higher than the “RSVP” or the like count/indicator. In reality, depending on one’s gender (perhaps they sent slightly different communication to other gender – but I kind’a doubt it), one only met about 60% or 75% of that more highly stated number of speed dates. Whatever, it was still a relatively reasonable number, though definitely a fair bit short of expectations/hype/pitch. Perhaps if it was run by some organization without any conflict of interest, what was said in general would’ve been much more realistic than something that more so tries to “sell” and “promote” the event. Other bits. Precise methodology may vary by company/organization, but at least relatively generally speaking, we were to make our decisions – essentially “yes” or “no”, regarding each person we met. But not to tell them, or exchange any contact information (I’m guessing the theory is to both save time, and also save or defer at least some of any feelings of “rejection”). After that, we follow the company’s procedure to indicate our yes/no decisions. From that, when there’s a mutual “yes”, the (very basic) contact information each has provided is made available to the other. That’s pretty much it. Atmosphere was good, conversations generally good. I think for the most part, most everyone had a good time, … or, … more precisely, at least mostly appeared to have a good time. How various folks actually felt may have been rather to quite different … but probably, at least mostly on balance for most, I’d guestimate relatively positive. (in looking over some ratings, and after stripping/filtering out some cruft, at least for one company, looks like, on a 1 to 5 star rating, the average is somewhere between 3 and 4 stars, but also includes some non-trivial number of star ratings at or below 2 stars, and likewise 5 stars – but looks like most participants give a 3 or 4 star rating.) One other thing I’ll definitely note. At least for most (was a common topic of conversation, especially outside of the speed date sessions), it was their first time doing speed dating. I’d guestimate about 10 to 30% were “repeat” speed daters (had done it at least once before), but the remainder – certainly at least 65%, and perhaps as high as about 85%, had never tried speed dating before (though some had seen it before, or on TV watched it or simulation/acting thereof). Now, … there are various possible ways to interpret that – and I’m not sure which is correct or more correct – or may be a combination. Might mean that most find it rather/quite sucky, and don’t try it again. Might also mean that most find something/someone rather quite good out of it, and don’t find need/reason to come back and try it again. Perhaps some other possibilities I’m missing, but those are at least two explanations for the low repeat attender percentage. Other random bits – refunds/exchanges/rain checks/cancellations? I’m not going to say precisely what was/wasn’t involved or provided for with this particular company running it. But one can find that easily enough, I’d think, for any particular company running such events – and it may vary company-to-company. It looks like pretty typically what they offer, is if one goes to event, selects “no” for everyone and submits that, then they’ll let you go to one single additional event with no additional charge. “Of course”, even if one selects “yes” on everyone, there’s no guarantee there will be a single mutual match. But one “stat” (claim) I found from one speed dating company: “over 65% of attendees have at least one date after each event” – even if that’s more-or-less true, that also means about 1/3 have zero dates after each event, and the results may be significantly different between M and F (theoretically could have a variation as high as 100% for one gender and about 1/6 for the other, but likely the numbers aren’t nearly that far apart for the genders … guestimating perhaps up to +- about 10% each?).

So, … how’d it go for me, and my personal experience of it? Well, I’m not only an introvert, but also shy – and most especially when meeting strangers, and even more so when I’ve got about zero foreknowledge of them – which was quite the case with this event. Additionally, for me, “crowds” make it even worse. So, … short speed dates in rapid succession, at least to me, doesn’t feel all that different from a “crowd”, or “working a crowd”. Sure, perhaps somewhat different, etc. But in terms of level of uncomfortable, for me, it was quite to highly uncomfortable. So, … I prepared as thoroughly as I reasonably could, and pushed hard – most notably myself, to not appear shy, uncomfortable, etc. – at least as much as feasible, anyway (and nervous/scared/terrified? can mask a fair bit to quite a bit of that).

[I’ve seen quite modest sized cat look and sound so powerful, strong, confident (and dangerous), that 5 large dogs charging at the cat, would come to a screeching halt, about 5 feet short of the cat … and back away very slowly and carefully, likely feeling sure they had to back out very carefully and slowly to escape with their lives. And, was this a powerful, strong, confident, even “dangerous” cat? Hell no. It was a scared/terrified cat that could bluff so exceedingly damn well, that most other animals never figured it out. In about a decade’s time, I think I only saw two other non-human animals figure that out about that cat. One cat took over a year to figure it out, and one very smart cat figured it out in a few days. The others never did.]

So, … who me? Fearful? Scared? Terrified? Uhm, well, certainly uncomfortable, uneasy, kind’a to rather nervous, and definitely shy … but certainly didn’t come off that way (at least as far as I could tell). I don’t think most would be able to tell, or at least easily tell, in such circumstances. Heck, I’d say most everyone there at least mostly appeared rather to quite confident, outgoing, etc. Among all those there, I’d say only roughly 10% were much more on the shy/quiet/nervous side – at least that was rather to quite readily apparent, anyway (though some may have self-disclosed how they felt, even if they appeared otherwise).

And, … how’d it go for me? I came quite prepared. Maybe too prepared? … though, at least for me, if less prepared, maybe it would have gone even “worse” for me? I really don’t know for sure. So, … I had a prepared “list” (outline) of questions – what’s linked there may no longer be specifically what I used, but at least more-or-less what I used is likely still at least contained somewhere within that. Each meeting, I essentially started with very quick self-introduction, and mentioning that I had about 2 to 2 and-a-half minutes, or so, worth of questions we could go over. I then also asked if they wanted to start and ask me stuff first, or whatever, and I can ask them questions a bit later, or if they preferred I start with my questions. Most opted to have me go first, though some (I forget precisely, maybe roughly 10% or so?) more-or-less opted to start asking me questions or more generally engaging me in conversation or such. In any case, before I started asking my questions, or early into them, I did also state essentially, that some of the questions may be rather to quite invasive or personal or whatever, and please feel free to just say “pass” or decline on any they don’t presently wish to answer or comment upon. And yes, some of the questions were rather to quite “probing”, and some quite personal. Most were rather to quite “okay” with that – or at least outwardly appeared so. Some rather small percentage (roughly 10%) had a rather to quite negative reaction – around specific question(s), and/or the nature of that process/approach in general. I did also modify the approach/questions at least somewhat along the way – not quite so much adapting per-person – though there was certainly some of that too, but also modifying by what questions/comments/approaches didn’t seem to be working well or so well, or particularly practically useful at all in how they were generally being responded to. In some regards, the responses/reactions were quite different than I might’ve guessed. Some of the questions that I’d have thought might’ve been rather to quite personal/probing, were reacted to in semi-positive to rather/quite positive ways, and in many cases started interesting, useful and informative exchanges – e.g. them asking me what kinds of responses I’ve gotten from folks, or what I would expect to find/hear in response, etc. Some of them also lead to interesting and useful self-disclosure bits. E.g. the one about “Are you in any type of “committed” relationship?” – most of the responses were along the lines of “no”, and often also, “Would you expect to find anyone here who was?”, but also, there was quite useful informative bits from multiple folks, about not being 100% out of and done with some committed relationship. I’m not going to say exactly how many said what, or what they said precisely, but, among e.g., possible things roughly like, committed but separated/separating, divorcing, breaking up, separated, etc., and those bits also often (always or almost always? We’re talking small number statistics here – and I don’t 100% remember off-the-top-of-my-head at present) … often lead to interesting/useful, and generally quite good/pleasant conversation bits. Additionally, the approach and questions, at least generally speaking, I think was rather good, as it seemed to “split” the responses/reactions – they were generally rather to quite positive/favorable, … or on the rather to quite negative side of things. Not much wishy-washy around the middle at all. So, I tend to think that was mostly a good thing, as “average” random (non-)compatibility/impressions, I’d think are rather to quite unlikely going to end up making an actual “match”. Whereas those “pushed” into the more positive ends of the spectrum, are more likely to end up as a “match”, or at least more likely to lead to further possibilities (e.g. a “yes” and possibly a subsequent meeting). The other thing that was highly useful, is I did quickly learn quite a bit about the other person – a lot of which was highly useful in determining “yes” – or at least possibly a “match”, or “no” – thanks, nice meeting and talking with you, but it just wouldn’t work out for us – many key/important things for us just aren’t sufficiently aligned. I’d think in a mere 5 minutes of much more “casual” conversation, both, I wouldn’t nearly as well be able to determine fundamental (in)compatibility/”match”, and additionally, and I’d much more likely end up around that “middle ground” to them, where most of them probably wouldn’t be interested, or “that” interested in me. Did also end up with quite good assessments on compatibility – and in many cases, probably also mutually, to a fair extent. Many of the questions I asked, also prompted them to ask me at least some, if not many, of the same, or quite similar questions. I think it also at least fairly well encouraged them to be more brazen and open up and ask me most any darn thing they could think of that they might want to ask and know – not that any went at all particularly “extreme” on that, but I think many asked more and/or deeper questions of importance to them, than they would have if I’d not asked many of the questions which I in fact asked.

And net results on numbers? Well, about 35% I put down as “no” – that ranged from went very badly with the questioning, to very nice amicable friendly conversation, but us mutually realizing that we were not a match … so in many cases once we got to that point, we just casually chatted about other random things to quite pleasantly – and more relaxed – pass the remaining minutes. And the remainder (about 65%) I put down as “yes” – not necessarily at all definitive matches, but at least possibly close enough that I’d certainly be interested in at least having a dialog to see if we wanted to meet again. In any case, not a particularly large number of participants and speed dates, and unless and until there’s a mutual “yes” submitted to the company running it, no contact information is exchanged. So, don’t know that I’ll have much or anything in terms of mutual “yes” results. And, at least some bits I read in my research, statistically, men are much more probable to indicate “yes”, and women “no”. So, … small number of participants and speed dates, any resulting number of mutual “yes”es, is likely to be rather to quite low. And even any mutual “yes”, is absolutely no guarantee that things are or would be all that compatible – or that they’d lead to so much as a single “real” (non-speed) date. What’s becomes exchanged or made available if there’s a mutual “yes”, is just enough to get contact information exchanged – and presumably enough mutual interest to at least investigate a bit further … and maybe actually meet again.

And, … my results after what should be about the full wait time on “final” results (it may not have a hard absolute deadline, but most all yes/no submissions should be all done and processed within a few days or less) … first of all, statistically, it’s likely to be quite small number / percentage. And, … actual results? More-or-less within statistical deviation of number/percentage I’d expect? Well, the results were: … a big fat zero on mutual “yes”es. Well, that’s still within range I’d expect for the relatively small number of speed dates for me at that event – I’d think statistically, somewhere between zero – and a rather small number, at least for that event, and mostly likely about the middle of that range, +- an even smaller number, … and yes, zero is definitely within one end of that +- range. We are talking pretty small numbers here.

And, how did I feel? Ugh. Sure, it was interesting, exciting, not inherently “bad”. But it was probably mostly a fair chunk of nervous energy – okay, maybe some excitement too, but certainly for me, it felt very uncomfortable, was quite hard, and I felt really drained/exhausted/”beaten”/wiped after it. Though, “of course”, if anyone was doing any beating on me, it was almost entirely me doing that, no one else. Introvert / Extrovert. Extroverts are energized and “feed off of” interactions like that. For introverts (e.g. me), quite draining/tiring. Add my shy atop that, and me pushing quite hard to offset that and try to hopefully get at least something useful out of it, and it very much super way drained me. I remember when I left, still wearing the cheery face … but once I was out’a there, sure, trying to maintain positive outlook/feel, but felt way wiped, and pretty pessimistic about the whole thing – definitely not looking so cheery on the way home. I suppose also too, if nothing else, despite any outward appearances, how I actually felt, likely also “leaked” through – at least on subconscious levels, to likely I’d guess half or more of those I met. And I think generally women are more likely to favor “strong, confident”, etc., so that also may well reduce my chances of a mutual “yes” by roughly 50% or more.

Bah! And over the course of a couple days, a much more negative experience than I first thought a few hours or so after the event. Sure, I felt like cr*p on the way home – didn’t feel like interacting with anyone, or so much as glancing at or being looked at by anyone … at all! Rather felt like crawling under a rock or disappearing into the background – and not so much as even observing the scene – let alone anyone around at all. Okay, after a couple hours, I figured “no biggie”, event wasn’t comfortable for me, half a day or so and I’d be fully over that. Not (quite) so. More than half a day later, into even highly casual “no pressure” “crowd”/people situation (e.g. on a commuter train, walking down moderately crowded street), still highly did not feel like interacting or engaging with anyone or at all like having them engage with me. Much worse than “normal” for me. Anyway, about a couple days after the event, pretty much back to “normal” for me … but not quite 100%. Definitely lost some ground on trying to at least work around my shyness … had gained some modest ground lately … was rather like that speed dating event had net effect of setting me back several weeks or so. Ugh.

“Speed dating can be nerve-racking for people who aren’t outgoing” – Jeremy Bollinger, owner of Uh, yeah, nerve-racking … bit of an understatement. I wouldn’t exactly say “terrifying” – at least for me, but surely dang uncomfortable – at best.

Would I try it again? At least presently I guestimate possibly, … but probably not. I’d guestimate, for the time, energy, expense, discomfort, preparation, etc., it’s fairly likely just not worth it for me, and I could probably do significantly better by some other means. Nevertheless, if nothing else, it was, uh, “exciting” for me, certainly not boring, and, I suppose, a good learning experience and “exercise”. In any case, I think I’d give it at least 6 months to a year before I’d so much as even seriously consider it again. In the meantime – no way!


One Response to “The speed dating “experiment””

  1. MichaelBerkeley Says:

    I did also update top set on that outline of questions at least sometime after trying speed dating. The set below that is roughly what I started with – but didn’t even ask one person all those questions, and some questions I dropped out anywhere from quite quickly (after first speed date), to about halfway through going on “all” (there weren’t all that many women there) the speed dates.

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