Who in their right mind came up with the concept of speed dating? Being forced into repetitive conversation with random strangers is not my ideal way to spend an evening. But hang on; this cultural phenomenon has been bizarrely popular, with Nottingham alone hosting numerous sell-out events through various companies in a range of bars. So, maybe, this crazy dating practice has got something to it. With time to kill and a page to fill, I set out to discover what this something really is.
The much-anticipated day of my speed dating initiation arrived, coinciding appropriately with the feast day of Saint Valentine. Specifically student-orientated, StudentSpeedDating is a new venture undertaken by two Nottingham Uni students, Nikki Scott and Abby Gaughan at the Bag O’ Nails, Lenton. Registration allowed time for some much-needed Dutch courage and the opportunity to spy on surrounding potential. Moving upstairs with a palpable mix of excitement and apprehension, the crowd took their places and nervous conversation ensued.
Although I was entirely cynical of the whole speed dating malarkey, believing only utter losers devoid of social skills would be tempted to turn up, the evening went smoothly. The conversation flowed after a few beverages, with some random topics being introduced by the inventive few to give respite from the occasionally repetitive ‘what’s your name, what course do you do, where are you from?’ tri-partite. Those who had got a bit too involved at the bar provided the entertainment; although I’m not sure the girls found face licking to be an effective icebreaker! A halfway break thankfully allowed more alcoholic stimulus (these ongoing 3-minute convos are thirsty work) and some half-time analysis. The evening went on much longer than anticipated and was tiring work, but despite all my prior reservations, it was really enjoyable. And I even met some hotties…
The next speed dating experience was lined up for the following week. This time the night was arranged by SpeedDater, the country’s dating events market leader. Hosting speed dating in over 40 cities throughout the UK, the established success and popularity of this company was a reassurance. SpeedDater makes use of some of the prettiest and coolest bars Notts has to offer, and aims its events at professionals within specified age ranges. Although perhaps not the best option for most students (you’ve got to be aged 21 or over), it is an ideal opportunity for any post grads keen to meet people outside of university confines or for those of you who would prefer to meet an older partner.
Opium was the rather opulent setting for this more mature event, and the clientele was certainly of a greater variety than that on offer at the Bag. Familiar feelings of apprehension began to rise whilst waiting for proceedings to commence, although there seemed to be less talent worth examining to while away the time. Any initial suspicions on the downfalls of speed dating were pretty much confirmed by the first few dates, some of whom were impossible to drag into conversation – and this from a girl who can chat for Britain. But as the evening progressed talk became easier, and the smooth running of the event lulled daters into a comfortable routine. Annoyingly the ‘professionals’ kept asking the question every final year dreads: “so what are your plans for after graduation?” Unsurprisingly I began to feel as if I was dating my parents’ friends, but for the most part people were friendly and enthusiastic, if not my ideal date partners. The event also provided me with the chance to exercise my conversational skills on people from all walks of life.
So why speed date? Ok, it can be quite a lottery and there’s no guarantee that you’ll meet anyone worth seeing again, but its plus points are worth the risk. If you’re not looking for a relationship, speed dating can be a great socialising opportunity and if you do have romantic intentions it’s an effective way to meet many potentials in quick succession. One thing’s for certain, if worst comes to worst, you’ll have plenty of amusing anecdotes to provide your mates with.