There's a certain irony to speed dating. Some speed dating companies, particularly those run by large multinational online dating firms, are adamant that they can match you with the love of your life - that this is the primary focus of speed dating. Given their online roots it makes a degree of sense that they should think so. But it's not entirely true.
Unfortunately this approach alienates a lot of potential speed daters, particularly in London. Of course if you're single you'd like to meet someone but the love of your life in one frenzied night? The pressure this places on a series of four minute dates risks supporting the myth that speed dating events in London are populated mainly by the 'desperately seeking' crowd.
This can be summed up by a comedian friend of mine - let's call him Comedy Dave - who often tells the story of his first date at his first speed-dating event. After the opening question of whatsyournamewheredoyoucomefromwhatdoyoudo, Comedy Dave attempts to steer the conversation in a slightly more interesting direction. "Where do you see yourself in a year's time?" he asks his potential paramour. "Married," comes the reply.
The truth is very different. Speed dating, particularly for us at Original Dating, is about having a fun night out with people of a similar mind-set. Our events work because they're relaxed, informal and above all fun. And here is the irony to speed dating - I firmly believe that this fun, relaxed approach is more successful for establishing long term matches than the more traditional 'I'm here to meet the one' events. Needless to say, Comedy Dave did not come to one of our events.
So how do I justify such a claim? On average we receive 15 emails a year from couples who met at one of our events and are about to get married. Occasionally we get invited. That may not sound a lot but these are only the ones we hear about. We get myriad emails from people saying they're in a long term relationship as a result of our events as well.
In addition there are those people that attend an event and then reappear a year or so later. I have a really good memory for faces - names are a different matter but that's another story. I can remember faces from years ago. Often I'll spot a face I recognize and discreetly ask if they've been to one of our events before. The number of people who reply along the lines of "It was about a year/two years ago. I met someone and we were together for quite a while. We split up about a month ago so I thought I'd come again." This isn't a negative. If we had only one perfect relationship we'd have met our partners at around the age of six.
The point is, creating a relaxed informal atmosphere at speed dating works far better than trying to convince people we possess some magic formula for everlasting love. The proof is in the detail of the emails we receive. Almost to a fault, every success we hear about describes how the person they are with was not the sort of person they saw themselves being attracted to. The best way to describe this is to recount my favourite story of a couple who married in June this year.
I remember the couple attending an event about two years ago. The scruffily cool guy - who probably rode a fixedy bicycle and hung out in Dalston - came ostensibly to support a friend who had been single for a while. "I'm not really looking for anyone. I just want a laugh and to help my mate" was his opening address to me. City slicker office dressed executive girl arrived with two friends. "I bought this for my two friends who keep whingeing about guys but they wouldn't come unless I did too." Should be fun I guess but I'm really not fussed."
They were engaged a year later.
Everything in this missive is true and verifiable. Speed dating works, particularly in London. Just go with an open mind and above all have fun. Who knows who may be at the next event?
ED: And just to prove it, here's a genuine email we received yesterday afternoon.
DATE: 25 NOVEMBER 2012
SUBJECT: Success story
I am not sure if you are interested, but hey everyone likes a bit of positive feedback so I thought I would share our success story with you.
I wanted to let you know that James and I met at your speed dating event at Amuse Bouche in Poland Street back on the 25th November 2008. I had a friend who knew one of the organisers and a few of the females had dropped out so a group of girls from the office went along and James had gone to give his friend moral support. We were both single and neither of us had thought about speed dating as a way to actually meet someone. Oh how wrong we were. James and I hit it off straight away (whereas I do recall a man telling me about his PVC fetish and another one gloating about being a brain surgeon) and we carried on chatting after the event with a few glasses of wine. We then went on our first date the following week, things went well and we carried on dating, we fell in love, moved in together (that's our history in a very brief sentence - but you get the picture) and then we got married in May this year.
So thanks to you guys and what was obviously a successful speed dating night for us, we are now together, happy and married.
As it's the 4 year anniversary of the day we met I wanted to send you a note and say thank you.
James and Michelle
If you're interested in making your own speed dating success story check out our forthcoming events list!
WORDS BY JOHN DAVIS