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How to WOW in four minutes

Thursday March 5, 2015

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It’s always a tough one, particularly for the first timer, and one of the major questions I get asked at Speed Date events in London – what should I talk about?

The truth is, there are no hard and fast rules to speed dating; no tried and tested formula that those in the know utilise to maximise the chances of meeting that perfect like-minded singleton.

We work hard to run events that are relaxed, fun and engaging. Unlike many speed date companies, we’re not going to promise ‘you’re going to meet the one’. Let’s be honest, it’s already an odd way to meet people. Let’s not add to the pressure.

Instead, we’d like you to kick back, relax and enjoy meeting other folk like you. The irony is, the more relaxed people are, the GREATER the chance of meeting someone you click with – a fact lost on most other speed date companies on London.

However, general conversation in a seemingly pressurised environment can still be a daunting prospect.

So to get you started on the road to conversational cupidism, here are a couple of tips:

While it may seem mundane – and yes everyone will ask the same questions – the three musketeers of speed dating conversations starters are who, what and where.

Who? – Ask them their name! It’s only polite. And make sure you use it during conversation. This personalises your four minutes, helps keep you both focussed on each other, and makes the date more memorable. It’s astounding how many people forget names within seconds.

What? – Asking what someone does is a leading question. It’s an opener into all sorts of other topics. Make sure you use it as such and launch from there. More on this in a tick.

Where? – This isn’t a “where are you from?” Regardless of your intentions this can sound borderline racist, particularly given how multicultural London is. Instead, try asking where in London your date lives. Obviously don’t press too much or you could have the police knocking on your door accusing you of stalking.

So that’s the basics. And as I said, almost everyone asks these questions. Don’t be fooled into thinking that because of this you should try something else. It’s what you do with the answers that counts.

Leave the ‘who’ as it is. You have their name. Use it.

Likewise with the where. To reiterate, probing deeply can suggest a deep seated desire for stalking.

The ‘what’ is the key.

Invariably people will answer not with what they do but the industry they are in. IT, Banking, Media, Marketing etc… None of these are jobs. You date could be a CEO or a coffee maker in these industries. Probe deeper.

People in London, no matter where they are from, have picked up a peculiarly English trait of not wanting to admit they like their job. “It pays the bills” is one of the most common caveats to this question. We’re not all rock stars or famous writers. We can’t all hate our jobs. So your next question should be…

Do you enjoy being a…? Do you enjoy what you do?

A positive response and ask what about it they enjoy. Respond with phrases such as “It’s so good when someone is passionate about what they do.” Positive reinforcement is one of the most powerful tools we have to help others relax.

If you’ve read that misogynist rubbish ‘The Game’ in which it claims negging – or putting someone down to then build them up – is the best way to someone’s heart, then dismiss it out of hand entirely. Sometimes you have to take the lead in making sure you’re both having fun.

A negative response gives you the opportunity to ask “In an ideal world what would you do?”

This avoids placing the conversation in a negative realm. Do not say, “That’s a shame. Why not?” If someone doesn’t like their job, why would they want to spend 4 minutes talking about it?

Talking about someone’s passions, about what they really like or want to do, is a sure fire way to get those positive chemicals flowing. People open up and you get to know far more about your conversational companion than would necessarily be the case. It’s only 4 minutes. Surely you’d like to find out as much as possible in that time. Even if your date isn’t your type, a positive conversation keeps you upbeat and ready for the rest of your dates.

It ain’t rocket surgery but it works.