Men and women are rotated to meet each other over a series of short "dates" usually lasting from three to eight minutes depending on the organization running the event.
At the end of each interval, the organizer rings a bell, clinks a glass, or blows a whistle to signal the participants to move on to the next date.
Unlike many bars, a speed dating event will, by necessity, be quiet enough for people to talk comfortably. Participants can come alone without feeling out of place; alternatively it is something that women who like to go out in groups can do together.
While over 100 companies in the US offered speed dating through online registration during the growing of the Internet, between 20 three large speed dating companies emerged with a national footprint in the US, with events in over 50 US cities: Hurrydate, 8Minute Dating and Pre-Dating.
In the UK, there are two companies that run events in more than twenty cities: Speed Dater and Slow Dating.
The first speed-dating event took place at Peet’s Café in Beverly Hills in late 1998.
Usually advance registration is required for speed dating events.
At the end of the event participants submit to the organizers a list of who they would like to provide their contact information to.
If there is a match, contact information is forwarded to both parties.
On the other hand, a couple that decides they are incompatible early on will have to sit together for the duration of the round.
Most speed dating events match people at random, and participants will meet different "types" that they might not normally talk to in a club.
Many speed dating events are targeted at particular communities: for example, LGBT people, polyamorists, Christians. Some feel that speed dating has some obvious advantages over most other venues for meeting people, such as bars, discotheques, etc.
in that everybody is purportedly there to meet someone, they are grouped into compatible age ranges, it is time-efficient, and the structured interaction eliminates the need to introduce oneself.
Online dating participants, in contrast, only find a compatible match with 1 in 100 or fewer of the profiles they study.