Ready or Not, Speed Dating Is Making a Comeback—Here’s Why It Works

We’ll do just about anything to avoid swiping

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Dasha Burobina for PureWow

I was first introduced to the concept of speed dating (or ‘multi-dating’) in an episode of Sex and The City: “Twenty dollars bought you seven mini-dates; each eight minutes long,” Carrie explained. And for the next three minutes, I watched in horror as Miranda was picked apart like a gazelle by egocentric bankers and condescending doctors. The timer not only made each date feel rushed and anxiety-inducing (kind of like ordering at Chipotle when you're off a weed gummy), but it also created impersonal, almost transactional interactions. There was no time for seductive pauses or prolonged eye contact—she had precisely eight minutes to present her best ‘date me’ face (and hope it stood out from the other ten women sitting beside her). Over my dead body would I speed date, my sorority sisters and I adjudicated while watching the episode. But now, after the hellscape that has become post-pandemic dating, I’d bet my entire pledge class would give speed dating a go if it meant never swiping on a dating app again.  

Dramatics aside, speed dating and swiping are pretty much one and the same. Both scenarios force you to vie for someone's attention—in a setting with minute-long attention spans—all in the hopes that you’ll stick out from the herd and find a meaningful connection. The only difference, of course, is that speed dating happens in-person while swiping occurs behind a screen. And after witnessing Gen Z’s mass exodus from dating apps, it makes sense to see the speed date make a comeback. According to a recent Eventbrite report, speed dating events have surged 63 percent (compared to 2022) as Hinge and Bumble users continue to drop like flies. “The number one complaint I hear is that people are experiencing dating app fatigue,” Maria Avgitidis, matchmaker and Eventbrite's resident dating expert explains. “We have to go back to dating like it’s 1988.”

Still, as with all '90s dating trends, I have to imagine that speed dating looks different today than it did when perms and shoulder pads were au courant. So, I decided to tap Avgitidis—along with Eventbrite and Peoplehood matchmakers who are hosting dating events—to see what it’s like to go speed dating today. Here’s everything they had to say.

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Meet the Experts

  • Maria Avgitidis is Eventbrite's resident dating expert and matchmaker behind Agape Match. She’s been in the industry for more than 15 years, and her approach is built on an award-winning matchmaking methodology crafted to orchestrate matches tailored to singles’ unique criteria and dating personalities.
  • Guy Shahar is the co-founder of The Tantra Institute and creator of Tantra Speed Date. He has studied a broad range of modalities ranging from Tantra, BDSM, Orgasmic Meditation, Morehouse and Quodoushka. His goal with speed dating events is to heal the rift between the masculine and feminine, showing singles how to relate to each other in a new and loving way.
  • Andrea Ramirez is the founder of The Next Fun Thing & Love, an event company that aims to connect people through activities in their neighborhood. Each monthly event also benefits local charities, and she’s helped raise thousands of dollars for charities that support our unhoused neighbors, critically ill children, animal rescues and more.
  • Connor Holloway is the head of brands at Peoplehood, a modern place to gather with an intentional focus on relationship-building skills. The three-story sanctuary is located in NYC, and hosts 60-minute guided group conversations that have up to 20 participants.

Why Is Speed Dating Making a Comeback?

If you’re single, it’s probably not news that dating apps have become the zit we can’t seem to pop. While they were once useful—and welcome as a distraction—during lockdown, we’ve grown resentful of their convenience (read: bubble theory). “We're currently in our century's roaring ‘20s, and it's obvious based on the surge of activity-based dating,” Avgitidis tells me. “People want to have authentic and shared experiences with others, even if the goal is to just get out of the house. [Speed dating] provides these opportunities through thousands of events.” 

To that end, what’s most interesting about modern speed dating is how it’s touted as a rebellion against swiping. “Our events are like the anti-swipe zone of dating. Instead of a quick glance and a left or right tap, we dive into the art of really seeing each other,” Shahar explains. “Our goal is to facilitate genuine, focused interactions that last more than a fleeting moment—yet, still less than three minutes—so you can date up to 20 real singles in one night.” 

Ramirez adds, “Since we started hosting speed dating events in January 2023, we've noticed the stigma around it has shifted. What many people used to consider a 'last resort' has now become a fun night out meeting new people. Many of our attendees have commented how nice it is to connect with potential matches in person (versus through an app). They also say it can be fun when you do it with your friends as a GNO…We've even seen people bring signs to cheer on their friends who are participating in the event.” 

The TL;DR? Speed dating is basically the in-person solution to ‘shooting fish in the dating barrel.’ It carries a similar, low-stakes vibe as swiping—but with the added benefit of meeting potential suitors face to face. You’re not wasting your time on a horrible 45-minute date, and in some cases, you have your friends nearby to make it a story. Either way, you’re not guaranteed to meet the love of your life, but rest assured: You’ll still be home in time for a skincare routine and sweatpants by 9 p.m. 

What Does Speed Dating Look Like Today?

Speed dating itself looks largely the same as it did in the ‘90s. You pay for a pre-determined set of mini-dates and each date lasts around ten minutes or less. What makes the process different from decades past is how speed dating today is more about fostering post-pandemic connections in general, rather than romantic partnerships specifically. It’s no secret that Gen Z is struggling to detach from their screens and interact IRL. So, instead of a strictly singles event geared towards ‘meeting your person,’ it’s more about forming any kind of connection—whether that’s platonic or romantic. If you find a husband, that’s the cherry on top.   

Holloway offers a great example of how this looks today: “We did a speed-friending event in partnership with Bumble for Friends where 75 strangers came together with the intent of meeting new people and (ideally) making new connections. We created a special friend-finding format called ‘Fast-Friends’ based on our traditional Peoplehood Gather format. In 15 minutes, attendees had the chance to meet and speak one-on-one with three different people. Everyone was given a ‘Fast-Friends’ notecard where on one side they would write down each person's name and on the other side there was a list of conversation starters to choose from. If the pairs hit it off they had the option to check off a box that said keep me in touch—and if they both mutually opted in, we connected them via email following the event. That night, we sent out 53 emails connecting new friends.” 

Holloway continues, “There's a different kind of energy when you meet someone face-to-face. In the era of apps, we forget that people are three-dimensional. At our Fast-Friends event, I was nervous people wouldn't hit it off or it would be awkward—but then I realized that we're built for this, not to mention starved of it. Even if matches don't end up being lifers, four minutes spent connecting with a stranger has an immeasurable impact on our health and general outlook on life.” In the same vein, Eventbrite is catering to specific communities and interests in their speed dating events. Think: board game-themed dating events, outdoor strolls for singles and singles karaoke nights

The Bottom Line: If you’re wondering whether speed dating works for romantic connection, I'll give it to you straight: It’s a crap shoot. Just like dating apps, mutual setups and meeting someone at a bar, there’s no guarantee that the right connection will manifest in a gathering of 75+ people. But as with all things when you’re single, it can’t hurt to try something new. It’s also worth mentioning that the face-to-face interaction forces you to pay attention to what’s happening in real-time (as opposed to flipping between Instagram and NYT Connections when you match with someone on Hinge). And at the very least, if you don’t find your soulmate, you might walk away with a few new friends who are looking to do the same thing: interact offline. 

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Associate Editor

Sydney Meister is PureWow's Associate Editor, covering everything from dating trends and relationship advice (here's looking at you, 'soonicorns') to interior design, beauty...