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First-date conversation
Steven Anderson

First dates are often seen as nerve-shredding experiences. Plan in advance and apply a few of our tips to banish the butterflies and clammy palms.

You've done the hard work - you've approached someone and not only talked to them but secured both their telephone number and a date to boot. So now comes the finale - the date itself. There's a lot you can do to prepare, to help things run smoothly (and hopefully help you secure a second date).

Where to go on a first date

The first thing to think about is the best place to go. Lunch is a good option; it usually lasts between one and two hours and there's no pressure to stick around if things don't work out. If however, you're getting on swimmingly you can always go on somewhere else.

If choosing to go out for dinner then take care with the restaurant you choose as they often dim the lights and soften the music, which can then make it look like you're on a romantic date - before you've worked out if that's the way you'd like it to be.

Pre-date preparation

People are often panicked by awkward silences, but a little preparation goes a long way. By reading a couple of newspapers to brush-up on showbiz gossip and current affairs you will have plenty of material to keep your companion engaged. It might help to pick four or five interesting topics, jot them down and keep them handy. Nine times out of ten just knowing that they're there is enough - you'll probably find that you don't need them anyway.

Conversation on the date

To take the pressure off the date and to guarantee that the chat flows freely, you can prepare a loose plan of what you'd like to talk about. You'll probably find that you don't need it, but as any tightrope walker will admit, the experience is a lot more comfortable with a safety net.

So prepare yourself a conversational beginning, middle and an end:

For starters

You could ask questions about the menu, food or wine they enjoy, your journey there, their work, whether they enjoy it.

What shall we have to drink?
Do you fancy wine with the meal?
Let's check out the menu! Is there anything on the menu you haven't tried but have been curious about?
Where do you live? Did it take long to get here?
What sort of work do you do? Do you enjoy it?

Main course conversation

You could ask questions about hobbies, travel or anything they've mentioned previously that could be expanded on:

Do you have any hobbies?
Have you travelled much? Where have you been?
Are you going away this year?
What country would you most like to go to and why?

You could also throw in an offbeat question to lighten the mood, something like: "If you could cook for any three people from history, who would they be?". If this peps up the conversation, you could also ask: "What would you cook for them?".

And for dessert

At this point things will be coming to a climax, so if a second date has not been secured or has not come up, a good question to ask is:

What was the last film you saw? Anything on at the moment you would like to see? (and it doesn't matter if you've already seen it, simply say: "Oh I'd love to see that") And if they're interested they should say something along the lines of: "Well I am thinking of going to see it next week you are more than welcome to join me."

Don't worry too much about having to see the film again. The fact is you have secured a second date and when next week comes you can always say "I'm not in a cinema mood. Do you fancy going for a drink instead?"

Five tips for success
  1. Have a few questions and conversation topics prepared in advance.
  2. Listen to your date with genuine interest.
  3. Ask questions - talk about the food you're eating, share the conversation.
  4. Be positive and remember you're selling yourself on the first date.
  5. And finally, you've worked hard to get this date so think happy and enjoy yourself!

Now put your dating skills to the test!