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Rule #1: Preparing Yourself: Ban those
first date jitters!

It’s time to finally meet the person you recently met online. Gulp! Now the nerves have set in. You may even feel like backing out, but don’t! Pre-date anxiety is normal, but if you follow these few simple tips, you can mentally prepare yourself for the big meeting.

  • Sometimes a good workout is a great way to calm those nerves. Plus, you will feel so much better afterwards. Others may want to simply relax in a hot bath. Whatever it takes to calm you down, do it. After all, being relaxed is important to ensuring you have a good time.

  • Plan that first meeting at a familiar - and public! – place. Make sure you tell a family member and/or a friend where you are going and when. While it may seem natural to meet for dinner, we suggest starting the conversation at a casual café over a cup of coffee. Under these circumstances, it will not seem awkward if you cut it short, but it also opens the door to a longer visit if you like. And ladies, it’s not uncommon for some women to suggest meeting at one of their favorite spots where perhaps even the bartender or barista knows their name. That way, you have someone who can keep an eye out for you and maybe even have some insight as to whether or not your date is not who he appears to be. Better safe than sorry.

  • While it’s important to dress to impress your date, you also want to feel comfortable. When you wear something you enjoy, that looks good on you and makes you feel good, that’s the ticket. This date is not the date to experiment with a new fashion trend. Otherwise, you may spend more time thinking/worrying about how you look as opposed to focusing on your date.

  • Be cool about your date's needs. If he or she is not comfortable with the place that you suggested, be flexible. Meeting at a place that's too expensive, too far from his house or that just happens to be where her ex works starts you off on the wrong foot. Also, men should be understanding when women do not want to meet at your home or at an unfamiliar place. Chances are good that she is also thinking about her safety.

    And a word of advice for the fellows: Realize that she will probably put more time and effort into getting ready than you will – selecting the right outfit, doing her hair and make-up and making sure everything is perfect. In reality, she is truly making an investment into this date, so make sure to appreciate her efforts.

    An added suggestion for both of you before you go out on that first date: review his or her profile one more time. You want to make sure you approach the right person, and that you are familiar with some of the things the other has presented about himself/herself.

Rule #2: Preparing Your Mind: It
doesn’t have to be complicated.

While it’s been said that first impressions matter – and they do – try not to embrace that philosophy too fully on your first encounter with your date. Some people don’t always shine in their best light on that first date, so give each other some breathing room and make one another feel as comfortable as possible. However, if your gut tells you something completely opposite, then listen to your instincts.

As you have taken the steps from winks to e-mails to phone calls to finally meeting in person, set some expectations of yourself and of the date.

  • Make sure you have not misrepresented yourself online. Guys, if you told her you were 45 but are actually 60, that might not set too well with her. Gals, if you indicate you are slender but really are 25 pounds overweight, you have already breached his trust.

  • Not sure who pays? In today’s dating world, the rule of thumb is that whoever suggests the date pays. However, most guys might feel a bit awkward about that, so if he wants to pay, let him. If a second date is in the cards, you can offer to pay for that one, ladies.

  • Having a drink or two is a great way to put yourself at ease, but avoid drinking too much. Your filter of how you see yourself after a few drinks (funny, more attractive, charming) is not always the same filter through which your date will see you. It’s important that on the first date you present the real you.

  • Consider meditating for 10 to 15 minutes before getting ready to go. While it may feel silly if this is not a practice you are familiar with, you can really benefit from some centering and mindfulness. The most basic sort of meditation involves sitting quietly in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. If thoughts or worries about your date intrude, simply acknowledge them and dismiss them. By not letting fretful thoughts take over, you are able to face your date with any last minute jitters in check.

  • Call a friend for a chat before you go. The easy conversation will get you socially lubricated for a chat with someone new. You'll also feel more confident after chatting with someone who already thinks you're great.

Rule #3: Preparing the Table. It’s not
what you say; it’s what you ask.

Here's a secret: no matter what they say, most people love talking about themselves. This can be a benefit or a drawback, all depending on how you handle it. When you are on your date, make sure that you are listening as much as you talk. If you dominate the conversation without asking enough about your date, you will seem overbearing. When you are talking, take in visual cues to ensure that your date is interested and engaged. At the same time, don't just fire off questions. You should also be working hard to ensure that you are sharing as much as you want your date to. Don't pepper people with questions: your conversation should be easy, flowing back and forth between you.

Again, beware of the first date jitters. You may be nervous, that’s natural, and so will your date. When some people get nervous, they tend to become highly talkative. Others may simply clam up. While you may have a lot to say or perhaps don’t even know what to say on that first date, it’s important to know how to express sincere interest in your date. That comes from asking not just any questions, but the right questions. (At this point, ladies, inquiring about his income is not a good idea; and, guys, don’t even ask her anything about intimacy and sex, or if she is on a diet. And a word of advice for the both of you: don’t ask how many lovers the other has had or what went wrong with his/her ex.)

Side note: Over 66% of men surveyed indicated that one of the biggest turn-offs in their first date was that “she was boring.” Instead of sticking to neutral topics such as the weather and the local sports teams, it’s advisable to experiment with your inquiries. While you may not want to ask how many times your date has cheated in the past on a lover, you might want to find out who has influenced him the most in his life or what she likes to do on a day off.

Discussions about politics may seem inadvisable, but singles really do take this matter to heart. In fact, 24% of singles thinks not being a registered voter is an automatic deal-breaker and 35% won’t even consider dating someone who doesn’t at least have an opinion on certain key political issues. While certain topics, such as abortion, should probably be off-limits for now – jump in the pool with 80% of singles who enjoy conversations about religion, gun control, immigration, and marriage equality. And if you are worried that you stand on opposite sides of the political fence, statistics indicate it really won’t do you much harm in the long run, as 94% of singles really don’t care if their potential match holds differing political opinions.

Here are a few “starter” questions to get the conversation going if you have yet to move beyond, “Are you ready to order?”

  • What is your biggest goal in life right now?

  • What were you like as a kid?

  • What are some things that make you laugh?

  • What is your favorite book/movie/recording artist/song?

  • What is your favorite way to spend the weekend?

  • What was your family like when you were growing up?

If you feel like you and your date are making a connection, feel free to elevate the dialogue to invite a few more interesting questions, such as

  • What are you looking for in a relationship?

  • What is your idea of a perfect match?

  • How do you envision your wedding day? (Okay. We confess. We tossed that one in there to see if you were paying attention. The first date might not be the platform for that question, but if you like to push the envelope and the two of you have hit it off, why not toss in a few questions just to liven it up a bit more and encourage more laughter! It’s up to you. However, we really can’t guarantee the outcome of the date if you use that last question. You’re on your own there!)

Rule #4: Preparing for the Second
Date: When it’s time to say “goodnight.”

Just like a typical scene from a movie, there is that awkward moment at the end of the date where neither one of you really knows how to proceed, despite wanting to lean towards your natural inner urges.

So, the date has ended. You are ready to say your good-byes, and, if everything worked out well, hopefully you have planned that second date. But then there is that undeniable pause – that loud silence that stands in the way. Kiss? No kiss? Hug? Just a handshake? Well, the answer to that could rest in your age range. The Silent Generation (59%) and the Boomers (29%) are more likely to expect a little kiss compared to Millennials, who are more expectant of a make-out session than just a simple kiss (43%). Speaking of making out, more men (40%) expect this finale than women (25%).

Increasing the odds of physical contact may rest in the after-dinner drinks, which elevates expectations in this regard to 47%. And even though those Hollywood flicks frequently depict a dash to the bedroom, surprisingly, only 12% of men expect intercourse on the second date as compared to 3% of women.

But is a second date really in the cards for me?

Well, that largely depends upon if you both felt any connection or “spark,” but sometimes it takes a while to warm up. Don’t abandon the idea simply because you haven’t fallen head over heels at this encounter.

Sure, physical attraction to each other typically goes without saying, but the number one thing most singles say they desire in a match is a sense of humor. In fact, over 93% say it’s a “must have.” Statistically, a fair majority of women – 69% – are highly attracted to a man who can make her laugh, and 56% of single men indicated that a sense of humor and/or charisma definitely help secure that second date.

But don’t forget to show your smarts, without being overbearing about it. If you have a strong intellect and can hold an engaging conversation, then you may have just opened the door to that next date, as 48% of single women and 42% of single men find that attribute highly attractive.

Above all, be sure to follow one simple piece of advice: Be yourself.

It helps to be proactive if you want another date. If you two are parting and traveling home separately, send a quick text when you get back to your place. Something that says something like: "Home! Let me know you got back safely, too. I had a great time tonight, thanks!" shows that you care without being pushy. You should also make plans to meet again soon. Don't follow outdated "rules" that say you can't get in touch within three days of a date. They're not just archaic, they are symptoms of the sort of game-playing that many people don't like. Instead, if you are enthusiastic, let that show. And remember, too, “If the feelings are mutual, the effort will be equal.”

Final thoughts on that first meeting:

Resist the urge to go over the top just to impress your date. You don’t need that kind of pressure. How can you even enjoy yourself under such stress? The more you try to make things perfect, the more challenging it will become to make the date fun and enjoyable. If you are twitchy and nervous, you will make your date feel the same way. Not a good impression.

Our words of advice? Simply approach it as if it is no big deal in the grand scheme of things. Inevitably, a “disaster” may occur – a drink will be spilled, a stain may end up on your clothing, plans may get spoiled. However, the way you handle these minor stumbling blocks and quickly recover from them will say so much about your self-confidence, and more than likely will impress your date to a far greater degree than that new outfit you bought or that corny joke you told out of nervousness.

The most important advice is to be outcome independent. You are getting the opportunity to meet someone new. That is all the weight you should put on a first date. If you two click and move on to a second date, that is wonderful. If it's a miss, that's okay too. You got a chance to spend time with someone, and knowing what you don't want or won't get is as important as finding the one for you.

Oh, yeah…before we forget: TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE!!!!!