If you’re currently unable (or would prefer to wait) to date in-person – for instance, by going out for dinner, meeting for a drink in a bar, or taking part in a planned activity – the good news is that it’s still possible to start making meaningful connections with people from afar.

Whilst virtual dating might not be ideal in the long-term, it can still offer you the chance to meet new people, and get on the path to finding love or companionship from the safety and comfort of your own home.

When many people think about a virtual date, they think of awkward pauses and connection issues, but it can actually be a lot of fun – especially if you get creative with your date ideas. Many people also say that virtual dating has saved them time and money, as well as allowing them to feel safer and more in control of the situation (as it’s much easier to cut a meeting short online if it’s not going well).

If you’ve never been on a virtual date before, then it’s understandable that you might be feeling apprehensive about your internet dating experience. However, as with many things, once you’ve done it once or twice, you’ll hopefully start feeling more confident and at ease.

Before you get started on your own virtual dating journey, we thought it might be helpful to offer you some tips on how to get the most out of the experience. Here are seven tips to help you prepare for a first virtual date.

1. Set up your camera beforehand

One of the best ways to ease first-date nerves and allow yourself to get excited about your virtual dating experience is to set up your camera a day, or a few hours before. This means agreeing on a video calling platform with your date; for instance, will you use Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts?

It’s important to make sure that you both have an account setup and ready to go on whichever platform you decide to use. It’s also a good idea to decide who will initiate the video call; either you or your date, so that you don’t try to call each other simultaneously, or so that you’re not both waiting around for the other to call.

Other things to consider include deciding whether you’re going to use your laptop, smartphone, or tablet, and where you’re going to put it during the date. Generally speaking, it’s best to position your device at eye-level, as this will allow you to make strong eye contact with your date in a face-on position. You might have a laptop stand, or phone-holder that you can use to achieve this, or you could try balancing your device on a stack of books if not.

At this point, you might also want to think about which room you want to have your video call in, and what can be seen in the background. Is there anything private lurking about that you wouldn’t want a stranger to see? Or is there anything particularly distracting, like a busy piece of artwork that might distract your date?

It can also help to consider the lighting. Where in your home is the light most flattering? Can you find somewhere to sit where you aren’t backlit by a window (as this can lead to your date only being able to see a dark silhouette of you)? It’s also important that the lighting helps you to feel relaxed. You might find that having soft, ambient lighting, rather than a glaring overhead light, helps you to do this.

If you can, try video calling a friend a day or so before your date to check that your camera and microphone are working well. This is also a good chance to experiment with positioning and lighting.

For more tips on how to get started with video calling, have a read of our article here.

2. Dress as you would if you were going to an in-person date

Just because you aren’t going out on a date, there’s no reason why you can’t dress as if you were. If you would usually wear some smart jeans and a nice shirt, or a pretty dress, then it’s a good idea to still do this.

This isn’t necessarily about impressing your date, but about giving yourself a confidence boost. How you perceive yourself is just as important, if not more important than how your date perceives you – and making an effort with your appearance can help you feel more positive, and more like yourself.

Getting ready for your date can also be a bit like an event in itself, and a fun one at that. Some people enjoy getting glammed up whilst having a couple of drinks and putting on some of their favourite music. During this time, you might get butterflies and feel hopeful and excited about the date, and about the possibilities of who you’re about to meet.

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3. Consider organising a virtual date that’s based around an activity

If the idea of a straightforward virtual meeting with a stranger doesn’t really appeal to you, then you could consider organising a virtual date based around an activity. This can help to break the ice, and give you both something else to focus on if you’re feeling a bit nervous.

What you decide to do on your virtual date will really depend on your interests, and the interests of your date. Perhaps you could both cook the same dinner recipe while you chat, or maybe you could both paint and drink wine. If you both enjoy reading, then you could also consider picking a book to read and discuss.

Finding an activity that you and your date can do together, can also help you to explore your similarities and differences, and give you greater insight into what an in-person meeting could be like in the future.

Alternatively, you might find it helpful to arrange a double date, where you invite another long-distance couple to join you. This can work particularly well in circumstances where that couple actually introduced you to your date in the first place. Having extra company can help to ease first-date nerves, and take some of the pressure off. If you get on well, you can always arrange a second meeting with just the two of you.

4. Expect it to be a little awkward, and be prepared to laugh it off

One of the best ways to approach a virtual date is to accept from the get go that there might be some awkwardness – in the same way that in-person dates can also have awkward or clumsy moments, especially when you’re still getting to know one another.

Virtual interactions are different from in-person ones as it’s harder to read one another’s body language and facial expressions, and turn-taking during a conversation can feel less natural. You might find yourself going to say something at the same time, or one of you might have an unstable wifi connection that means you have to concentrate more on what the other is saying because of choppy sound, or a video that stutters or lags.

However, this is all part and parcel of the virtual dating experience, so try not to let it put you off or affect how you think the date went. The reality is that we can all find video calls with work, family, friends, or romantic partners awkward at times, so being prepared to laugh it off and move on can often be the best remedy.

5. Try not to talk about coronavirus the entire time

The lasting impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have altered many areas of daily life – including the world of dating.

However, while it’s perfectly reasonable to talk about such a world-changing event during a portion of your date, try not to let it dominate the entire conversation. Not only can this be emotionally and mentally draining for both of you, for many people it’s a worn out topic, and it can take away from time that could be spent learning about each other. 

6. Consider writing down a few ice-breaker questions or conversation starters

If you’re worried about getting nervous on a first virtual date with someone, and not knowing what to say, then it can be useful to write down a few ice-breaker questions or conversation starters beforehand.

These aren’t designed to guide the entire date, but can help you feel more confident before and during your interaction, and might help you out in the event that you have a moment where you can’t think of anything to say.

These could include questions such as:

  • What sort of thing makes you laugh out loud?
  • Do you enjoy travelling? Where did you last travel to?
  • What’s been the best year of your life so far?
  • What are some of your favourite books (or films/music)?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Do you still keep in touch with childhood friends?
  • How do you spend your days?
  • Do you like animals? What’s your favourite animal? Do you have any pets?
  • What would you be doing if you weren’t in your current job?
  • What’s the worst pick-up line you’ve ever heard?

It’s best not to fire these questions out at your date as though you’re interviewing or interrogating them. But, it can help to have your list somewhere where you can easily see it, so that if you reach an awkward pause, and are looking for somewhere to direct the conversation, then you have a couple of helpful hints to hand.

You might find that you don’t need these after all, and that the conversation flows very naturally from the get-go. But one of perks of a virtual date is that you can have your prompts ready if you need them.

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It’s free to create your profile and browse matches. If you like what you see, get a premium subscription and start contacting like-minded singles near you.

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7. Take some time to reflect and wind down afterwards

A virtual date can be just as important, exciting and/or nerve wracking as an in person date because it can help you decide whether a person is a potential fit for you romantically. You’ll get to find out what their voice sounds like, get a clearer idea of what they look like, what their interests and passions are, and just generally, what sort of person they are.

You might start your date feeling hopeful, only to find that that hope grows into excitement about the connection that you could potentially build with this new person. Equally, if a date didn’t go so well and you quickly realised that the person you were on a date with isn’t for you, then it’s normal to feel disappointed.

First dates can also be somewhat adrenaline-fuelled because you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone, and opening yourself up to the possibility of love or companionship with a new person. Afterwards, whether it went well or not, you might feel tired – or even the opposite, unable to relax or sit still. This is just as true for a virtual date, as it is for an in-person meeting.

Whatever your feelings after a virtual date, it’s important to give yourself some time to reflect and unwind (or decompress), afterwards. How you do this is up to you. You might want to sit and mull things over, over a coffee or a glass of wine, take a long relaxing bath, or phone a friend to chat about how the date went.

You might also find that a virtual date can leave you with the feeling that you didn’t really “do” anything – but it’s important to acknowledge the work you’ve done here. You’ve taken steps outside of your comfort zone by opening yourself up to a video call with a complete stranger.

Final thoughts…

While meeting someone in a virtual setting isn’t quite the same as meeting them in-person, it can help to remember that at some point these online meet ups can be swapped for the real thing. Online dating can give you the opportunity to meet like minded individuals, and start paving the way for a romantic relationship later on.

Virtual dating can also allow us to spend much longer talking to and getting to know a potential love interest, than we might do when we meet people in person. Having lots of meaningful conversations with a potential partner at a distance can allow you more time to reflect, consider whether they are right for you, and avoid getting swept along and jumping into anything too quickly.

If you’re currently unsure whether you’re ready to start dating again, then you might find it helpful to read our article; 8 questions to help you decide whether you’re ready to date again. Or check out our article if you want to find out more about how to stay safe while dating online. For other advice, visit the dating section of our website.