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Speed dating is a formalized matchmaking process or dating system whose purpose is to encourage people to meet a large number of new people. Its origins are credited to Rabbi Yaacov Deyo of Aish HaTorah, originally as a way to help Jewish singles meet and marry. "SpeedDating", as a single word, is a registered trademark of Aish HaTorah. "Speed dating", as two separate words, is often used as a generic term for similar events.
The first speed-dating event took place at Peet’s Café in Beverly Hills in late 1998. Soon afterward, several commercial services began offering secular round-robin dating events across the United States. By 2000, speed dating had really taken off, perhaps boosted by its portrayal in shows such as Sex and the City as something that glamorous people did. Supporters argue that speed dating saves time, as most people quickly decide if they are romantically compatible, and first impressions are often permanent.
Men and women are rotated to meet each other over a series of short "dates", usually lasting from 3 to 8 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. 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. Contact information cannot be traded during the initial meeting, in order to reduce pressure to accept or reject a suitor to his or her face.
These events typically require advance registration, often an online prepayment by credit card. However, they may accept a few walk-ins when needed to balance the gender ratio. Some services make use of wait lists when signing up to strive for exactly the same number of men and women, while others have a more "party" atmosphere and only aim for an approximately matching number.
There are many speed dating events now in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. Many of these simply specify an age range for ladies and gentlemen; sometimes a slightly older range is specified for men. On the other hand, many organizers offer niche events such as nights for graduates only, gays and lesbians, older men with younger women and vice versa, book lovers, ethnic events, and religious affiliation such as Christian speed dating.
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. 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.
Because the matching itself happens after the event, people do not feel pressured to select or reject each other in person. On the other hand, feedback and gratification are delayed as participants must wait a day or two for their results to come in.
The time limit ensures that a participant will not be stuck with a boorish match for very long, and prevents participants from monopolizing one another's time. 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. On the other hand, the random matching precludes the various cues, such as eye contact, that people use in bars to preselect each other before chatting them up.
Business speed dating has also been used in China as a way for business people to meet each other and to decide if they have similar business objectives and synergies. Speed dating offers participating investors and companies an opportunity to have focused private meetings with targeted groups in a compact time frame.
Several online dating services offer online speed dating including Woome and SpeedDate.com, where users meet online for video, audio or text chats. The advantage of online speed dating is that users can go on dates from home as it can be done from any internet enabled computer. The disadvantage is people don't actually meet one another.
There have been several studies of the round-robin dating systems themselves, as well as studies of interpersonal attraction that are relevant to these events. Other studies found speed-dating data useful as a way to observe individual choices among random participants.
A 2005 study at the University of Pennsylvania of multiple HurryDate speed dating events found that most people made their choices within the first three seconds of meeting. Furthermore, issues such as religion, previous marriages, and smoking habits were found to play much less of a role than expected.  
A 2006 study in Edinburgh, Scotland showed that 45% of the women participants in a speed-dating event and 22% of the men had come to a decision within the first 30 seconds. It also found that dialogue concerning travel resulted in more matches than dialogue about films.
Malcolm Gladwell's book on split-second decision making, Blink, introduces two professors at Columbia University who run speed-dating events. Drs. Sheena Iyengar and Raymond Fisman found, from having the participants fill out questionnaires, that what people said they wanted in an ideal mate did not match their subconscious preferences. 
A 1995 study at the University of Bern showed that women appear to be attracted to the smell of men who have different MHC profiles from their own, and that oral contraceptives reversed this effect.
The MHC is a region of the human genome involved with immune function. Because parents with more diverse MHC profiles would be expected to produce offspring with stronger immune systems, dissimilar MHC may play a role in sexual selection.
A speed "date" lasting several minutes should be long enough for the MHC hypothesis to come into play, provided the participants are seated close enough together.
The TV newsmagazine 20/20 once sent both a male and a female set of twins to a speed dating event. One of each set was wearing pheromones, and the ones wearing pheromones received more matches.
A 2006 study at the University of Essex and the IZA in Bonn  into the relative effects of preference versus opportunity in mate selection showed, while concluding that opportunity was more important than preference, that a woman's age is the single most important factor determining demand by men. Although less important than it is to men, age is still a highly significant factor determining demand by women.
The same study found that a man's height had a significant impact upon his desirability, with a reduction in height causing a decrease in desirability at the rate of 5% per inch.
Studies of speed dating events generally show more selectivity among women than among men. For instance, the Penn study reported that the average man was chosen by 34% of the women and the average woman was chosen by 49% of the men. New studies suggest that the selectivity is based on which gender is seated and which is rotating. This new study showed that when men were seated and the women rotated, the men were more selective. http://www.livescience.com/culture/090929-women-dating.html
The popularity or charm of speed dating has led to at least one offspring: Speed Networking. A structured way of running business networking events with the goal of making meeting potential business contacts easier and more productive. Some speed dating companies have now started offering free speed dating where you don't pay unless you meet somebody you like.
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Speed dating has been featured in several television programs and movies: