My friend Andy is a runner and he frequently compares dating to a grueling long hurdle race.  “Once you pass the first hurdle, getting her name and her number,” he says, “then you’re up against an even higher hurdle:  the first date.  And if you miss that, you’re out of the race!”  If you’re anything like Andy and the scores of other single guys I know, first dates can be more fearsome than a high stakes athletic competition.  Not to worry, as a New York dating coach/ life coach, I have quite a few tips you should probably know if you want to approach each first date like a champion.  Here are my top ten:

1.  Show up on time

Punctuality is a sign of respect and a demonstration of your genuine interest in your date.  Arriving when you say you will creates a great first impression right off the bat because it subtly shows that you are responsible and honor your word.

2.  Dress to impress

It’s usually not a bad idea to get a haircut before a first date, unless you’re the type of rebellious guy who can pull off long, untamed locks.  No matter what your look, whether it’s Wall Street or the East Village, a first date is the time to look your best and pay extra attention to your grooming.  Your efforts won’t go unnoticed.

3.  Plan ahead

Sure, you may have sweaty palms before a first date, but you shouldn’t think for a second that your female counterpart is any less nervous than you are.  Planning ahead will help ease your date’s anxiety and allow you to relax and enjoy the night, as well, instead of scrambling around to make sure things come together at the last minute.

4.  Be creative

If you want to be the first date story that she brags about (not yawns about!) then think outside the dating box.  Ditch the tired ritual of dinner and a movie and choose a spot that is unique and memorable.  Get a sneak peek at your compatibility as a team and sign up for a dancing or cooking class.  Explore something new together and take a hike at a local park or check out a new museum exhibit.  Don’t be afraid to break the rules (just a little).

5.  Lay off your cell phone

Unless you’re a doctor on call, your cell phone should not make an appearance (or a peep) on a first date.  In fact, as far as your date is concerned, you might as well have left your phone at home.  The fastest way to bore or offend your date is to take calls or send and receive text messages while you’re still saying your “How do you do’s.”

6.  Keep things light

Believe it or not, most women on a first date aren’t looking for romantic stares and dramatic declarations of love.  We want to laugh with you, not re-enact scenes from a Nicholas Spark novel.  Showing your date that you don’t take yourself too seriously allows her to let her guard down and have fun with you.  There will be plenty of time for longing gazes later.

7.  Focus on her

Who are we kidding?  Women love to talk, especially to someone who is interested and engaged in the conversation.  Asking your date thoughtful questions and then actively listening to each of her responses will woo her and wow her.

8.  Watch your mouth

Steer away from negative or taboo topics of conversation as well as excessive profanity.  Your first meet and greet with a new gal is not the time to talk about your past relationships, your paycheck, or your problems.  Focus your first few chats on positive topics and leave the heavy talk for later.

9.  Make eye contact

Darting eyes make ladies wonder if their date is bored, hiding something, or not-so-slyly trying to check out other girls.  Relaxed eye contact indicates to your date that you like her and enjoy listening to her.  The more valued and respected she feels, the more likely she is to say “Yes” to date number two.

10.  Keep the night G-Rated

No matter how hot and steamy your chemistry may be, your best bet on a first date is to end the night sweetly, but not intimately.  If you feel that you sense attraction and positive energy at the end of a date, seal it with a kiss and leave it at that.  Delaying intimacy will heighten your mutual attraction for one another and demonstrate to your date that you are trustworthy and sincere.

Have you learned a few things from experience?  If you have anything to add to this list, feel free to leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

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