First dates are hard! There is a fine balance to be created so you both feel excited and comfortable. Too many people plan “epic” or inappropriate first dates, and then wonder why they flop.

The goal of the first date is to see if you share a connection and chemistry…. Not to watch the latest blockbuster or sit in on a Buddhist ceremony.

First dates should be about the conversation and allow you to experience each other in a casual and authentic way. If you are ready to ditch the 5 hour agonizing dinner date, awkward coffee shop stares, and avoid the “I’ll have another” when you just wanna bolt, follow these 10 keys:

1) Keep it short! One to two hours max. Just long enough to discover if you’ve got a real spark, but short enough to escape if its going south. Plan to meet mid morning or mid day so you both have somewhere to head out to afterwards.

2) Keep it Public! Meet somewhere not too noisy and that allows you both feel at ease ane experience each other in “real life”.

3) Keep Stimulated! Walk through an outdoor art fair, head to a games cafe, or explore the aquarium. Anything that allows you to engage with each other and keep the convo moving if its stale.

4) Keep it sweet! Your conversation should be positive and light. No one wants to listen to negative Nancy, or sit through a rant about politics or religion. Save the debates for the second date, and share your passions and likes right now.

5) Keep it cheap! Find free events in your city, use a groupon and keep it low key. This way neither of you feel you’re breaking the bank just to meet, and you’ve got extra coin to take them to that restaurant you’ve been dying to try on the second date!

6) Keep it classy! Over-sharing blinds your potential partner and forces them to turn away. Keep all skeletons, tears, messy and drunk stories for later, and instead share the brave, exciting and proud moments.

7) Keep ex’s out! No need to talk about past relationships while trying on a new one. This may make your partner feel compared or even worse… That you’re not over your ex (which you should be by the way)! Focus on sizing up your new interest and exploring your compatibility.

8) Keep curious! This is your chance to genuinely get to know someone new, and what better way then to ask questions? Everyone enjoys talking about themselves and their life, so ask away, play tennis and rally!

9) Keep Boundaries! We all have different comfortability levels. Decide your boundaries ahead of time such as no kissing, or no sex until the thrid date so you leave feeling you respected your needs, and ready to reflect on your date with a clear conscious.

10) Keep it honest! Everyone deserves the truth. If you know a date is leading nowhere… say it and they’ll admire you for it. Practice a kind and positive way of letting someone know your not a match, and don’t wait, no one likes being strung along.

Follow these keys to create a fun, light and easy first date you’ll both enjoy. And if it turns out your date is not the character you’ve dreamed up, you can walk away with time to spare, money in your pocket, another positive life experience under your belt.

Written By Lee-Anne Galloway – Toronto Dateologist