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Men and women are rotated to meet each other over a series of short "dates" usually lasting from three to eight 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.
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.
Usually advance registration is required for speed dating events.
Speed dating is a formalized matchmaking process whose purpose is to encourage eligible singles to meet large numbers of new potential partners in a very short period of time.
It was created in 1998 by Antony Beilinsohn (a Los Angeles based television executive) after his Rabbi, Yaacov Deyo, encouraged Antony to conceive of innovative new ways for eligible jewish to meet and marry.
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.
Most speed dating events match people at random, and participants will meet different "types" that they might not normally talk to in a club.