Pre-screen. Outside of online dating, ready-made profile doesn't exist. That's when you turn to your matchmaker, whether he or she is your aunt, best friend, or gym buddy, and ask some questions. "This way, you have a vantage point when you meet ," says Piane. Her suggestions for some starting questions: What is he like? Where is she from? What does she do for a living? These questions are all general enough to give you a feeling as to whether you're even interested in taking the next step. And, by all means, Google the person. "I think Googling is a part of our lives and many of us will do some research on search engines before a job interview or prior to a blind date!" Syrtash laughs. "Besides, it helps to feel a little more prepared."
Dial Them Up. "Before the blind date, you should spend 15 to 20 minutes on the phone with the person to see if you have any chemistry," says Wygant. "If you're awkward on the phone, chances are you're going to be very awkward on the date." Indeed, the consensus of blind date experts agree that the energy you feel over the phone is extremely telling. "You can feel the vibe of a person by their voice," notes Piane. "But also, this phone conversation allows you to build a bridge to rapport, so that when the blind date rolls around, you're less nervous."
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Ask and You Shall Receive. The general questions you asked the person setting you up: You already asked them, so don't ask them again! Wygant calls these "resume swapping," and suggest avoiding them when talking to your blind date for the first time. Instead, try to explore the person's lifestyle as well as personal values. "What do they do for fun? Where have they traveled? Where do they like to hang out? What are they passionate about?" Wygant says. "As they answer these questions, take the conversation deeper. Ask follow-up questions." These questions allow the person to open up about their personal beliefs and goals.
It's a Date Place! Choosing the setting for your blind date involves several factors—all of which you can discuss during your phone conversation. "Try and find a place that is equidistant from the both of you," suggests Piane. Short dates are better facilitated at coffee shops, happy hours or during lunch, where it's perfectly acceptable to end the date in under an hour. "If you feel a connection over the phone, a dinner date can work," says Piane, "but realize, if you make a great connection over drinks at happy hour, you can always extend the date to dinner." Settings to avoid: brightly lit places, too-crowded areas and kid-friendly places.
Safety First. Do you meet up at a spot or do you go together? When you're being set up, someone is usually vouching for your date's sanity, but it's better to be safe than sorry. And even if your date isn't a serial killer, he may not be someone you want to get stuck with on a long car ride. "For this reason alone, I'd strongly recommend meeting your blind date in a public location and taking your own transportation so you aren't tied together should you want to end the date a little early," says Syrtash. "If you have sparks, there will be plenty of other opportunities ahead to share a ride!"
Ex Marks the "Not" Spot. Just like with all first dates, certain rules apply: No ex-talk or detailed descriptions of mental illnesses that run in your family. Lay off the baby names. Skip spaghetti unless you're sure you can eat it without splattering yourself and your date.
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Overall, Be Open-minded. Blind dating requires a sense of adventure and a healthy dose of humor when things go awry. Piane has this advice: "Keep an open spirit and an open mind when going on a blind date because, even though that blind date might not be the man or woman of your dreams, you can meet and connect with amazing people through that person or at the venue." She should know: she met her husband only hours after a bad blind date!