As the Kiwi version of reality show First Dates hits our screens, Russell Blackstock explores how to avoid the romantic pitfalls of that first encounter.

Most of us have a dating disaster we would rather forget - that toe-curling moment that still jolts you awake in a 3am cold sweat, even many years later.

The main mistake make is not preparing properly for that all-important first meeting, says Auckland-based body language expert and life coach Suzanne Masefield.

"It is not just about dressing to impress or trotting out all your achievements," she says.

"You have a much better chance of getting to a second date or forming a relationship if you are relaxed and come across as being comfortable in your own skin.


"Setting your expectations too high is another common error, which can lead to real disappointment."

The Kiwi version of international TV hit First Dates launches tomorrow - and plenty of fireworks are expected between strangers who meet up in a bid to find love.

We have already watched the Brits and the Aussies have a go at it.

Now TV2 is hoping for a ratings winner with First Dates New Zealand.

In the show, eight hopeful singletons will be set up on a nerve-racking blind date each week.

Cameras will capture the hope and the heartbreak of that first meeting as the couples share a three-course meal.

The fresh-faced singles have

been matched on their likes and ­dislikes.

But will it be a match made in ­heaven or a first date from hell?

Outrageous New Zealand ­beauty Loaan Smith made headlines across the ditch earlier this year for her boozy antics and candid sex confessions on First Dates Australia.

The 29-year-old brunette, ­originally from Napier, shocked Aussie viewers when she knocked back tequila shots during a blind date at a restaurant with a heavily tattooed "party boy" and admitted she "had sex with a lot of people on the first date".

"I am not a good ­drinker and I was ­pretty hammered pretty quickly during the date," she told the Herald on Sunday before the episode was screened here in June.

"What the cameras didn't show was I had to stop halfway through to throw up."

Smith also boasted about having had sex with more than 40 men, and at the end of the date she was carried out of the restaurant.

The New Zealand version is expected to be just as colourful. It is narrated by Kiwi Living presenter Sam Pease, who authored the book Date Like A Dude.

Behind the scenes, Auckland-based Masefield will coach and support the love-hungry ­contestants.

To help people prepare for dates, she has created a free app called Press Pause to assist with mindfulness and body language techniques to lower stress and ­increase health and well-being.

She believes there is a perfect match for everyone out there but finding that special one takes time, effort and an open-minded ­attitude.

"We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person ­perfectly," she says.

Suzanne Masefield's do's and don'ts for finding the right partner


• Tell yourself beforehand 10 things that are good about you.

• Listen to the other person and make them feel valued, don't just drone on about yourself.

• Take an icebreaker, such as a bunch of flowers.

• Take deep breaths to calm yourself down before the date.

• Manage your body language - eye contact is important and power poses boost confidence.

• Enjoy the experience without being attached to an outcome.

• Sleep together too soon, let things build naturally.
• Overdo the alcohol before and during the date.
• Take criticism too personally or you may give up at the first hurdle.
• Send explicit photos to your date.

• First Dates New Zealand ­premieres on TV2 at 8.30pm on Monday.

Kimberley Crossman - Actor

I was talking to a guy I'd had a crush on for a while.

He was flying back from overseas and we planned to spend the day in Auckland before flying south so we could spend the day together.

I was very excited.

I had lots of fun activities planned and had told pretty much everyone in my close circle about the date, discussing what we should do and where we should go.

He had been very intense with me and made a point of wanting us to have some time together face-to-face since we'd both been overseas.

Fast-forward to the day of the date.

I picked him up from the airport and took him home to my place to shower and get ready.
My family, conveniently, were all home as they wanted to meet him.

He went upstairs and never came down. He had fallen asleep.

Mum said it would be rude to wake him up (she doesn't know this, but I did try to wake him, almost every hour).

So he slept all day and then I woke him to take him back to the airport.
It was a very quiet drive.

Jess Holly Bates - Actor

It was our second date and we went to the opening of Beards Beards Beards at the Basement.

I arrived, running late. She was standing at the door holding a beer and a wine - "Whichever one you want, babe" - so I took the beer and we headed in.

The show was brilliant and lively. My ex was sitting only three seats away, but I was determined to make it easy and affable.

Partway through the show I found my date staring at me. "You smell amazing," she said, and lurched a little towards me.

It wasn't until the end of the show I realised she was a bit off - talking a little too loud, laughing a bit much. So she's drunk, I thought.

I quickly suggested we short-circuit the night by leaving our half drinks and getting food.
Under the unsatisfying strip lighting of a little Korean joint, it became clear she couldn't even read the menu.

I bought her ginger beer and dinner, but she touched neither, making trip after trip to the bathroom and resolutely maintaining everything was "fine".

I was pretty sure she was throwing up, and pretty bored by the fact I was stuck there on a Tuesday.

That's chill, I thought, just get yourself out of here.

When she started to ask where we'd been that night and what we were doing in the restaurant, and how long we'd been here, I started to twig.

She told me she'd only had two drinks, but was clinging to my arm and blinking at the lights for mercy. It was odd. We didn't make it to the car before she repeated her questions. Six times.

Shit, I thought - her drink has been spiked.

My Samaritan took over, and I adopted her phone and called her sister. A few moments later her mother called.

I spent four hours with a de-robed date, her mother and her sister at Auckland Hospital on a Tuesday night.

At 1am, my half-size-too-small shoes had bitten blisters into my feet, I was exhausted from making anxious small-talk, and it turned out she had really just had too many wines.

Probably the most tragic anticlimax I had ever experienced. We didn't see each other romantically again.

Jack Tame - TV host

I bitterly recall a trainwreck speed-dating event I was roped into by Matty McLean. The night turned out worse for him, though. One of his dates said to his face, "I'm sorry but you just don't WOW me." Burn.

Sarah Gandy - The Hits DJ

I haven't been on many 'dates' as my single days were pre-Tinder.

One date I went on didn't get past the first couple of drinks.

I met the guy at the bar of a restaurant - things were okay (not on fire but okay), when he went to the bathroom. I noticed him chatting to two women at a table on his way back to the bar. Turns out it was his mum and sister. Coincidence? Unfortunately, no. Nothing like an audience of close family to make a first date the last date.

AJ James - TV sports host

It was the week of the 2015 Super Rugby Final. I teed up a drink with a nice girl in the capital, but was dressed in a kilt as William Wallace at the time, so had to have a quick change of clothes in the back of the car.

I was parked in the CBD and, unbeknownst to me, there was faecal deposit on the ground where I was parked.

I slipped on the shoes and jeans half in, half out of the car and somehow managed to collect some on the back of my pants and shoes, although I was still oblivious.

Things went really well with the girl and I was invited back to her parents' house. In the taxi I finally noticed the smell. Unfortunately, she did, too.

I was politely asked to have a shower once we got to the house. Safe to say I was too embarrassed to see her again for a while.

Sam Pease - Author and TV presenter

While still intensely grieving the loss of two close family members, I distracted myself with a first date with a colleague.

Over pre-dinner drinks he politely asked generic questions about my family and I started to cry - not discreetly and beautifully like women do in the movies, but a full-on, snot-streaming ugly cry.

On a first date.


Instead of running away he suggested we check into a hotel for a no-pressure evening of movies and buckets of room service.

An hour later we're in a beautiful ocean-front suite; he's in the shower and I, mortified that I was unleashing my fragile state on him, decided to pull a Runaway Susie.

I texted my apologies for leaving from the lobby and then maturely switched my phone off for two days.

Clearly I wasn't in the right headspace for dating, but that's the thing.

Sometimes we date when we're not emotionally ready and that's when they turn into horror stories.

But we've all been less than dignified at some point in our lives. Sometimes we're the horror story.

Chris Lynch - NewstalkZB presenter

It was a second date and we met at a romantic restaurant in downtown Christchurch.
I purposely chose a place with dark lighting to boost my confidence. Sadly, for this date, I didn't have any liquid courage.

I remember sitting at the table thinking, 'This is incredibly awkward'. To make matters worse, my date kept asking the waitress if she recognised my voice from the radio.

I was getting more and more embarrassed. I pretended to text work, but texted a friend and asked her to call me to say there was a "family emergency".

Dramatic I know, but this date had never heard of the word "no". My "aunty" arrived minutes later to whisk me away to said emergency - and the night ended at a drive-through McDonald's.