Looking for love? If you're a guy, there's no need to borrow an adorable puppy or cute baby to act as a chick-magnet. Dating coach Colin Dubb, 32, of Day Game Dating has designed a program to address what he calls the "disconnect" between men and women.
"Often a man won't approach an attractive woman because he's nervous and fearful of rejection. The woman perceives this as him not being interested in her," says Dubb. "Or, if he does go over to talk to her she may feel nervous and he interprets this as a brush-off. Both think the other doesn't like them, which isn't the case."
But surely, men and women should instinctively know how to attract a partner?
"Not so," he says. "The 40-year-old virgin does exist. Take away the alcohol and bravado and time and again you'll find a shy, insecure male. He may be successful in the business world but he hasn't got a handle on the dating area.
"If you haven't ever been taught the skill of meeting and dating, or perhaps you went to a single-sex school, how are you supposed to know what to do? People take courses ranging from sales and dieting to parenting. Learning to date is no different and it's nothing to be embarrassed about." Hackneyed pick-up lines aren't in the firing line. Rather, guys are taught conversational skills with emphasis on self-development and confidence-gaining.
"A lot of problems come from social conditioning. Guys may have seen a movie like American Pie where Jim appears embarrassingly foolish and they think, 'I don't want to be that guy'. Or there's situational conditioning: they may have been hurt before and have become overly cautious."
Since 2006, the psychology-trained Dubb has offered weekend, day-long, dating bootcamps – maximum number five participants – in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and the Gold Coast. His clients range from the early 20s up to the 50s and they go out "into the field": aka malls, parks, cafes, markets, places, which are less threatening than night-time venues. After watching Dubb chat up random women in real-life demos they follow the leader and practice making their own approaches. The proviso is they are not to hassle women or make sleazy comments or advances ... "just to be friendly, non-threatening, and, ultimately, to take a chance".
Once back on safe ground, the guys get the heads-up on the art of flirting and how to build sexual chemistry. A going-forward strategy is drawn up and tools are suggested for building a social circle. This is followed up by a phone coaching session and unlimited email access to Dubb.
Besides bootcamps, there are private, face-to-face or telephone coaching sessions on offer plus regular speaker events and Friday and Saturday night forays into pubs and clubs.
So what's the word back from the frontline?
Retailer George Wilkinson, 34, says after "much success with girls" in his early 20s he got engaged at 26 but realised that she wasn't the special someone so they broke up.
"I'm not bad looking and look after myself. However, when I got back out there in my early 30s I felt less comfortable and had trouble connecting."
Wilkinson says that in his professional life he's always looked to mentors so it seemed natural to get help with his personal life. "Since I've worked with Colin on my insecurities I've experienced a huge mental shift in awareness. Although I haven't yet found the love of my life, I've made lots of approaches and am interacting better with women."
Then there's nurse Jesse Hadley, 24 who was so shy that he was even nervous asking the time off a girl. "I did a bootcamp and was pushed into uncomfortable situations. Now, six months later I'm about 70 per cent where I want to be. Knockbacks don't faze me.
"Recently I went up north for three weeks and I must have approached about 50 or 60 girls and got about 30 phone numbers, which resulted in some dates.
"The majority of girls will be flattered if you speak to them and you will make them smile even if they don't give you their details."
Now, with requests coming in for a similar service for women, daygamedating4women was born. "It's a way for women to get inside a guy's mind. We offer coaching, a make-over of her online dating profile to gain the attention of the right type of guy and also chaperoned Thursday night group outings to The Establishment bar in Sydney," Dubb says.
For both guys and girls, another innovative player in the dating business is Scott Gregory's group2date.com.au, which is an amalgam of coach plus matchmaking service. The premise that it's less daunting to meet other singles in a group situation is not new but what's novel here is the profiling of members with events based on interests, age and personality. Distinctive, too, is the scope of events on offer: kayaking, lawn bowls, cooking and dance classes, bushwalking, horse riding, paddle boarding, and even laser skirmish, plus small lunches and dinners.
The new members – mainly time-poor professionals aged from 18 to 60+ – firstly fill out a questionnaire either online or in person with Gregory, before being offered an appropriate event. After attendance, there's a follow-up to see with whom they want further contact. In the antithesis of speed dating, Gregory suggests members attend at least two events where the person they are interested in is included. "That way if they then go on a one-on-one date they have more things to talk about," he says.
Group2date operates on Friday nights and weekends Sydney-wide and in Wollongong, Penrith and Campbelltown. Members receive an email newsletter every two weeks covering topics such as reading body language. The business boasts that around 50 per cent of attendees swap contact details, not bad when you consider that no babies or dogs are harmed in its making.