As we enter further into the age of coronavirus, meeting new people can be, shall we say, a little tricky. But social distancing doesn’t mean we have to become disconnected. If you have matches you’d like to get to know, you can absolutely make it happen.

Enter the FaceTime (or Zoom) date. Sure, virtual dates are different, but they’re full of as many possibilities as a traditional date — you just have to be a little creative. From pre-date lighting prep to virtual date activities, here’s what you need to know and do before delving into expert-level digital courtship.

1. Curate your space.

Your virtual date will more than likely take place in one particular room or area in your home, so dress it up. According to dating coach Connell Barrett, creating a background that shows your hobbies or interests is a great way to start conversations.

“You want to choose items that are going to give your date a sense of who you are,” says Barrett. “If you play music, have an instrument in the back. If you like art, have some paintings behind you.”

2. Get dressed.

You may not be leaving the house, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look your best. “A nice outfit will make you feel more confident,” says Barrett. This doesn’t mean that you have to wear something that feels fussy or isn’t your style. Whatever look you might end up going for (hello, date pajamas), aim to show off what’s so great about you.

3. Get the lighting right.

It, more than how you wear your hair or the outfit you choose, will make or break your appearance. A lamp with a soft light can help remove any shadows on your face. If you’re going to be in a space with many windows, use natural light to your advantage. For virtual dates after dark, consider embracing your inner influencer and use a slightly brighter, front-facing lamp. Barrett suggests snapping a few pre-date photos to help perfect your angles.

4. Do a quick video test.

This tip is your last line of pre-date defense. Turn on your video to make sure that your background, outfit, and lighting are the way you like them. Consider it 10 seconds well spent.

5. Suggest games or other activities. 

Whether it’s a meal or a walk, an IRL date usually includes some sort of activity. It can be helpful to carry this over to virtual dates. “Doing an activity together removes the potential pitfall of [entering] interview mode during a date,” says Barrett. 

Whether it’s a round of Trivial Pursuit, a video game, or a Words With Friends session, there are plenty of ways to keep things interesting while learning about the person on the other side of the screen.

“The best gift you can give someone on a first date, virtual or not, is honesty.”

6. Call in your pet.

If you have a furball on standby, feel free to let them make a cameo. This is something that you can’t normally do on a first date, so absolutely use them to help you score some points. A cat who can fetch and a dog who can kiss on command will (understandably) captivate most people.

7. Be clear about expectations.

Whether you’re looking for something casual or want to develop an emotional connection with someone, make sure the person you’re video chatting with is on the same page. Just like with in-person dating, being open about your expectations prior to a virtual date will help minimize any awkwardness. Barrett recommends doing this at the messaging stage, e.g. before you connect via video. “The best gift you can give someone on a first date, virtual or not, is honesty,” he says.

8. Show that you’re interested.

We’re used to relying on body language and physical touch to convey the way we feel, but when you can’t grab your date’s hand or put your arm around them, there are other ways to get across the same message. Make clear that you want to continue chatting with them through these tough times or that you look forward to getting together in person once it’s safe to do so. “Be playful, present, and positive,” says Barrett. “One of the best ways to do this is tell them what you find fascinating about them.”

9. Avoid complimenting just their looks.

It might sound weird, but there is a balance to this. Focusing too much on someone’s appearance during a date, virtual or not, can come off negatively, because it risks giving the impression that you’re shallow. Instead, tell your date what you like about their personality. Are they making you laugh nonstop? Does their passion for Middle Eastern cooking intrigue or inspire you? Lean into that.

10. Steer clear of too much doom-and-gloom talk.

The state of the world right now is obviously a little shaky, but that shouldn’t be your only topic of conversation. By all means, check in and ask your date how they’re doing and if their family and friends are OK. “Be empathetic toward their situation if they’re affected in any way,” says Barrett. But keep the coronavirus discourse to a minimum. You’re on this date so you can get to know each other, and there’s most definitely more to you than what you’ve experienced in the past few weeks.