It's not overly difficult really. Your main focus is on making friends, yes? Then that is really all you need to use the tools for. Selection is important. For example, AFF would not be a place to go as it's more of a meat market, while OKCupid is a more poly friendly spot in which you're not being viewed as creepy. In gaming and gaming sites, it's not uncommon to chat with the other players, so again, not creepy.
In the speed dating idea, you're trying to meet people, and that is one way. Not only the folks that you sit down with, but also the people that are gathered there as part of the event. It has the side benefit of helping you hone your social skills. Remember, just because it's geared toward dating, that doesn't mean that you will date or have to. It gets you introduced, which is the starting point in any friendship.