At a meeting late last year of an organization of which I’m a member, one of my colleagues commented that while she is glad to know the other members of the group, it’s been difficult to really get to know one another beyond a cursory connection due to the nature of the programs and activities we tend toward as a club. After a lot of nodding and other signs of agreement, another member, Lynn, suggested, “Well, why don’t we get to know one another through a series of dine arounds?” Curious, we asked for a more detailed explanation.
Lynn went on to describe an experience she had at a conference she attended some time ago. The event drew a very large international crowd. During the day, as you might expect, participants attended lectures, workshops and keynote addresses. During the evenings, however, the conference organizers assigned each attendee to a dinner cohort. Each cohort was then transported to the home of a local organization member who hosted a dinner for that small group. In most cases, the cohorts were comprised of 10-20 individuals, none of whom knew one another prior to attending the dinner. What happened at the dinners, however, was miraculous… those attendees left knowing one another very well and planting the seeds for friendships that would build and build over the years. How cool!
Well, of course, we were all game for trying out the dine around concept. As a group, we agreed that the dine arounds were to begin immediately and should be comprised of participants who wanted to get to know one another better. Fellow member, Susan, was the first to volunteer and, as luck would have it, I had the opportunity to attend her dinner just a few weeks later with three other members. What I didn’t know at the time of her invitation was that a) Susan is a gourmet chef, b) I would laugh so much my sides would ache on my drive home or c) it would be such an educational, informative and fabulous evening that I’m still thinking about months later. And, of course, I feel a sense of closeness and comradarie with the other guests that was deepend that evening. What a privilege to have been included!
And, just last week, I attended another dine around. At this event were 12 amazing people. Our gracious hostess, Bernadette, effortlessly led a discussion which involved all of the participants in a way that everyone literally had a voice at the table. Again, it was a beautiful was to become much better acquainted with people I greatly admire. And, once more, I felt so lucky to be in their presence and to have the opportunity to break bread with them.
You can organize these kinds of events with groups you are part of, too. Hey, we all gotta eat, right? Why not connect with others while doing so. In fact, as relationship guru, Keith Ferrazzi says, “Never Eat Alone!”
In fact, I attended a conference organized by Seth Godin last year for which the planning team made a series of six person dinner reservations at several restaurants around New York City. Conference registrants who were interested in participating in one of these optional dinners could sign up by simply indicating interest and general type of restaurant at which they wanted to eat (I believe categorized by price range). The coordinators then assigned dinner groups and off they went! It worked beautifully.
Have you coordinated these types of events? Please take a moment to comment about your experience and share any tips you have for others who would like to create similar opportunities for connection with others in their own cities.