Recently, me and some friends have been hosting a certain kind of gathering that we really enjoy, and that others in our friend-group seem to really enjoy too. I think we've honed some of the details around these gatherings pretty happily, so in an unusual ATVBT post I want to give you our playbook.
First, a caveat: people wildly overestimate how much the Things That Work in their own life will work for others. Most "how to do X" posts just strike me as absurd: one person living in very particular circumstances telling everyone in the world that they should be doing X exactly like this. The success of various kinds of gathering are wildly dependent on the tastes and constraints of people involved + the geography and logistics of the place you live. So this is just a recipe that might-or-might-not have anything useful in it for you.
The gatherings are 15-30 people, in someone's apartment, usually on a weds or thurs eve. They feel like a couple notches down from a party, more casual and more low-key, but still... a social gathering where you meet a bunch of people and hang out in a group. Here's some things that seem to work:
- have two people as co-hosts who have non-overlapping social circles. So it's actually best to pick a co-host who you like a lot but isn't in your own core friend group, if you can do that. Basically, half the fun of these gatherings is meeting cool new people, and mingling separate friendgroups makes that way more likely to happen. (It also makes it much easier to get a large enough crowd for a good vibe on a random weeknight, if you don't have enough friends to necessarily do that yourself).
- interestingly, telling all the guests that they can/should "bring a friend" would also work for this in theory, but doesn't seem to work for us in practice – for whatever reason, most people in our circles don't seem to invite anyone unless they're explicitly a host.
- drum up the social courage to invite people you don't know very well, e.g. people you meet at other parties or at random in your life at large, etc – the gatherings get way more fun (i.m.o.) when you rejig the established grooves of a friendgroup with more people outside it.
At first I was really nervous about this, and felt like I was violating some core social rules, but... now whenever I meet someone cool I ask for their number, and then next time I'm throwing a gathering I send them an invite.
- scheduling with a large group is impossible, because there will never be a day when everyone is free. So we pick ~4 people who definitely want to come to a particular gathering, schedule a date that works for those four, and then just accept that other people will or won't come if they're available.
- You can generally fit more people into an apartment than you think. The biggest issue, in our particular spaces, is noise/echo – we should probably look into getting echo-dampening wall hangings or something, but never have.
- we use the scheduling app Partiful, which 1) is a solidly good tech product, 2) is inexplicably branded as the "invitation platform for hot people" (???). It basically just lets you track the number of RSVPs in one place + send mass-texts to RSVPers, which is nice.
- claiming the gathering would have a fixed ending time (e.g. "from 6pm to 9pm") does seem to force people to show up earlier, even if you then violate the supposed end-time and keep running longer.
- the worst part of hosting any gathering is the very beginning, where a little part of your brain is like "what if nobody comes!!!". Having a co-host already helps with this, and you can also just invite a couple specific people over earlier (e.g. for dinner before the gathering) if that helps.
Themes / Activities
- almost by accident, we stumbled on a format of calling these "[Drink] & [food]" nights, where every time we pick a different drink and a different food: "Whiskey and Chocolate Night", "Sake and Snacks Night", etc etc. This makes the night feel JUST about theme-y, without feeling too tacky or high-effort for this particular crowd. It also gives people a specific ask/task/thing-to-bring – many people will bring something else, anyway, but at least they have an idea.
- we started adding a craft activity as well, like origami – this just meant buying some origami paper and printing some instructuctions for very simple shapes off the internet. The idea was to give people who arrived alone / wanted to meet new people / wanted something to do with their hands a low-key shared activity to participate in. The activity had to be simple enough that people could talk while doing it.
If you have other suggestions, please do throw them in the comments.