Let’s Eat: Making Connections Over Curated Dinner Events

Could connecting attendees over curated dinners prove beneficial to them, as well as to the associations that organize these meals?

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the research showing that families who eat meals together tend to have better physical and mental health, stronger communication skills, and deeper bonds.

A big part of the experience is the relationship and bonds you build with the people who are in the room.

So, when I read an article posted on earlier this week about startup accelerator Y Combinator’s new YC Growth Program, I could see the appeal and benefits of the concept. According to a company blog post, it’s a “10-week dinner series, with each dinner focused on a specific issue that every startup has to overcome in order to scale successfully.”

Admission will be open to founder-CEOs of YC companies that meet certain criteria (e.g., have 50 to 100 employees, have gone through the Series A funding stage). If invited to join these dinners, participation is free, but there is a strict attendance policy and attendees will have to commit three to four hours of their time per week.

According to Fast Company, participants will “learn from each other, YC partners, and invited guests who have gone through the same growing-company problems that participants are in the process of tackling.”

YC’s Ali Rowghani told the publication, “A big part of the experience is the relationship and bonds you build with the people who are in the room.”

While the dinners won’t start until April, YC launched a pilot program last spring that proved successful enough for the accelerator to formalize it. And I  think this “curated dinner” concept is something that could translate well to other industries, including associations.

By offering curated dinners, an association could highlight its role as a connector for its members. Having a thoughtful process for putting eight to 12 people who are experiencing the same issues at a table together would show the organization’s commitment to helping members solve problems and better their industries. Plus, a weekly or monthly curated dinner event is a good way for an association to stay on top of whatever is on participants’ minds.

Participants would benefit too: They would have a setting where they could freely share their experiences and problems with peers and colleagues who are in the same situation currently or have been recently. Plus, the small-group dinners would allow them to form bonds with people and develop long-lasting relationships—something that’s often hard to do in the middle of a busy exhibit hall or a 2,000-person cocktail reception.

If you’re looking for curated-dinner inspiration from other groups, you may want to check out what’s on tap for The Indie Summit in May. Organizers are planning “small-scale curated dinners in fashionable London restaurants” for carefully chosen groups of 12 to 15 attendees. If you’d like to start with something less formal, consider Net Impact’s “no host” group dinners that are held during its annual conference.

Have you incorporated curated meals to help your attendees network and bond with one another? Please share in the comments.

(VISION4RY/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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