How to Help People Make New Friends at Conferences

The first ALE (Agile Lean Europe) conference in Berlin, 2011, introduced a cool new concept: Dinner with Strangers. The concept was ingeniously simple: the organizers had booked tables in couple of restaurants for one evening after the official conference program and allowed conference attendees book seats from those tables.

CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by deyani

Sharing food is a good way to make friends.

The practical arrangements for this were simple but effective, too. The organizers made a registration wall in the lobby of the venue. On the wall they posted registration lists for the restaurants, along with printed maps which showed how to get there and a general rule of conduct: please choose to eat in the company of strangers and make new friends. Anyone of the conference attendees could reserve a place at the table and join in the one. Each paid for their own food and drinks. And most made new friends.

At ALE2014 in Krakow, we have rented a spacious flat from AirBnB with Juha to stay in with both of our families. With that we realized we had an interesting opportunity: we could invite ALE attendees over to cook dinner together! So our spin-off of Dinner with Strangers, Making Dinner with Strangers, was born.

We will provide the recipes (printed, in a couple of copies!), the ingredients and the utensils and kitchen. Then we can all get to know each other by self-organizing to cook ourselves a dinner with the help of the recipes, ingredients and the kitchen. And of course enjoy the results of our hard work.

If you want to participate in our Making Dinner with Strangers at ALE2014, please register at the ALE2014 Dinner with Strangers registration wall at the conference.

If you are thinking of including either of these activities in your conference and want to know more, please use the comments below to ask questions.

Antti Kirjavainen is an experienced coach and a linchpin. Antti is full of energy and has many interests – he is a knowledge work management thinker, product development coach, a Licensed Management 3.0 facilitator well as an active member of Agile Finland Ry, Agile4HR Finland and Agile Lean Europe network.

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