Can Jimmy come out and play?
May 18, 2012 8:48 AM   Subscribe

I've been failing on getting some friends to go out and do stuff with me, and need some help figuring out what I can do to get better success.

Let's assume that they'd be just as interested watching the lecture on basket-weaving differences between the 14th and 15th century as I am.

How do you get your friends to come to events you're interested in going to with them? Is there a sweet spot on giving them enough notice that their schedule is free, but not so much that they'll forget about it? Is there a specific way to invite them that's more successful than others ( email / phonecalls / texts / facebook / twitter) ?
posted by garlic to Human Relations (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I think your assumption is bad. If they were just as interested as you, they'd be there, at least some of the time.
posted by COD at 8:49 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

It varies from person to person. Some people plan months in advance. Some people plan minutes in advance. Some people do both.

Different people have different preferred methods of communication.

At least in my neck of the woods, it helps to remind people a couple times if they seem interested.
posted by aniola at 9:06 AM on May 18, 2012

The optimal time depends a lot on the individual, but in nearly all cases a phone call the day before is necessary just to say "Are you still up for the basket weaving lecture?" and thereby to remind them of their intention to come.

Some folks will still flake out most of the time.
posted by emilyw at 9:19 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think letting people know about something a couple of seeks before the event and gauging their interest is good; then following up about a week before, and then again a day or so ahead of time. Early notice is especially good if there are logistics which have to be addressed ahead of time (who's driving, who has to buy tickets, &c.).
posted by gauche at 9:20 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am someone who often has nearly every night booked with something, and if a night isn't booked, I'll often find something that day to book it with, and I find it easiest to make plans if someone asks me about a week in advance, for something like a basket-weaving lecture; a couple weeks in advance for something very important that I should save a night for, such as a birthday party; or simply day of for anything that feels non-obligatory (i.e. a new friend emailed me Tuesday morning and asked if I could go to the ballet that night -- I had the night free, so I could and did.)

Events that recur on the same night every month are also good things to invite someone to -- easy to remember, easy to plan for. Things like lecture series, trivia nights, art class, etc.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 9:35 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Depends on what it is. A concert or something requiring tickets and an investment, you can organize that decently in advance, both to secure optimal seating and set the date firmly. Nothing like having sunk a wad of cash into an event to insure that folks will come. Also, you'll get an answer pretty quickly from people, "Nah, $60 to see Blue Oyster Cult isn't really my thing, have fun though!"

If it's free, lots of people will agree to go with you, only to flake last minute if something better comes along, or if they just don't feel like it.

You might also be organizing some boring-ass play dates. A lecture on under-water basket weaving and dinner at the new liver restaurant might be right up your alley, but to the rest of the world, that's your little corner of weirdness.

Are you getting invitations from your friends? Are they in a rut, all wanting to meet at the same watering hole week after week?

If you aren't getting invitations, and people aren't responding to yours. I think you may have a bigger problem than venue.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:35 AM on May 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

I am a go out and doer with friends that are more nesters. I can tell you it only gets worse as you get older. I made my peace with going to events that interest me alone and find that at lectures and more intellectual pursuits a sizable portion of the crowd is the same. It is a great way to strike up interesting conversations with points of view you may not have otherwise have interaction with.
posted by readery at 9:36 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

My friends and I had a sit-down because we had become so bad at getting together. We decided to a. organize things by email b. about a week beforehand except for c. me, who gets invited at the last minute via text because otherwise I probably won't come. (I am a chronic canceler.) It works for all of us, and we're getting together more often.

So, talk to your friends if you can. Ask them what would work best for them.

Otherwise, default to email 4-7 days before, text the evening before or day of to check in.

I wonder how you're phrasing your invites: is it "Hey, I'm doing this, want to come?" or "Hey, would you like to do X with me?" The latter is much more likely to get a yes (at least from me.)
posted by punchtothehead at 9:48 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I prefer in person conversations when it comes to asking others to hang out. That way, I can gauge their interest based on how they respond. For instance, I asked my roommate to go out for sushi and a movie which she loves doing, but she remained quite for a few minutes and basically just said "hmmm..." "ummm..." and then I said, you know, you can just say no and that would be okay. She told me that she was trying to figure out if she could go because she had to study. Her reactions were helpful because I could gauge her interest based on how she responded.

But, if in person conversations are limited with certain friends then text messages are always a good way to go. If you are close to the person then you can always call them to ask. Twitter is a no-no, that's not even the point of the website. Facebook is great when you want to create an event and invite several people to a party, pub crawl, or whatever.

You need to realize that certain interests of yours may be too obscure for some of your friends. For instance, not everyone is interested in attending some academic lecture about basket weaving. Some people live paycheck to paycheck and need some more time to figure out if they can attend an event. Some people are homebodies and are not interested in doing anything outside of the comfort of their homes.

You learn this through trial and error. When first asking someone to an event, always ask two weeks ahead of time. Eventually, you'll notice if they need more time or prefer to be notified in a few days and not a few weeks. And, I think certain types of events like dinner and a movie or a concert might be more preferable than academic lectures for certain types of people. This is something to consider when asking others to hang out.
posted by livinglearning at 9:49 AM on May 18, 2012

Just to add to the thinking, if your friends are at points where your lives are changing rapidly that adds to the problem. Since I saw myself as an "up for anything" mum, for example, it took me a slew of canceled stuff to realize my particular child/husband/cadre of sitters were not going to be able to support the previous extent of my interest in book launches etc. Communication about it helped. Other points of failure have been: new job, new house, newlywed.
posted by Zen_warrior at 9:57 AM on May 18, 2012

My coterie of friends and I have difficulty getting together often enough because a) we all have very unpredictable, conflicting, and full schedules and b) we're all existing in various degrees of paycheque-to-paycheque-ness. We've recently begun a campaign to combat this by establishing a weekly standing brunch date at a cheap local hangout (peeps show up if they can, but no stress if someone can't make it), and by planning a few weeks in advance for at least one evening "out" per month (for drinks, theatre, whatever). This allows people to plan accordingly for both their schedules and pocketbooks, making it much more likely that we'll all show up. Having two venues through which we can see each other (cheaper, more casual brunch or pre-planned "fun night") ensures that everyone has an opportunity to be involved. Our success rate so far is AWESOME.

Of course, if the issue amongst your group of pals isn't time or money, but lack of interest and/or general flakiness, then you need to be a little craftier. For random events (lectures, openings, etc) I usually follow this procedure:
- 2 or 3 weeks prior (depending on the financial investment required) I send a general e-mail to a few friends saying "Hi, lovers. There's an AWESOME lecture on late-medieval basket weaving by that super-dreamy Professor I love that's coming up in a few weeks. Anyone interested in being my date? Or catching up for drinks after?" The last sentence gives people who may not share my obsession with the academic side of basket-weaving a way to hang out with me without being bored to tears or offending me
- The week before the event, I send another little reminder e-mail or a text to those who responded positively to the first inquiry. Something super-brief like: "Have you reserved your ticket for the lecture next Tuesday? So excited!"
- The morning/afternoon of the event I'll text or call whoever is joining me to arrange a specific meeting time/place. Fun times ensue.

I think gradual, gentle reminders are appreciated by busy folk, so long as you're not flooding their inboxes. Also, friends like to support their friends and make them happy, so don't be too blase with your requests for their attendance. If it's something you really want to do, make that clear! If basket-weaving lectures are really important to you and really make you happy, friends will want to be there if at all possible, whether they give a shit about basket-weaving or not. That's just how friends work. As long as you're not demanding their presence at events every night of the week, or guilting them into being your date, most friends will show up when they know it matters to you. For things that are less important (impromptu drinks, random movie night, etc), a greater ratio of flakiness is to be expected. And that's OK.
posted by Dorinda at 10:35 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is it the events that you want to have company for, or is it about seeing your friends?

If you've been sending out emails to 12 people saying "Hey y'all! Avengers Sat 7:15 show!" and feeling sad because nobody showed up, you've got to start making your friends feel they're important to you - not just "I don't want to X alone" but "I want to X with you", and not just "I want to X with you" but "I want to see you and we could do X". Invite them individually. Ask for their input.

If your goal is to attend event X and not have to do it alone, then you're making invitations that don't schedule around your friends' interest and convenience. Not going to get a high response rate.
If your goal is to do activity Y sometime and not have to do it alone, then you want to make your invitations as flexible as possible, but it still hinges on whether your friends are truly interested in Y.
If your goal is to see your friends, then your best bet is to tell them you want to see them, ask if/when they're free this weekend, make a couple of suggestions of something you could do, and ask if they've got any other ideas. Basically, you're not picking a place to go, you're setting aside time to spend together.

Phase 1: "Hey, I really want to see the Avengers. Are you interested? I'm thinking (day) evening or (day) afternoon, is there one of those that works better for you?" Notice, you've given them an opportunity to say if they want to do the thing at all, and some input on when they might want to do it.
Phase 2: "Hey, haven't seen you in a while, it sure would be great to get together. Do you have plans this weekend? Hmm... free Friday night or Saturday daytime.... I was thinking I wanted to see the Avengers, we could do that evening or matinee - or we could get just get brunch/lunch on Saturday, does any of that sound good? Oh, you'd be free for lunch, and then I could go with you to the dog park fundraiser? Hmmm... I'm not sure on the dogs, but lunch would be great!"
posted by aimedwander at 11:00 AM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Establish a core group of friends - the people you most want to spend time with. Plan your outings around their schedule. (Ie, "Hey guys, I'd like to get together to see the Avengers. What times would work best for you?")

Once you have the date, tell them that you will send a Facebook invite. Make it clear to them that although they have already told you they're coming, you want them to respond "yes" to the facebook invite as soon as possible.

Send the Facebook invite to just your core group of friends. Once you have a chorus of enthusiastic "yes's" - then (and only then) send the second round of invites, this time to the friends you want to come who are not part of your core group. This makes your event seem more popular, which in turn maximizes people's interest.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:52 AM on May 18, 2012

Yeah, it really depends on your friends. If they are partnered, broke, with children, etc...these all add multiple levels of 'not as likely to attend' because there are more variables to be taken into consideration than just their personal interest level.

I would ask people directly- hey, do you want to see the avengers soon? and based on their reactions (if not in the yeah! wednesday? zone) then I would ask around until I could find someone committed to going.

If I felt like my friends were all pulling some big flake maneouvers, I would just really start doing things alone and keeping my eyes open for new friends with similar interests and levels of enthusiasm. Then you will have even more people to see the avengers with! (ha, Just following the avengers example above, and not capitalizing...sorry).
posted by bquarters at 3:02 PM on May 18, 2012

Assuming that people really are as keen on basket weaving as you and that you are asking people who like to spend time with you, you may need to consider how these people spend their lives as this will determine how much notice they may need and how they prefer to be contacted. People who have a lot of control over their time and location generally need a lot less lead time than those with little control over time and/or location.

You got a lot of advice suggesting 1-2 weeks lead time and face to face contact for invitations but that would not normally be enough notice for me for example - I can currently tell you my travel schedule for work through to Feb 2013 and I am travelling at least half my time. For that reason you'll also struggle to invite me face to face - if you email me at work on the other hand you'll get a response in the next few hrs and chances are the basket weaving lecture that happens to be in the one week I am not travelling at the end of August will go in my diary immediately.

And it is not just people who travel a lot - my cousin never travels for work and she also needs a lot lead time because she is having to work round her husband's shift patterns, custody arrangements for her step son, which she has limited control over, and is also very active networking, spending time with her wider family and friends - you would be extremely lucky if she can fit your basket weaving lecture into her diary with less than a month notice...
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:56 AM on May 19, 2012

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