This is supposed to be fun, right? Event planning as an anxious person..
August 24, 2015 12:20 PM   Subscribe

I would like to start planning more fun events for my friends and I, but I'm having trouble with anxiety over decisions and group dynamics. I’d love to hear any hacks or tricks as to how to arrange group outings that would be fun for everyone. (Specifically things like board-game nights, canoe and camping trips, hiking, river tubing etc.)

I have had social phobia for most of my life and only just recently gotten groups of friends with whom to do things. So perhaps this is just lack of experience. But I have also had some bad - cringingly bad - experiences with friends acting like jerks to other friends of mine they had just met that has made me very gun shy about introducing people or mixing groups of friends.

I have distanced myself from most of these jerk-friends, so I’m not really so worried about anyone being outwardly hostile so much as general awkwardness. Another problem is most of my friends are guys so sometimes even if I invite an equal number of women and men I’m afraid it will end up being me (I’m a woman) with a bunch of dudes who don’t know each other. Sometimes I’ll try to recruit someone to help me plan a trip, and sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.

I’m also rather introverted, so I don’t want to be the center of attention, life of the party or whatever. I want people to hit it off and all have fun together.

I see other people planning stuff and it seems like they just make all the decisions and put it up on FaceBook, invite a bunch of friends, and let things fall how they may. Do I need to just do this and quit overthinking?

Or is there a method to planning that optimizes the success of the trip/event?
posted by seraph9 to Human Relations (14 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I see other people planning stuff and it seems like they just make all the decisions and put it up on FaceBook, invite a bunch of friends, and let things fall how they may. Do I need to just do this and quit overthinking?

Basically, yes.

Or is there a method to planning that optimizes the success of the trip/event?

There is, and I feel like that's postgrad-level planning. Some people (I am not one) are preturnaturally good at that sort of thing. For the rest of us.. pick a time/date/activity and invite people along and see how it goes.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:22 PM on August 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Check out Geek Social Fallacy #5: Friends Do Everything Together. Actually check 'em all out, they might be helpful. You don't have to invite all of your friends to an event you're organizing -- it's not rude to avoid having every single person you know on the guestlist for everything you do. Sometimes smaller groups gel better.

Also, one thing I've learned as a fellow introverted person who organizes social events is to work with a partner-in-crime or two. Instead of posting on FB, for example, "Who wants to go kayaking next week?" contact a couple friends one-on-one and ask if they want to join you. Get their buy-in and mutually decide dates and times that work for that core group. Once you have at least a couple solid yeses from people who won't flake, spread the word by saying something like "Jean, Bob and I are going kayaking next weekend and there's more spots left, who can join us?" That way even if no one else says yes, you aren't left hanging.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 12:38 PM on August 24, 2015 [14 favorites]

For whatever reason, it's rarely worked out when I've tried to mix groups of friends. (Though no one's been an actual jerk, to my knowledge :/ - it's more that while they can get along well enough, they don't usually wind up really gelling together. I feel like I have pretty different axes of commonality with the different groups, maybe that's it.) I guess I'd say, keep the groups separate, and choose an activity that a specific group will enjoy. Also, give people like two weeks' notice. (I tend to be more improvisational / last-minute, and can tell you that two days, or even a week, is definitely not enough time.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:41 PM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Food. People love to show up for a meal.
posted by the_blizz at 12:41 PM on August 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

No one does anything well 100% of the time, especially when that thing involves the interactions of inherently-unpredictable hairless apes. If you continue to plan outings and events, some portion of them are going to be stinkers. Either the people don't hit it off, or the event turns out to be less fun than anticipated, or the directions are wrong and everyone gets lost or whatever. The point is that non-Garbage People understand that just because you arrange the event, you should not be held responsible for how it ends up working out, and you just get back on the horse and plan another one that will go better.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:43 PM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

The best trick to avoid the twinge of 'what if nobody comes??' panic is to line up your primaries first. Thinking of having a party? Lock in 2-3 of your best friends via individual emails / texts / phonecalls / whatever before opening up the invite to the wider population. That way, worst case scenario, the 3-4 of you will still have a great time even if nobody else can make it. If you have a particular type of event in mind (rockclimbing / Oscar viewing / game night / whatever), call the friends who are most into that first and confirm the date/time. Everyone else is icing on the cake.

If you want to invite a bunch of friends who don't know each other, I'd recommend having some sort of activity / theme, rather than just a party. Board games are great for this type of thing, as it allows people to open up and show their personalities and share their stories, all over drinks and nibbles. After one or two events, they won't be strangers anymore! This is actually how I created my current circle of friends - I sent an email to all of my friends and said I'd been thinking of starting a gamenight because I loved playing games, and the people who were into it came, and 5 years later we have a core group of 6 women who did not know each other but have now become close friends. Other people come and go when they can make it - we usually end up between 6-10 people - but the core group are now my closest friends in the area and we do stuff together all the time.
posted by widdershins at 12:46 PM on August 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

Lots of people have a bit of social phobia, possibly including one or more of your friends - or maybe someone you're about to meet who might enjoy going kayaking. People like this might not be quite brave enough to show up at something they're invited to through a generic group invitation. So, have one-on-one conversations with the people who you _really_ want to come, ideally ahead of sending out the invitation _and_ after sending it out (or omit the Facebook thing entirely).

Also - are you willing to be friends with people who aren't using Facebook? (I hope so, because I don't feel comfortable with a privately or publicly-traded company having power over everyone's social relationships.)
posted by amtho at 12:50 PM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

For me, the trick is that you sit down with one friend and make a plan. Once the specifics are nailed down, you open up the event and invite others. You need to be pretty clear about the invitation's wording....

"Hey, Susie and I are going kayaking at (specific place) on (specific date). Renting the kayaks will cost $x each. Come join us!"

On preview, what widdershins said.
posted by raisingsand at 12:51 PM on August 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Mostly you're just going to have to go set up an event and not overthink it, yeah. However, here's my minor bits of wisdom as regards inviting people to things on FB:

Schedule the event at least two to three weeks out, but no more than six weeks in advance, until you have more event planning under your belt. If you schedule too far in advance, people forget; too soon and most people will already have plans.

For board game nights, my default rule of thumb is to invite people who have actually made it to a similar event before, and to invite approximately double the number of people I would like to attend; I got pretty frustrated at trying to play a five person game, inviting people until we had five takers, and then dealing with That One Flake who would cancel on me an hour before, leaving us with four.

For anything involving a little more forward planning, know that you're probably going to have to nag people a bit to nail down who's coming and who isn't. When I do holiday cooking, I know I can only accommodate so many people without exploding from stress, so I have a ceiling in mind for how many people maximum I can wrangle; that means I invite up to that number, nag for yes/no responses, and only if I have a bunch of nos do I then widen the invites. My friends that do camping events tend to run them similarly, while their hikes tend to be more in the "whoever wants to join in" vein.
posted by tautological at 1:49 PM on August 24, 2015

A lot of good advice here. Two things I'd add:

1) As a slightly socially anxious person, I consider a FB invite to be a non-vitation, unless it's from someone I know well. A lot of people invite their entire friend list, and I can't imagine that the person I met twice in my life actually wants me to come to her New Year's party with her good friends. So if there was someone like me who you had only met a few times, but honestly did want to get to know better, I'd suggest some sort of personal contact- one-on-one email, text, personal FB message, whatever.

2) I used to get really stressed over people thinking my party was a "failure" if a lot of people didn't come. Some people can pull off huge parties. I found that, regardless of if I invited 10 people or 100, 7-9 people always show up. Which is fine. It's possible to have fun with just one other person- hell, it's possible to have fun by yourself if it comes to it. Just don't stress out over artificial perceptions of event "success." If one person comes and you have fun, that's a success.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:55 PM on August 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also, evite seems a bit dated by now, but I think it's still a great tool, because it shows you put some effort into planning, and it can take care of things like the nagging reminders a few days before. Maybe there's something newer I'm not aware of, but I still get evites sometimes.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:57 PM on August 24, 2015

Thanks for all the responses so far!

Just wanted to clarify that the Facebook thing was just an example and I've seen people do group emails as well. This kind of thing is pretty common with people I know however, even if they are just inviting 4-5 people to something.

Thanks for the reminder that a personal invite is best though, and I do always make sure to include friends who are not on Facebook.
posted by seraph9 at 2:27 PM on August 24, 2015

It's not just that a personal invite is best, it's that you want to lock down at least a couple of people who are definitely coming in personal/private communication. Once you have sorted out an event that 3-4 of you want to do, you then find a time that works for this core 3-4 of you (it means you probably won't clash with anything obvious in your social circle, but also aren't having to pick a time that a dozen people, many of whom may not show up regardless, COULD possibly make). Then you invite the wider group, which could be a select group, or a mass facebook invite.

When people feel like they are part of the 'planning' or core group, they are more likely to show up, and then, it also acts as social proof to the wider group. So, on the facebook invite, you could mention, "Hey, feel free to join Joe, Sally & I for themed boardgame night" etc.
posted by Elysum at 5:32 PM on August 24, 2015

Yes, I will definitely use the "core group" approach from now on.

Thanks for all of the suggestions here!
posted by seraph9 at 12:59 PM on August 25, 2015

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