Organizing dinners for groups of 8
May 7, 2007 8:06 PM   Subscribe

What is the best way to split 80+ people into dinners for groups of 8? (more details)

I have 80+ people and looking to organize them into dinner groups of 8. The dinners won't be taking place on the same day - more of a long term rolling thing.

Should I:

-email a bunch of people with a choice of dates and create the groups based on that?
-just make up the groups first and then try to find a date that works for all?

My main concern is getting people to agree on a date. There are other caveats as well, some people are willing to host, some folks can only meet in city A, others can only meet in city B, some can meet in either. There are certain "subgroups" in the pool who's members I don't want to be putting in the same dinner since they already know each other. The whole goal here is to allow people to meet new people. Thx.

FYI: It's 8 people because I heard somewhere that it's the optimal number for maximum social interaction. *shrug*
posted by realblanka to Society & Culture (4 answers total)
I would say get people to email you their available dates and locations and creating a spreadsheet based on that. One sheet for city A, one sheet for city B, and the people who can meet in either get slotted into both. In each sheet, have the list of available dates, and enter the names of the people for each date - that should make it clear whether there's a group big enough, etc.

If there are some people who aren't available for any of the dinner times, maybe try to cull those together for something else/smaller?
posted by Phire at 8:35 PM on May 7, 2007

Best answer: Do the dates first - you will NEVER find a good date for a random group of 8 people - I have had trouble doing for just 2-3 couples.
It's nice if you list the dates and ask them a) preferred b)possible and c) impossible. For example, I might be willing to rearrange my schedule to make it on certain date but I would prefer not to. So if you schedule me on a preferred date I will be happier but I'd rather take a possible date than none at all.

Depending on how far apart the cities are and how willing most people are to travel, you can do the same thing. Then pick your hosts and start assigning people. Then you go back and double check for subgroups, bad vibes etc.

Also, do you need to check about diets, particularly vegetarian or (for in my case kosher)?

Be very clear that you may not be able to give people their preferences. If nothing works, send them a email back with a list of available openings (for example in the wrong city) and see they are willling to change.

Also, 8 is a nice number. 6 works pretty well (even better if they aren't couples) 10 is OK but you need to make sure your host can handle it.
posted by metahawk at 8:56 PM on May 7, 2007

I would do a combo of your two options -- do groups first just in the case of the people who already know others and so need special consideration around tablemates, but then coordinate around dates for those who don't know anyone already.

I would start picking dates by what's available to the hosts, as they will be a crucial part of your planning and coordinating.

Also, I would impress upon the 80 people that you are coordinating dozens of schedules here, and to please be flexible and thoughtful when providing possible dates. Most people are going to look quickly at their calendar and say, "Eh, I'm only free on Friday next, and anything else won't work," when really there are two or three other nights that they could swing if they made a bit of effort.

Ask them all to submit their possible dates, and to rank them in order of preference, with the promise that you'll give everyone their top choice when humanly possible.
posted by pineapple at 8:58 PM on May 7, 2007

Best answer: Strongly seconding metahawk re diets (nut allergies, lactose intolerance, celiac, vegetarian, kosher, halal, Sikh (no halal meat permitted), etc. etc.).

Strongly seconding pineapple re 'please be flexible and thoughtful' and complete. Otherwise intelligent people can underestimate, by two-plus orders of magnitude, both the difficulty of the interlocked-scheduling problem of which they are a part and the inconvenience imposed by their not laying all the options on the table from the get-go. 'Just call/email me if you need to try something else,' they'll say, not reflecting that calling/emailing up to eight people and getting their replies is about a hundred times harder than laying eight lists side by side and glancing at them.

General heuristic for this stuff: Start with the stuff that's most constrained, most difficult to align. I concur that it's the initial dates. Then figure out the five to ten people who know the most people and/or have the fewest available dates. Then you can slot everyone around them without too much difficulty.

As to the long term: Make sure the hosts know each other. Make sure they know the people they're hosting in terms of food requirements, travel trouble, and schedule/social stuff. Then make the hosts responsible, at the initial dinner, for guiding their group to a consensus on a place and time for the group's next. If someone can't make it, have the hosts call each other to swap members (temporarily or permanently). If a lot of groups have trouble setting a single appointment for next dinner, get proposals from each and call a hosts' coordinating meeting for a big swap. In short, you yourself have to provide the 'heat of activation,' slogging through the initial setup yourself, but after that you want to distribute the work as far as its natural granularity will allow.
posted by eritain at 9:42 PM on May 7, 2007

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