Image from Peter Long on FlickrSeveral months ago I stumbled on to the Generosity Network’s site and discovered their resource called How to Plan a Jeffersonian Dinner. As a facilitator and someone who thrives on bringing people together to connect with each other, I was immediately intrigued by the concept.

Apparently Thomas Jefferson – back in the day – used to hold dinners with a small group of people; approximately 12 individuals. Jefferson would pose questions for the table to discuss one at a time, and moderate a conversation in which the entire group would participate. The rule was: no side chatter.  The entire group is supposed to participate in one conversation only.

Taking part in a whole group conversation like that sounded so appealing to me, as I love to do this even just with two couples sitting around the dinner table if we have people over. I never quite feel comfortable enough with the scenario when the guys get talking about something and the girls get talking about something. I usually just want us to hold one big conversation. I never say anything about it though, opting just to go with the flow. But now – aha! – the Jeffersonian Dinner concept makes this a rule. I could get on board with that!

When my professional association board met for dinner a few weeks ago in a private room at a restaurant I asked everyone – after some initial side chatter conversations – if they wanted to try the concept. They were game. I admit that I was poorly prepared: I hadn’t thought in advance of questions to ask the group as I only had just come up with the idea to try the concept in that moment! But somehow, naturally, questions emerged and the whole group took part in one large conversation. We laughed so much. We actually howled a couple of times as well due to some funny stuff that emerged that we never knew about one another! It was a success.

I highly recommend trying the Jeffersonian Dinner when you’re next hosting or facilitating a dinner function. The Generosity Network’s site above has a free resource that you can download that tells you more … and don’t forget to report back here on how it went. Wishing you one great conversation…