Late Nights with Trav and Los
Hosting a Jeffersonian Dinner
Los hosts a show on Jeffersonian Dinners. We discuss the history of the Jeffersonian dinner, the structure, the rules, and how to host your own.
I want to talk about what a Jeffersonian Dinner is.
###Q:Have you heard of this?
Imagine being invited to a dinner in 1819 at Monticello, at the elegant Virginia home of Thomas Jefferson — president, scientist, farmer, connoisseur, scholar, and author of the Declaration of Independence.
Around his table, you’d encounter some of the leading sprits of the age — men and women steeped in politics, literature, the arts, the sciences, theology, history, mores, and manners — people that Mr. Jefferson invited because he found them, intriguing and delightful to spend a stimulating evening with. An evening like this was also a prime source of education both for Mr. Jefferson himself and for the guests around the table, all of whom were engaged citizens, eager to share and debate the varied ideas that would shape the fortunes and spur the development of their rapidly-growing young nation.
This was the original Jeffersonian Dinner and these dinner’s have been had by many people ever since.
I came across this idea of a Jeffersonian Dinner in an article I pinned to read about 6 months ago, and as I was looking for a topic, I found this gem again!
###Q: So what are some benefits of attending a Jeffersonian Dinner?
A: By attending a Jeffersonian Dinner, it can be a great way to launch the creation of a new cause-centered community. It can also help you to expand the network of individuals connected with an existing community. And although money is not the central focus of the evening, it is likely that, in the end, a Jeffersonian Dinner can activate far more resources than a traditional fundraising event, like an annual gala.
###Q: So what makes a modern Jeffersonian Dinner and how do you plan one?
A: A dinner is broken up into 3 parts.
- Invite 8-15 people with a common interest (music and kids, innovation in education, women’s health care, design thinking and education)
- Invite a mix of people, some who know one another while others do not
- Avoid inciting a big Kahuna (a celebrity, etc) Everyone at the dinner should feel equally free to contribute.
- Choose a quiet location
- Select an opening question that is related to the dinner theme and encourages each person at the table to tell a personal story (e.g., What technology innovation in the last ten years has most changed your life?)
- Solicit brief written biographies (100-150 words) from each participant in the dinner
- Send out the opening question and biographies ahead of time so people will be ready to carry on the conversation
- Select a dinner moderator — someone with a light style but who can move the conversation around and stimulate discussion.
- 7 p.m.: Cocktails, light conversation before seating
- 7:30 p.m: Moderator opens by explaining the ground rules. Most important rule: No talking to your neighbour, the goal is to have a whole-table conversation
- Ask each person at the table to respond to the opening question
- Moderator introduce a follow-up question to link the opening answers to the general them of the evening. The goal is to move from “me” to “us”
- Let the discussion begin! Moderator will keep the conversation relevant, prevent side discussion from breaking up the table, and ensure that no one or two people are overly dominant.
- 9:15 p.m.: Moderator asks each person at the table to describe any ideas or thoughts they had during the discussion that they would like to follow up on or work with someone on…or just think about more.
- 9:30 p.m.: End dinner. Informal one-on-one conversations usually continue
After dinner(within 2 weeks):
- Moderator sends out a note giving the dinner participants’ contact information and summarising the follow-up points listed at the dinner’s end
- Follow up over the next few weeks, helping people connect with one another and with the nonprofit organisation if desired. Nonprofit leaders may choose to set up on-on-one meetings with the dinner attendees they thought were interested in following up
###Q:So how do we make this relevant to us
A: Well, I want to host one :) I think this can be applied to school, work, or friends and borrow a few ideas from the Jeffersonian Dinner
- <14 people, 1 table, 1 question, 1 discussion
- in it’s simplest form, the Jeffersonian Dinner is simply a way to collaborate with a group of people you might now otherwise work with