At FestivalsForLife we’re accustomed to attending a variety of different events around Los Angeles. During these occasions we meet a variety of people in the same old fashion. First you walk into the event and get your bearings before grabbing a drink from the bar. Then you start mingling with a stranger making small talk. Your conversations will likely begin by asking each other what you do for a living, and very likely the responses could dictate the rest of your conversation. Let’s face it. Los Angeles is a place where many are usually trying to network and concerned about status.
The Ampersand Dinner was a huge breath of fresh air. The concept is simple. Each of us has a hobby, a family, a story to tell. Our jobs don’t define us. The Ampersand Dinners were created to allow folks to participate in meaningful conversation over a shared meal without revealing their professions. They want to connect people through conversation and food, because the table is where the best networking takes place.
As soon as we walked into the dinner taking place at WeWork Vine, you could tell this wasn’t your typical night. They reiterated the rules to us- no talking about what you do for a living or saying your last name. Instead you were given prompts to spark natural conversation with the others gathered there.
Once everyone had arrived, we sat down for dinner with the group of strangers that we had just met. In front of each person were flashcards with different questions that were supposed to be asked during the meal. I started speaking with the lady across from me asking her the first question. “If you had unlimited airline miles and could travel anywhere in the world, where would you visit?” This started our conversation on a fun note, as we discussed and moved on to deeper prompts. Throughout our conversation we explored topics of happiness, our dreams and aspirations, and how we’ve changed as we’ve grown older.
I was discussing topics that I hadn’t even talked about with some of my closest friends. I was opening up to a stranger I just met and vice versa. And most unusual, I had no idea what she did. I had the realization that when we step back and stop looking at what a person does, but instead who that person is- we learn much more about them. This also fosters real conversations instead of dull small talk.
After talking to several other people and enjoying a delicious meal we all went around and stated our names and professions. It was surprising to hear people’s jobs after talking to them first. I highly recommend trying an Ampersand Dinner, as it is a refreshing exploration of yourself and communicating with other people. It also provides a fresh networking medium to participate in vulnerable conversation. To learn more about The Ampersand Dinners, sign up for the newsletter here.