As a seasoned team of Big Lunchers, take it from us – the food can be simple (as simple as a cup of tea!), rain rarely dampens the Big Lunch spirit, and we see everything from street parties to small picnics.
A Big Lunch can be whatever you make it. But, as much as holding an event can be straight-forward, we know that ‘invite anxiety’ is a very real and normal part of planning a Big Lunch! We all worry that people might not attend, or if our invite will be well-received amongst new neighbours.
Overwhelmingly, we find that those first nerves melt away with a few responses of ‘what a great idea, count me in!’ Our five top tips below will show you how to invite people to an event and help keep any nerves at bay.
1) Find an ally
All together now: A Big Lunch doesn’t have to be big! Big Lunches can have two people or even take place over the phone. Finding a friend or neighbour to take part before you send out wider invites means that you already have a guest list. Signing invites with your name and your friend’s can also help boost your confidence and let potential attendees know they won’t be alone.
If you’re wondering if your turn-out will be just you and your friend or the entire street, it can help to choose a scalable place to hold your Big Lunch.
A picnic on a green space can easily welcome more people (especially if you have a blanket or two spare). A ‘bring your own chair’ policy can also encourage people to gather on pavements or driveways without you committing to closing your road.
2) Test the interest levels
This one is handy if you’re brand new to your area or want to find an ally or two in your neighbourhood. Seeing who’s interested on a local Facebook group or on your community Nextdoor platform is a good way to build a mini Big Lunch ‘committee’. If you’re meeting new people, agree to meet in a public space such as a local café first.
Speaking to parenting groups, community groups, local stores, places of worship and businesses can be a good way to find like-minded people too.
Reaching out to businesses can be a great way to get raffle prizes if you want to raise money at your Big Lunch. They may even be happy to donate food and equipment.
3) Sending out invitations
Our Big Lunch pack includes invitations you can print out or send digitally and you can use the More Human tool to plan your event online too. But while the invitations are at your fingertips, we know sending them out and (gasp!) possibly having to talk to lots of new people can seem daunting.
Posting your invitations during quieter periods in the day or when it’s dark can make the task seem a little easier and avoid any rushed conversations with neighbours dashing out for the school run! It can also be helpful to post to your immediate neighbours first (perhaps the closest 10 houses to you).
Give them a few extra blank invites and note that you’ve kept it hyper-local but you’d love to see people pass the invite on to others in the community.
Even the Communities team find it helps them to post invitations when it’s just gone dark! (try to avoid it being too late in the evening though).
4) Don’t be disheartened
If people say they’re busy, take it at face value. Bringing your community together is a wonderful thing and for every ‘no thank you’, you can expect positive responses in turn.
Giving people the chance to get involved without committing in advance is a good way to build impromptu friendships. A blackboard with ‘pull up a chair’ or ‘grab a blanket’ is likely to intrigue passing neighbours and bring a lovely informality to your event.
5) Advice from the Communities team
Anybody meeting our Programme Director, Lindsey, would say she’s a social butterfly. So when she experienced nerves when holding an open house at Christmas time, it’s reassuring to know any ‘invite anxiety’ puts us with good company! Lindsey’s top tips include:
- Sending invites with no names (‘hello neighbour’) to avoid any awkwardness
- For every politely declined invitation, she kept her spirits up by reminding herself of those who’d enthusiastically accepted
The result? An evening where people from all walks of life came together. Support was shared (pet sitting anyone?) and communities were bonded. Lindsey notes that the inconvenience of having to clean her house beforehand was worth it.
Lisa, our Content Manager also ‘felt the fear and did it anyway’ when planning her first Big Lunch 6 years ago. She found it took a good few weeks for her to overcome her fear of rejection and start somewhere. That place to start was an unplanned, quick conversation with a single neighbour. It was on. Lisa, her husband and a neighbour were on the guest list! Lisa’s top tips:
- Find an ally – one neighbour saying yes is where a Big Lunch starts!
- Lisa’s Big Lunch wasn’t complicated. There were no decorations, games or road closures. When people first came together it was a little awkward, but that soon faded away to chatter and conversation
We hope you’ve been inspired to hold your own Big Lunch – in any shape or size! Sign-up for your free Big Lunch pack including invitations, posters, fun activities and much, much more.
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