The Secret to Gathering a Group (to do anything)

You’re standing in front of the movie theater, waiting for people to show up– and the movie starts in 5 minutes. You begin to panic- what if no one shows up? What if only that one “somewhat weird” person shows up and it’s just the two of you? You think back through your invites- you sent out some e-mails and invited a few people at church. A few told you it sounded like fun and they’d try to make it. But, there you are- waiting. You’re about to give up and go home and then……new guy shows up. On a whim you invited new guy, telling him a group was going and it’d be a great way to meet new people- and there he was. Awkward!    

Are you one of the millions of people who have experienced Anxious Event Syndrome? Symptoms include: Anxiety, sweating, despair, sometimes anger, and nervous phone checking while waiting for others to show up. If you or someone you know has experienced Anxious Event Syndrome you should know you’re not alone.

I understand what the example above is like because I’ve personally experienced it numerous times over the years. Every year this also happens in my small group at least once. One or two families show up and there’s the question, “Is anyone else coming?

So, whether you’re gathering a group to go to the movies, attend a service project, or some sort of selling party, plan a street-wide get together, or in general get a group to do anything, follow these two steps.

1. Invite your Core. There is no more important things you can do in gathering a group than invite your core. What I mean is this, plan your event around one or two other people you know will attend. Decide the date and time of the event based around when you and they can be there. This one or two other people should be people you’ll have fun with regardless if anyone else comes- and they won’t feel awkward if it ends up being just the two of you. They’re people you already know and trust so you won’t feel the need to spend all your time with them at your event if others do come. This is your core. Never plan an event of any kind without your core in place. Once you have one or two other people who commit to attending your event a few things will happen. 1. You know you’ll have fun even if no one else shows up so it takes all the pressure off. 2. Having a core gives power to your invite. As you invite people you get to say, “Yeah, me and a few other people are getting together tonight if you’d like to come.” People like to join groups- they’re just as nervous as you that it’ll be just you and them.

2. Then Invite Others. Once you have your core, it’s time to invite people. The most important thing about the invite is this- the more personal the invite- the more effective. The less personal, the less effective.

Personal (more effective)                                                             
Ask in Person (with personal follow up- are you coming?)
Ask on Phone
Ask in Person (with no follow up)
Ask in Text
Ask in Personal e-mail
Ask in mass text
Ask in mass e-mail
Impersonal (less effective)

There’s a scientific reason impersonal invites don’t work. It’s called the Bystander Effect. It was first researched in 1968, a few years after a woman was brutally killed in a neighborhood where it was thought many people witnessed the attack but did nothing to help. What has been found through research is this- the larger the group witnessing an emergency, the smaller the chance that someone will help. That means, if you’re asking people to help you with something, or inviting them to attend an event, the more people you send the invite to and the less personal the invite- the smaller the chance that someone will attend.

I witness the Bystander Effect every single week. People will send a mass e-mail to 20 people looking for a sub for a class and no one will even respond. A person will personally ask an individual and get a sub on the firs try. A person will send a mass e-mail inviting people to an event- no one shows up. A person will personally invite a few people- they show up.

If you’re trying to gather a group for any reason- make sure you first develop your core, then personally invite people.

One more important note: Sometimes the best stuff happens in smaller groups. There have been times I’ve organized a get together and only 2 people showed up, or had small group and only 2 families showed up. On those nights I’m tempted to tell everyone to head home, or not have a lesson at all. But, I’ve found that sometimes the best stuff happens in smaller groups. Even if it’s just me and another person at an event, I’ll end up getting to know them a lot better- which is awesome. Or, I’ve found that some of the best discussions my group has ever had have happened on nights with fewer people. I’ll ask a personal question and for whatever reason, people will really start sharing from the heart and it ends up being one of the best groups ever. Don’t count a group out just because it’s smaller.

The Bystander Effect:

don't follow the crowd

Someone had to gather a crowd to sign a little piece of paper we call the “Declaration of Independence”

Declaration of Independence