By Michael Harris-Arzon, The Simplistic Professional
Social Media has propelled professionals, blue collar workers, students, stay-at-home parents and the rest of America into an entirely new sphere of engagement. Long gone are the times where we would make long distance calls and watch our minutes, so that we didn’t end up with a humungous phone bill. Back in the day, we paid per minute to use the phone and it wasn’t unheard of to get a phone bill in our house for $300-$400 dollars a month.
Then the Internet was born. For the first, however many years, the bulk of Americans had absolutely no use for the internet. Then, email was born and our lives changed forever. It gave us a form of engagement that was so efficient, so fast (virtually instantaneous) compared to snail mail, that could take weeks to get a letter or postcard to or from someone.
The next decade or so, saw the Internet grow and our usage and understanding of it grow with it. Amongst that growth, was the advent and implementation of the blog. There was a certain segment of the population that flocked to blogging like chickens to the feeding bin. This also was what propelled the Internet’s content to unimaginable heights. Suddenly, we could find information on any subject and had the ability to comment on that information.
Fast forward again a few years, which puts us about a decade ago and the introduction of social media. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and dozens of other platforms came out of no where. This changed our lives, more than any other tech invention. We could share information, talk to each other, buy goods and services, post ridiculous videos that only last 24 hours before blowing up (SnapChat), make video calls, post pictures of every aspect of our life (Instagram), play games with our friends that were half way across the globe and so much more.
We have become so entrenched in social media, texting, posting pictures and FaceTime, that there is a new trend sweeping across America. People are putting down the cell phones, ignoring their social media accounts, refusing to take pictures so that they can actually live in the moment.
One of the defining elements that is bringing us together again is food. Not only are we seeing people interacting over a great meal, we are seeing people participate in making the meal.
There are a multitude of ways to engage your friends, family and guests when it comes creating memories from food experiences. Whether it is having your guests grill their own meat for dinner, or maybe you have them create their own pizza. They key to having a memorable experience, is that you actually put the devices away and talk to each other. When your guests arrive, ask them to give up their phones for the evening. Have a simple basket on hand and show them you mean business by placing your phones in before they arrive.
Another way to encourage your guests to be engaging is to actually have them arrive before you have even started preparing the meal. Assign each guest a task so they are actively assisting in the meal preparation. Now, if your kitchen isn’t large enough to accommodate a lot of people, then have then help in groups of 3 or 4. And when they aren’t in the kitchen they can be getting to know each other over a drink or two in the area where you plan to actually eat your meal.
Depending on how far you want to take this concept, you can have a second group working in the dining area or outside if that is where you plan to eat. Simply have everything you plan on using to set the table with neatly arranged in piles at one end of the table and she them to please set the table and even create the flower arrangement if you desire.
These are just a few ideas on how to encourage guests to participate in the food experience you are looking to create. And if at any time you hear a lull in the conversation, take a quick moment to pop into the other room and offer a topic of conversation that appeals to most of your guests. Then quietly excuse yourself and head back into the kitchen to continue the meal prep.
This is just the first in a series of articles where we will offer advice, tips and How To steps for creating amazing Interactive Food Experiences. If you have questions or tips you would like share yourself, feel free to leave a comment here.