Hosting a Jeffersonian Dinner Party

Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” 
― Thomas Jefferson

The concept of the Jeffersonian Dinner comes from Founding Founder and the third U.S. President, Thomas Jefferson. Back in the 1800s, Jefferson leveraged dinner parties as opportunities to engage an intimate group of people into a compelling discussion around a thought-provoking topic. Today, the goal of the Jeffersonian Dinner remains the same. 

Thoughtfully Curate Your Guest List

Because your Jeffersonian Dinner aims to gather a group to partake in a lively conversation that allows attendees to share their perspectives and wisdom on a specific topic, the goal is to invite no more than 12 to 14 people. However, due to limited space, you may not be able to accommodate such a large group around one table. If 12 to 14 is not possible, aim to invite no less than eight guests.

The purpose of the Jeffersonian Dinner is to promote the exchange of personal experiences, insight, and ideas; therefore, only invite guests who will not be afraid to participate in meaningful dialogue. To broaden horizons and create opportunities for others to open up their minds, don’t just select a large group of like-minded people. Gathering a group of individuals who all agree won’t create discussions that challenge others or promote collaboration.

Choose a Topic 

As the host, you dictate the subject for discussion. It can be a movement you’re passionate about, something that fascinates or frustrates you, or an issue that needs to be addressed. It should be a topic that is broad enough to welcome different views. 

So others can come prepared with their contributions, you should reach out to each guest before the dinner party to let them know the evening’s focus. By telling each guest the dinner party’s theme in advance, you set the expectations. Preparation also helps avoid any lulls in the conversation and lessens the risk someone hijacking the discussion to deviate it in another direction.

Mediate the Conversation

Allow each guest to share their stories and how the topic impacts them. With so many people at the table, there’s the risk of someone talking over the others or interrupting another before they’ve had the chance to share their personal reflection. As the host, it’s your job to ensure the conversation remains respectful and that everyone gets their turn. To allow the conversation to progress, prepare at least five questions that push deeper into the subject, such as its challenges and issues.

Share Your Impressions

At the end of the evening, each guest should have taken away new knowledge or a question that they intend to explore further. Encourage each participant to share what they’ve learned from the discussion. Have their views changed? Do they stand firm on what they believe?

To stay true to the first Jeffersonian Dinners that were held in Thomas Jefferson’s extravagant Monticello estate, your party should also involve plenty of drink and a delicious menu, ideally a five-course meal. DinDin Party has plenty of delightful food and wine pairings and elegant dinner party ideas, from upscale hors-d’oeuvres to sophisticated desserts.

Ready to show off your hosting or culinary skills at your first Jeffersonian Dinner? Apply to become a DinDin Party Host or Chef, at https://www.dindinparty.com/become-host