“You should host a party. Our civilization depends on it,” opens Ben Steverman in Bloomberg last month. Although the title is self-serving for an event designer like me, Steverman goes on to pull together compelling points on how social isolation is a public-health (and happiness) threat.

I hadn’t realized that the time I’m spending on social media is giving me less time to spend with actual humans or, even worse, making me less present with friends while as we broadcast our lives online instead of live them. This article made me curious about what anyone can do to create events so compelling that people forget to take out their phones while focusing on genuine connection.

Be an Epic Host

A great Host is the difference between a random gathering and tribe, says Priya Parker in her book, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters. Try any of the following to ruse your tribe together:

  • Think carefully about the tribe you’d like to create. Most events fall into the host’s age range, gender, race, and income-bracket, unless you actively invite other communities.
  • Personally invite each guest, make them feel seen and wanted at the event.
  • Introduce newcomers actively to established groups by providing shared context (something the newcomer can talk about that engages the group members). You can designate multiple people to do this at a large event.
  • Lead an opening circle to allow everyone to be seen and heard at the event.
  • Lead speed meetings or authentic relating exercises to mix the crowd and get awkward first meetings out of the way.

Give Introverts Something to Do

Most events are about meeting people, which can be draining for introverts and anxiety producing for others. Personally, I dive into my phone to avoid the awkwardness of meeting new people. Having a low-key activity that people can join, especially when few people have arrived, is a great way to keep people’s attention.

  1. Design an activity that introverts can do quietly in a small group. Ideally something where no one person can dominate the conversation ongoing.
  2. Designate a leader of the activity to invite new people into the group and keep it going.

Hold an Off-Site Off-Line Event

There are few places left that don’t have cell phone service and you create a special container when you choose them. Although you will lose some participants who cannot afford to disconnect, many are now looking for digital detox experiences.

  1. Be up front with attendees about what kind of cell phone service and charging facilities are onsite so they can plan accordingly.
  2. Provide a message board & meeting place for attendees to contact each other onsite.
  3. Give attendees a number & email address that family members can contact in case of an emergency. Designate someone with service to deliver emergency messages.