Variety is the Spice of Mensa Events
Laurie Levesque

If you had to choose a spice to describe Mensa events, which would you select? Intriguing question, really. Your answer would likely depend upon your taste preferences, past experiences, and the ideas you've collected from others. Well, this article hopes to spur your creative juices to cook up new events, reinstate classic events, or just plain help us stock the pantry (a.k.a. the Mensa calendar) with lots of choices all over our region. Included are some comments from people I know who reflected on their favorite events from yesteryear (or yesterdecade as the case may be). Pull up a chair, grab a plate, and enjoy.

Variety in type. Mensa chapters across the country (and world) have witnessed an impressive variety of events hosted by their members. The most common type of event held in U.S. chapters seems to be social hours or get-togethers held at restaurants and bars. These events are and will continue to be important opportunities for our members to interact. However, our members applaud diversity and creativity when it comes to hosted events, and they show their approval by both attending and hosting them. One twist on the typical social hour that we had in Connecticut was that a group of us met monthly in a bar were to play electronic trivia the kind where you compete with people across the U.S. Our chitchat was often limited to before and after the games. If enough of us showed up, we would form competing teams, otherwise, we played as one team. I also attended a book discussion group when I first joined Mensa. We would all read the same book, meet at a member's home, and the host would have a few comments or questions to get the conversational ball rolling I remember reading Lolita one month, and The Watchmen (a graphic novel) another month. Both were excellent. Below are a couple of other examples offered by folks in local groups. The first is a music event, for those members (unlike myself) who are able to play instruments:

"Many years ago a Boston area Mensan started hosting an event for musicians, an evening for people to come and share their music. We all got a chance to sing and play and also to listen — kind of our own little "open mike" night, but in someone's living room instead of a coffeehouse. We eventually morphed from regulars at this event, into an (extremely!) eclectic folk music group called "Just Plain Folk", who performed at Boston and at Connecticut and Western Mass. RGs, as well as musical MOGs (Monthly Gatherings) for several years running."

- Paul M.

"This was one of the best parties I ever threw: a bring-your-own-wok Chinese New Year party. Doesn't actually have to be Chinese New Year, of course. Any old occasion will do. As host I took the time to prepare some fairly exotic dishes, but that isn't necessary. It requires a house with lots of counter space. Cooks should do most preparation in advance and bring ingredients ready-to-cook. People who don't do Asian cooking can bring rice, drinks, munchies, etc., or drop by a take-out place on their way over. R.S.V.P.s are necessary to plan quantity and variety of food appropriately."

- Rich S.

"An event that I attended once, many years ago, and truly enjoyed, was a music lover's night. Each attendee brought with them a recording of a favorite piece of music. The host(ess) would call on an attendee, who would briefly describe the piece and then the host(ess) would play the recording for us. This was a great way for a music lover to get acquainted with previously unknown pieces. This event could be kept fresh by having a suggested theme each month, i.e., classical, jazz, rock & roll, baroque, etc. Preferably, the host(ess) of the event would have an acceptable sound system with multimedia capabilities (CD, tape, turntable, etc.)."

- Lisa M.

Variety in location. Many events you will see in our calendar are hosted in restaurants and at members' homes. This is mainly because it is easy for the person who is sponsoring the event (particularly if it is a regular event and the driving directions and meeting location don't change). Tom T. suggested that it is also fun to "host events `off-site' ... a night at the movies or a sports event. There's no pressure to clean, directions are usually easy, just specify a spot to meet (a section at the stadium or a bar/restaurant beforehand)." There are some events that inherently lend themselves to infrequency because every month they may not provide fresh, new, or updated venues. Other locations, however, just provide a place for us to create our own entertainment (e.g. pool halls, bowling alleys, game nights). Great examples of this in our group include both the offer to hike New Hampshire mountains with a local member (the mountains are always there, all this informal event needs is for you to make the call) and another is the popular Fall Mountain Climb scheduled one weekend each autumn. And lastly, some locations frequently change or update their offerings (e.g. theaters, local pubs with music, community calendars) which means that regular attendees ("regular" as in returning time after time, not as in "your average Joe"!) will keep experiencing new things. Below are two examples of the location variety of events:

"A Boston member used to host a monthly event at a '70s dance club. She held it on a weeknight so the crowds and noise level were tolerable."

- Rich S.

"Back in the late '80s there was a semi-regular trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston late on Saturday mornings, scheduled at random intervals to take advantage of whatever special displays were going on. These were usually timed to fall somewhere in the middle of the exhibit period (3rd or 4th week) so we didn't encounter the big crowds expected at the beginning of such special shows, but when there was still some excitement about the exhibit, especially on the part of the tour guides and people who owned the snack bar concessions. It was a terrific way to meet new folks."

- Otto K.

Other things to consider as you plan your event include how long it should run, what time of day to host it, and how often. In terms of the variety in length, events can be as short or as long as you want. If it is in conjunction with a movie, public talk, or something similar where the start and finish times are not in your control, you can either keep to those times or plan to meet before or after for conversation, food, or some other activity. In that way you can plan an evening that will fulfill the desires of Ms who want to socialize beyond the advertised program. Events can also have variety in the day or time they are held. Typically events are held in the evenings or on weekends or holidays. This shouldn't prevent you from hosting weekday lunchtime or daytime events if that is what works for you or for what you are trying to do. If you aren't sure when is a good time to hold your event, you can either learn through trial and error, or by asking around. Mensans are sure to offer you their two cents! Lastly, events can have variety in their frequency. You can have one-time parties or events or jump in and try out something that happens on an ongoing basis or anything in between. If you want to host a regular or semi-regular event (again, "regular" in terms of frequency, not necessarily normalcy!), remember that it may take a couple of times for you to host it before it catches on. Some people need to warm up to the idea; others may have schedule conflicts the first time, or any of a number of other reasons why they didn't attend your inaugural event. So don't throw in the towel too soon. On the other hand, if you start off with a bang but over time you get fewer and fewer takers in a situation where more is better, then you might want to consider hosting the event less often. Of course, if the number of people who show up is irrelevant to the fun you and the other attendees have, then ignore this advice and host as often as you like!

So remember, variety is the spice of Mensa — which spice you choose is up to you (and how often you use it, and on which foods you use it, and at which meals you use it well, you get the metaphor). So get out there, dish up some new events for yourself and your fellow Ms, and if you think of it, send a note to the newsletter editor describing what the event was like and if and when it will be held again. It never hurts to publicize and emphasize the fun, challenges, pleasures, enjoyment, debates, or whatever else you and the other attendees liked about your event. Bon appetit!

Other spicy ideas from A to Z:

Art shows, Mensa talent shows, pet shows, poetry readings
Book discussion groups
Costume parties e.g., wear a costume of your favorite pun, book, movie, or person
Darts, bowling, golfing, billiards, etc.
Election parties, political debates, discussions of current events
Fact finding trips, treasure hunts, map quests
Game events (board games, card games, both, or something different altogether)
Holiday parties (Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, New Year's Eve, Arbor Day)
Inter-group events (with Boston, Vermont or Canada)
Joint yard sale, book swap, or clothing drive
Knowledge nights, guest speakers, public talks
Lake parties, hot tub parties, pool parties
Movie nights (at your home with rentals or meet at a theater)
New member welcome event, meet the officers, meet
Outdoor events (BBQs, backyard parties, water fights)
Plays, concerts, theater, musicals, dinner-theater, or other community events
Quiz shows, trivia games, contests
Regional gatherings (oh wait, we already do these! Check it out next February!)
Sporting events (attending or holding your own), paintball
Theme events (get creative here!)
`U' bring your own ___________ party
Volunteer activities (walk-a-thons, 5K races, visiting nursing homes, soup kitchens)
Walking tours, sightseeing, visiting historical markers or buildings
Xylography, quilting bees, paint your own pottery, craft lessons
Young Mensans events
Zip code party (members in same geographic area can get to know one another)

Your ideas are bound to extend far beyond this list. Get them on paper in the form of event announcements, send them to the calendar editor, and enjoy!


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