Recipe for Hope: Conversation that Feeds Your Soul
Event Producer Lara Smedley inspires community in new business connections, intentional conversations, and across dinner tables with friends who become family over shared stories.
In a world filled with an abundance of reasons why we as humans are different from each other, how do we find hope that we can come together to create a better world?
That’s a hugely philosophical question. But I ask that if you have any desire to make a positive impact in your life and the community in which you live, then please stay with me here.
In 2018 I started a business with no plan, no clients and honestly, no money. My business idea wasn’t unique as my experience was in event production and marketing. I knew how to plan events and manage all of the behind-the-scenes aspects to market and promote said events.
As I embarked on this journey I was filled with doubt and signs of imposter syndrome, but in spite of those fears, I knew I had nothing to lose. What was the worst that could happen? I’d go back to the ‘workforce.’
So, I pushed through and soaked in as much information as possible. That led me to pick up the book, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, by Priya Parker.
What came of my Art of Gathering studies was: an event focused on purposeful conversation that tied my desire to create more meaningful experiences with my family’s 150+ year history in Colorado.
In May of 2019, we hosted the first Sunset Dinner Experience at Sumac Hill Farm (pictured) where we infused questions centered around Gratitude. The talented chef team of Adam Vero, Jeff Hickman, and Kelly McGeehan beautifully crafted a multi-course menu: Oak Grilled Octopus, a Berkshire Pork Short Rib with Kimchi Braised Soy Beans, an Aged New York Strip with a Crab Hollandaise, capped off with a Milk Chocolate Lavender Tart.
Still, there were no grand expectations for the event. I knew it was going to be a beautiful farm-to-table style dinner, and if by chance some of the guests were engaged with the conversation then that would be a bonus.
However, the course of my business changed in an instant that evening. What I realized is that people are craving authentic, honest, and vulnerable connections (and this was pre-pandemic). The kind of connection that uncovers our commonalities and allows us to look at an idea or concept from a different perspective, which then, helps us to grow our ability for compassion and empathy.
We would host our second dinner in July of 2019, and then prepare to launch our Better Together Dinner Series — which allowed us to take the purposeful conversation dinners on the road while creating a more accessible experience.
Then March 2020 hit, and our well-laid plans had to quickly adjust to both the logistical impacts, but also the even more intense need for connection during a time when we were being forced to distance ourselves due to COVID-19.
As I watched the world around me suffer in more ways than one, I knew that we had created the foundation to help people. Help people not feel alone. Help people learn from each other in a safe and respectful environment. Help organizations and businesses connect with their communities in a more authentic way.
People are craving authentic, honest, and vulnerable connections … The kind of connection that uncovers our commonalities and allows us to look at an idea or concept from a different perspective, which then, helps us to grow our ability for compassion and empathy.
Guests from our previous dinners started to connect us to organizations like, CHOW – Culinary Hospitality Outreach and Wellness, where we would help lead weekly virtual meetings using topic-led discussions to unpack everything that was happening (and had happened) in the restaurant and hospitality industry. We also started hosting our own virtual events, where people from across the country made their own meal, and shared across the computer in personal stories and experiences centered around topics like Resilience, Fear, Guilt, and Trust.
Since 2020, we have brought back the Sunset Dinner Experience, and continue to work with organizations like CHOW and the CampExperience™ Network — where we host monthly “CampSister Dinners” for women business owners and community philanthropists. We’ve also started to apply this concept to other projects, like supporting couples with more meaningful relationship building experiences through our work with Enamoree, a relationship resource site.
Over the last two years I’ve struggled at various times to find hope. There is a list a mile-long filled with stories of tragedy, pain, sorrow, and injustice. I’m just an event producer. I don’t have the answers to any of our problems. But what I do know is, if we can connect on a deeper level and take the time to truly listen to each other, then we have a fighting chance.
This isn’t an easy ask. It takes humility. It takes intentionality. It takes conviction. But I’ve seen it work. I’ve seen people with completely different life experiences find commonality through shared stories. And I’ve seen it happen especially all around a dinner table sharing in our most common experience, food.
With over a decade of sports marketing and event production experience, Lara began Smedley Events in 2018. Lara’s passion for creating memorable experiences for event attendees, coupled with meeting the strategic goals of corporations, brands and non-profit organizations, is at the core of what drives Smedley Events’ success. Beyond client work, Smedley Events produces its own events centered around purposeful conversation and building community. Learn more at: Smedley Events.