I Invited strangers to dinner. A whole lot of them.

I don’t always consider myself daring or outgoing, but somehow I invited a bunch of strangers that I met on the internet to dinner. I am 100% completely aware of how counter-intuitive this is and how much it runs in contradiction to the advice that I give my children on a regular basis: Don’t chat with anyone you don’t know on the internet, don’t ever give out your personal information, don’t ever agree to meet someone you only know from the internet.

Now this is great advice for kids — especially when they have not yet learned the skills of screening for safety & comfort. It might have even been advice I followed myself up until about 8 years ago. When I entered the world of consulting and began traveling for work, I was often the girl who would come to a restaurant and sit in a booth with a book. Over many cities & frequent flier miles I have learned how to network. I sit at the bar now, and I talk to strangers.

This may be why connecting with like minded folks on social media and especially twitter has come so easily for me. Connecting on Twitter is a lot like sitting at the bar after a long day on the road. Everyone has a story to tell, and sitting at the bar puts you in a position to listen to it. I have at times met business prospects, people with strong thoughts on healthcare and the work that I do, and even people whose stories are so totally engaging that I find myself lingering longer than I thought I would.

Twitter is like that. I have been sitting in this really welcoming section of the bar called #HealthIT, and it’s filled with people doing similar work and with similar missions. There is conversation and engagement that makes me think, that challenges my notions of how things work and helps me push myself to become better educated and more creative in my work.

I was excited last year when the opportunity came around to attend #HIMSS and I was more than ready to get to meet some of of these folks that I had been chatting with for some time. I did get to meet a lot of people and I collected a lot of selfies — but the week was so busy it was almost a blur. I found myself thinking about what it would be like if I got to have some real, in-depth conversations with people. Not just networking and hey here’s my card…… but what if we got together in the same place for 24–48 hours to just visit.

One day, while thinking these thoughts I shot off a message to a group of folks I think highly of on Twitter and said “So if I had a party, would you come?” and something was born. I am not sure what exactly yet — but that is how I came to invite a whole bunch of strangers to dinner. Tomorrow 12 people from throughout the country will get on planes and get in cars to converge in one spot and hang out. I have no doubt that it will indeed be #thebestdinnerpartyever.

Life is unscripted. Sometimes, you have to be daring.