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4 Lessons in Communications, Community and Collaboration from Le Dîner en Blanc

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

In this blog, you’ll read about the parallels I came to understand between my recent experience at Le Dîner en Blanc in Montreal and the practices of communications, community-building, collaboration and joy. Read on for 4 important takeaways for marketing and communications practitioners.

Imagine this: the sun starts to lower in the sky, casting a warm glow over hundreds of people dressed in pristine white, carrying tables, chairs, and dinner baskets as they converge on the waterfront, a space that had remained a closely guarded secret for months. The people stand side-by-side in long rows assembling their tables – laying out pressed, white linens, turning on battery-powered candles, placing dishes, and filling glass and ceramic vases with white roses, cherry blossoms, and peonies – while the DJ steers the mood.

The setting was Le Dîner en Blanc, a global phenomenon that brings people together for a unique outdoor dinner experience, where the boundaries between strangers and friends blur, and where I discovered, the art of communication takes center stage.

My sister, Shyanne, invited me to join her for the event. Standing in the Peel Bassin across the water and beneath the Farine Five Roses factory, I felt wrapped up in the joy that seemed to also flow through everyone else. It reminded me of Oktoberfest in Munich, where similarly, I sat with loved ones and hundreds of strangers at long tables sharing food, drinks, traditions, and good times.

I couldn’t help but think about the role that communications, collaboration, and coordination played among everyone involved, from the organizers and hosts, to the group and table leaders, and from Le Dîner en Blanc members like my sister, to people like me - their guests.

I couldn’t leave the event without taking note of what made the event successful. While I didn’t have my ideas journal with me to record my thinking in real-time, I joked to my sister, and to my husband the next day, that the observations that stuck with me would make a good blog. So here it is.

The following are insights that were revealed to me through experiencing Le Dîner en Blanc that other communicators and brand leaders like you might learn from.

Takeaway 1: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

At Le Dîner en Blanc, there is a sense of belonging and shared ownership that helps make the event successful. Diners collaborate to bring everything they need to transform a bare folding table into an elegant and photo-worthy dining space. Later and as a collective, Le Dîner en Blanc dinner guests wave bright white cloth napkins in the air before taking their seats to signal the start of the dinner. Once the sun sets, guests once again join together to light sparklers to mark the transition between the dinner and dancing. It’s an awesome and unifying sight to see.

Le Dîner en Blanc participants bring their individual talents to shape the dinner experience for everyone involved. The same should also be true about the members of an effective marketing communications team. The strategists, writers, designers and project managers must bring their individual strengths together to bear for the team. And, when the team is well-coordinated, each member understands that their role is essential, valued and directly contributes to outcomes.

The teams I collaborate with at Mission Partners do this exceedingly well by utilizing the Management Center’s MOCHA Model to construct and manage its projects teams that lead clients toward success. The collective sense of ownership created on these teams creates an environment where everyone is motivated to put their best foot forward.

Takeaway 2: People Will Always Remember How You Make Them Feel

Le Dîner en Blanc tapped into a fundamental need for connection and joy. I sat shoulder to shoulder with other professionals, I did my two-step and laughed alongside strangers, and hugged a woman who found me on the dance floor to acknowledge we were wearing the same crystal-studded white minidress.

My sister, who runs an events and travel brand once said to me, “Anyone can throw an event, but it takes special care to create an experience that sticks with people.” The lesson for communicators: campaigns that inspire joy and connection can create lasting impressions between a brand, a cause, and their audiences.

From a visual standpoint, just as Le Dîner en Blanc used sparklers to transition from dinner to the dance party, campaigns can also use visual elements to transition, and to create joy and excitement. Vibrant images, interesting videos, and interactive content can help tell a story and allow audiences to experience a campaign rather than simply consume it.

Takeaway 3: Embrace The Element of Surprise

I joined hundreds of other Montrealers and out-of-towners in embracing the unknown dinner location until the moment we arrived at the Peel Bassin. Communications campaigns can also use surprise to attract and maintain interest.

For example, let’s say you’re developing a campaign to announce awardees, an event, or an innovation that's set to reshape your industry. Using a series of embargoes that keep some information hidden until a specific date, can build anticipation and make those whom you’ve given advanced notice to feel exclusive. As the suspense builds, your audience becomes invested, eagerly waiting for the big reveal.

Giving your audience a reason to follow along creates time and space to deepen the relationship.

Takeaway 4: Get Out

This last takeaway is a reminder to myself and to others who share this work-from-home life.

The convenience of working steps away from comfort is undeniable, but it can be easy to tether ourselves to our desks in the name of productivity. Sitting with strangers under the stars at Le Dîner en Blanc reminded me of how awesome fresh air and the presence of other people can make you feel. Community can be powerful.

This week, take time to brainstorm in the park, go write in the library, have coffee with a friend, or take a class. It’s important for your health, your creativity and your productivity.

As I reflect on the wonderful experience that I shared with my sister at Le Dîner en Blanc and that I’m now sharing with you, I aim to remind us all that communication is more than just words—it's everything that comes together to create an experience.

As you continue on your journey as a communicator, marketer, or collaborator, I encourage you to embrace the spirit of connection, surprise, joy and collaboration.

Is there an experience in your personal or professional past that left you with good vibes and applicable insights? Share it with me and others reading this blog in the comments below. And if this blog inspired you, informed you or otherwise served as a reminder of the tools available to you as a marcomms practitioner, I’d love to hear that in the comments below as well.



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